Jan was one of the most withdrawn five year olds I have ever worked with. When I first met Jan, he was so lacking in confidence that he rarely spoke. When I tried to engage with him it was a struggle to elicit any information; he wouldn’t even tell me the names of any of his friends. It soon became apparent that he couldn’t tell me the names of his friends, not only because he did not have any, but because he didn’t even know the names of other children in his class: he had never spoken with any of them to find out.
The school asked me to see what I could do to help both Jan and his mum, Zuzanna. Zuzanna, I soon discovered, was a domestic abuse survivor suffering from depression, and the family were living in temporary accommodation some distance from the school. A council flat had been offered to Zuzanna but unfortunately, her depression made her unable to see anything positive and she turned the flat down, saying that she didn’t like it. She hadn’t realised that she had no choice. The council registered her as having intentionally made herself homeless.
I supported Zuzanna to start looking for private accommodation near to the school and encouraged her to also start thinking about employment. Zuzanna told me that she had 12 years’ experience working as an unqualified Teaching Assistant, but the recent events and her subsequent depression had left her totally lacking in confidence. I identified a local source of help for Zuzanna in CV-writing and soon after this found a nearby school advertising for Teaching Assistants. I encouraged Zuzanna to apply and supported her in completing the application and in preparing for interview. I was delighted when Zuzanna was successful in securing the TA role, which included the opportunity to become qualified.
With my help, the family went on to secure a small apartment near to the school, and I applied to the SHS Welfare Fund on Zuzanna’s behalf for a washing machine.
Throughout this time, we talked often about Jan and what Zuzanna could do to support him, as it was clear that the domestic violence Zuzanna had experienced had also impacted her son. With my guidance, Zuzanna was able to reassure Jan that the past is the past and that they were now safe.
Indeed, it is clear that Jan is now a much happier boy. He is enjoying school, and has become much more confident. He now talks happily about what he has been doing, about playing with his next door neighbour and about his friends in school. He also enjoys going to after-school clubs, and his teacher has reported that Jan’s school work has improved.
Zuzanna is so pleased to see her son happy and doing well; she says she is looking forward to being independent, working hard and showing Jan that you can get through adversity. A year on from meeting me, Zuzanna has said that she feels so much better that she wants to talk to her doctor about coming off her anti-depressants.
*Names have been changed