Category Archives: Emotional Abuse

Getting there!

Recently I wrote about my entry route into Social Work in the Guardian Social Care Network.  However, today I am writing about my wife’s route into social work, which for me is a far more impressive.  For me social work was always a reachable role and carer for me to achieve and I had the support and positive role models to help me achieve my dream.

Sadly however this is not the same for everyone in society and where dreams are quickly forgotten because of the fear of heartbreak that they bring with them.  I did not get this memo however and want everyone to know that it is possible to achieve your dreams even if the mountain you have to cross is out of your reach at the moment.

Like most families where neglect is nurtured due to the environment and perhaps dated values of what gender roles should achieve, my wife from an early age was always told not to aim or try and achieve anything.  Her school had wrote her off as a trouble maker and parents scoffed and made nasty comments.  Her own parents were only interested in their own needs and even today can not put her needs before their own.

When we started our relationship I did not know what had hit me, and I was not living in this world.  I had never heard so much negative talking or unwillingness to try anything new.  The only way I can describe this is if you lose all of your senses and start living again knowing there should be something there but there is not.

When I met my wife she could not drive, did not want to drive.  The theory test is to hard she said! having failed it twice already.  The support from her parents was much the same ‘don’t waste your money your not bright enough to pass’.  It is fair to say that I have not known anger until I started my relationship with my wife.

But there comes a point in your life when you are up at 6am in the morning to take your wife to work and then picking her up before gaining into work yourself that changes need to happen.  I brought the DVD for the theory test and spent many a long night with my wife working through it.  I did learn something doing this, and that is that I would not pass the theory test either.

The day of the test came and for the whole time I waited for her outside can only be described as the most anxious time of my life.  But from the moment she exploded out of the building trying badly to hide her own emotions of joy.  I knew that nothing would stop her from achieving her dreams other than herself now.

Despite this, I could not encourage her to take the sponsorship into social work.  It was not until she stood up against her employer in a complaint about the work place that her true potential was recognised.  Some gentle words and persuasion encouraged her to apply with only 72 hours to the deadline to submit her application.

I have to admit I was always biased about what my wife could achieve, her passion, strength and determination to support vulnerable people and give her time without question is something that I have not seen in many people.  I understand now where this comes from, her own background has meant that she does understand the impact of other peoples negative views on life.

Each step of the way was an individual milestone for her, the acceptance letter, sitting in the first lecture and submitting the first assignment.  Completing the first law exam and starting placements.

So here began a long journey of tears, arguments and hurdles like no other and final recognition that she was further hindered by dyslexia.  This is and always will be the hurdle, unable to read more than four pages at a time before the words began to jumble up and blur causing a headache that would cripple her.

But this did not stop her fighting the University for support, and her workplace.  Spending less time with her family for reading, study groups.  There was another thread throughout all of this the constant nagging in the back of her head, the doubt sown by her parents so many years ago ‘your to thick to do this, just give up!’ What this meant was that before any essay began a delay was created as a barrier was put up and each time would have to be smashed down.

And I have to admit with tears in my eyes at the time, when the final e-mail came in stating she had passed her final piece of work smashing the final hold her parents ever had over her.  You have just completed your degree in Social Work.  In my opinion something which is not easy to do.

As I write this I am aware that it does not adequately reflect how difficult this actually was for her, dealing with her own parents separation and many further unthinkable events that it brought with it.  whilst studying and supporting myself and our children.  To do it with earning the admiration of many of the lectures and fellow students being nominated as Student Union representative.

But the message is, no matter how hard it is what ever you face in life your demons can be beaten.  I have supported my wife in doing her course, but I could not do it for her.  The social work process is not just a journey through a course it is a life journey for yourself.  So don’t give up, do not look back and keep going.  Find your support and help other people and one day hopefully your dreams will come true to.

GCSE’s Bust or Success for looked after children?

Can you remember being in the last year of upper or secondary school? You spend the whole of your school life wanting to be one of the big kids in school.  When you get there all of a sudden its exams, exams and more exams.  For many young people in key stage 4 this is a difficult time of the year.  As they wait to leave school and start on their next major stage of life. 

I can still remember it well, worrying whether I would get the grades I needed to go to University or even if I would be able to cope alone and succeed.  However, with many of the young people I work with, this is even harder as a looked after child.  For many 16 is a major number, it means to them a freedom from being in care, freedom to make more choices for themselves and a time when they should be learning who they are.  For many this dream can not happen as they remain on Care Orders until they are 18 years old.

So already when it comes to this important age the young people are already worrying about exams and their school prom.  Many end up worrying about “Where will I live” “Can I go home” or “Who am I”.  Meaning that revising for exams, attending exams is a low priority when wanting to be at home with their family, or out with their friends who they have adopted as their family.

New changes in the care regulations makes it clear that there should be no planned moves in this year, and where there has to be changes they should only be agreed by the Nominated officer.  This possibly is a start to try and protect many young people from failing in their exams by adding unnecessary pressure on to the young person. 

Looking back at this week I have seen this real pressure and dilemma, where a young girl is suffering from a pull with her family.  Wanting to be at home, but knowing her Mum does not want her there.  But at the same time not knowing whether to trust her Mum or Social Care.  Her Mum continues to rage a battle at Social Care for removing her Children; and  now trying to remove the younger siblings for the same reasons of emotional abuse and neglect. 

The power and way in which this is done by the mother is very simple and effective to undermine her placements (more than one) and place doubt in her mind as to who she can trust.  There is also an unwillingness to engage or give permission for Life story work to be done to help the young person understand the loss of her father, who she never knew  and young siblings that were adopted.  This is important as her mother has reminded her that it was her fault that they were adopted! and as a four year old how is this possible.  Instead the Mum has lead her daughter to believe it was her fault. 

So when I received an office visit I knew that something was wrong.  And I was right, immediately her emotional distress was obvious.  “I have an exam tomorrow, and at the moment I am so angry” “I don’t know who to believe, and I don’t know where to live” was common theme as she sobbed in the quiet room.  I reassured the young person and spent time listening to her allowing her to talk to me, trying to help put the events into perspective for her to be able to manage and understand.  Knowing really that this could not easily be swept under the carpet to allow her to be refreshed and prepared for her exam.

It is worrying that for this young person at a time where life is already difficult it is made harder unnecessarily.  We are lucky to have a team of teachers that helps children in care with their learning.  Dedicated teachers who are very experienced in working with schools, parents, foster carers and other resources in providing the best education support each young person needs.

I worry because this is now a vulnerable resource, with the change in EMA and government funding most of the money that this team would have received now goes straight to colleges or schools (academy’s).  It is then down to the them how this money is spent.  Which for many young people, if you have been able to get through all of the above and manage to get to college do you really want to disclose that you are a looked after child? meaning there could be a lot more children slipping through the net and not getting the support needed.

Good planning is needed for any young persons education and life, often young people will not be interested in another meeting.  So with education being so rigid in its curriculum, the cuts to this team are very significant.  The implication is that there will be a generation of looked after children who will continue to be vulnerable due to their lack of learning.  With only a small minority going on to college, and even smaller number going on to Higher Education.