I first met Wendy and her four children through our Troubled Families programme. There had been a history of domestic violence and Wendy had left her husband taking the children with her. Tragically, she had lost her first child after he suddenly contracted an illness, and understandably this continued to have a huge impact on her and the whole family. Wendy struggled to manage her daily living responsibilities, the family faced eviction because of rent arrears, and Wendy and the children were highly anxious. It was clear that Wendy and the children loved each other very much, though Wendy’s self esteem and confidence levels were very low and she struggled to develop any routine and structure. Wendy often shouted at the children, and the whole family swore at each other on a daily basis.
The two youngest (Jaydon and Becky) were missing a significant amount of school. Becky frequently screamed and lashed out at her mother at the school gates and often had to be calmed down and supported by school staff before going into class. Jaydon’s behaviour at school was a cause for concern and he was often in trouble for breaking school rules, disrupting lessons and being disrespectful to teachers.
Helping Wendy ensure Becky felt happier about going to school was an immediate priority. Rather than deal with Becky’s challenging behaviour at the school gates, Wendy had begun letting her stay at home. Her attendance was creeping downwards, and was just below 70% when I became involved. Initially, I walked to school with Becky and her mum, working towards them doing the journey unaccompanied. Within six weeks Becky was in school regularly and happily going directly to class with her classmates. Her attendance has been maintained at 92% and although she is currently a little behind her peers academically, she is now making good progress and her teachers are pleased with her.
With support, Wendy began to make other changes. We worked together to resolve debt and sorted out the rent arrears. Mum also recognised she needed help to develop new parenting skills; she took up classes and also started family therapy with Becky and Jaydon. The goal here was to significantly reduce the shouting and swearing and for them all to learn how to communicate more positively with each other.
A year on and both Becky and Jaydon’s lives have had a dramatic turn around. Jaydon is now 11 years old, he gets himself up at 6.30am every morning and is in school early every day. His attendance is 99%, he loves school and is a bright and diligent boy, determined to do well academically. This has been a dramatic change in attitude and behaviour. Jaydon’s two older siblings left school with no qualifications; he is determined to break his family’s pattern of low educational attainment and on top of a school day he is taking up numerous after school activities. Wendy’s older children are also growing in confidence and learning new skills. Tommie, the eldest boy, is now 18 years old and is working as a painter and decorator. He is supportive both emotionally and financially to his mum. Danielle missed a staggering 80% of school and left with no qualifications. With her mum’s support and some helpful encouragement from me, she has dramatically improved her reading and writing skills. Danielle now works as a cleaner and has new aspirations to be a dental nurse. With her mum’s encouragement this now feels like an achievable goal.
Support and intervention has made huge difference to this family. Practical issues no longer escalate to a crisis point, as Wendy is able to deal with and respond to official correspondence. Communication within the family has vastly improved. Swearing and shouting on a daily basis is over, and Wendy is able to encourage and motivate her children to do well at school. Wendy continues to change her behaviour and move forward – this has had a really positive impact on all of her children. Without SHS support, this family would have continued on a downward spiral.
*All names have been changed