Maria was 13 (Year 8) when she was permanently excluded from her secondary school. She had hit a member of staff and threatened a police officer with a knife. As well as dangerous behaviour, Maria’s attendance was cause for concern. She was effectively missing from education, only attending school one or two days per week.
Maria’s Mum was 15 when she gave birth, her biological father, who was 50 at the time, is a registered sex offender currently serving a prison sentence. Maria has four younger siblings and her relationship with her mother was fractious. Her Mum has mental health problems and has previously been sectioned.
After being excluded from school, Maria went to an alternative provision unit to be educated. She met Katy (SHS Practitioner) on arrival with her Mum. When Maria started at the unit, her behaviour was extremely challenging and violent and she needed to be restrained every day. Mum was reluctant to engage with Katy initially and refused to engage with statutory services. Maria’s self-esteem was very low, her relationship with a long term boyfriend ended and she immediately became involved with a boy older than her who was affiliated to a local gang. She went missing from home for long periods of time and said that she ‘hated herself’.
Over a period of months, Katy developed a trusted relationship with Mum and Maria. This involved home visits and providing Maria with consistent support and reassurance as well as practical help. Never rejecting Maria and proving that she was on her side gradually made a difference. Key interventions included a referral to CAMHS (Childhood & Adolescence Mental Health Services) for Maria and more specialist support through the SHS Child Sexual Exploitation Service. With Katy’s continued support, Maria’s attendance at the unit and her behaviour dramatically improved.
After two years, Maria is now stronger and her self esteem has grown beyond recognition. At the end of the term, Maria spoke to the whole school assembly. She confidently delivered a presentation about her recovery from poor mental health. Her mum and stepfather attended along with all the staff and students. Maria has completed several exams this summer and has got a place at college to study health and social care.
To help her settle in, Katy has liaised extensively with college, ensuring they understand Maria’s background and the journey she’s been on over the last two years. Maria now has a more hopeful future and will have the support that she needs once she moves from SHS’ care into a college environment. Katy will also stay in touch.
“Katy got me the help that I needed when I needed it most and she was a big part of that help. She saw that something was wrong when other people just thought I was naughty. She looked past my behaviour and helped me to deal with what was really wrong. I am so much better now and I did an assembly at school in front of the whole school about my mental health journey. I was so nervous, but Katy stood up there with me and helped me get through it. I would never have done that before, or without her.”
This case study features in our latest Impact Report, read the full report here.