Laura, 6, was in Year Two at my school when I noticed that her attendance was slipping and that she had become withdrawn. I became concerned about the possibility of domestic violence at her family home, and sure enough an incident was reported that one of the older siblings had called the police because the parents were fighting and a knife had been used in a threatening manner. Laura and her three siblings had all witnessed the incident. To make matters more difficult, the family were completely refusing to engage with Social Services. As a result, Laura was put on a Child Protection Plan.
Despite being completely unwilling to engage with Social Services, the family agreed to a home visit from me. I explained that Social Services were not going to go away and that it was best to work with all professionals to ensure a positive outcome. Initially, they were dismissive of the impact that witnessing domestic violence had on Laura and her siblings. Although they agreed that children need to grow up in a safe environment free from emotional and physical risk, they could not see that their own abusive relationship would compromise this for Laura and her siblings.
Over time, the family began to become more honest and open. Laura’s parents were more relaxed and cooperative when the Head offered to hold meetings with them in school. They also agreed to letting me regularly meet with them at their home and started to engage with Social Services. I closely monitored Laura’s wellbeing at school and made sure she had all the support she needed and she knew she could turn to me if she was experiencing difficult emotions.
Laura’s parents began to understand that they desperately needed to make some changes in their life. They recognised that they needed their own personal space and interests, as previously they were spending 24 hours a day together. Laura’s mum admitted that she had become very dependent on Laura’s father and consequently felt isolated and severely lacking in self-confidence. I supported Laura’s father in successfully finding a job, and signposted Laura’s mother to the local Children’s Centre where she now regularly attends Parent and Toddler groups with her youngest child. She has also attended the coffee morning I run at the school which has given her the opportunity to meet other parents and boosted her confidence.
Since the improvements that her family have made at home, Laura is significantly happier at school. Her little sister also recently started in Reception at our school. The family are much more willing to engage with the school and able to actively support Laura’s education.
I recently received a letter from Laura’s mother saying, “Thank you for all your support and help. At times when we got angry, upset and frustrated we knew we could come to you for help and advice… You are a credit to the school, so kind and caring. If I need help or support in the future, I know you will be there to help.