Mum sits with the sun coming in the window behind her, falling gently on her shoulders. She smiles nervously as she welcomes us and once we settle in, begins haltingly to tell her story.
“I suffer with mental health and anxiety,” she explains. “I got sectioned for my mental health. I was in for around 6 months and then Safe Families has been involved ever since, helping take the kids out because I don’t go out.”
Mum has four children, aged 7-16, and the youngest two of the little girls sit on the couch with me, listening quietly as Mum speaks. During Mum’s time in hospital they had been put in foster care and one of Mum’s big worries was that they would end up back in the care system.
Mum has had a difficult background which contributes to her anxiety about leaving the house. She has come a long way from the time she was sectioned but still is concerned that her discomfort leaving the house impacts her children’s ability to get out and have fun experiences.
Referred by her social worker to Safe Families, Mum found it scary at first to let the kids go with the volunteers but they enjoyed themselves from the first time and quickly became friends with the daughters who were the same age as the girls.
“It relieved my mind [that the volunteers took them out] because I felt bad because they weren’t going out as much as everybody else does and were always stuck in the house.”
“We were rather excited to go with volunteers,” says one of the little girls. “We went to the park and played Roundabouts; it’s like a wheel what spins around and you sit on it. And we had a picnic. Sandwiches – cheese sandwiches, biscuits, fruit…I remember having grapes.”
They were happy when they came home, says Mum and looking forward to the next time.
“Safe Families has given support by taking the kids out and if I need anything they’re always there to speak to”, says Mum. “Even if I just need to talk, they’re on the end of the phone…Volunteers don’t have the title [of a professional worker], it’s more relaxed. They became friends, really close friends.”
“It’s given me a bit of ‘me’ time as well, and the girls are happier and I can do things that I need to do while they’re out. Like with taking them out and making sure they get out of the house and making sure they’re happy because if they’re happy I’m happy. If not for Safe Families they’d be staying in all the time. Otherwise they don’t go out.”
One massive change for the family has been that when Safe Families was first introduced they were on a child protection plan and now Mum and the kids are closed to all social care involvement.
“It’s only because the kids have been going out; me mental health’s not bad because I know they’re going out. If they don’t go out then I feel guilty.”
The little girls munch happily on biscuits we brought with us from our office stash, “Where did you buy these?! One a scale of a million I’d give them more!”
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