Janet was a single mum raising four young children aged eight, five, two and two months. With concerns around a history of domestic violence from her two previous partners, poor home conditions, neglect and alcohol misuse (which Janet vehemently denied), I was allocated responsibility for the case in 2009.
After an unplanned visit to meet the family, I immediately became concerned about the children’s welfare. It was clear to me that Janet was not being honest about the situation at home, nor was she making any effort to work with the support services that were already in place.
Janet had continued to allow two of her previous partners into the family home, both of whom were violent men. The children had all witnessed domestic violence and their mum misusing alcohol on a daily basis. Alongside all of this, the oldest child at just eight had taken on a carer’s role within the home.
To try and get a deeper sense of what was happening, I spent time with the two older children outside the family home. Both children were extremely guarded and did not feel able to share their experiences with me.
It was fair to say that we were so concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the children at this point that we sought legal advice and a Supervision Order that would remove the children from their mother’s care.
Just prior to the court hearing, the children were found at the family home by the police – the home conditions were extremely poor and mum was heavily under the influence of alcohol. The children were immediately made subject to police powers and placed in foster care. Janet was arrested and charged with the neglect of her four children.
The children were all made subject to an Interim Care Order and remained in foster care while assessments were being completed. To complicate matters, Janet was pregnant again.
Janet desperately wanted to parent her fifth child, so I worked with her to identify what issues she would need to address in order for her assessments to be positive and for consideration to be given for her four children to be allowed to return home. We set goals and broke down what she would have to do in order to achieve them.
With progress made and a willingness to deal with her issues, it was decided that an assessment unit would give Janet the chance to care for the baby herself.
During this time I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with the four children. The older child particularly liked a dolls house and she named the dolls after members of her family. She would act out how she would like things to be and how things were when she was at home. This was a big breakthrough as it had taken a long time to reach this point.
Janet’s baby son is now seven months old and has remained in her care. Due to the great progress she has made, her four older children will shortly return home with a support package in place.
It’s clear to me after spending time with the children that they all have positive secure attachments with their mother.
There are still many obstacles to face and tasks to complete, but I hope with the right support package this family will be reunited.
All names have been changed to protect the identity of the family and children involved.