By guest blogger, Sam
Before my journey started with Children’s Services involved in the lives of me and my children, I believed if a family had them hanging around it was game over. Life hit rock bottom for us with a bang, and Children’s Services got involved. Put simply my two youngest children were taken into care and my three older children stayed with their dad. I felt I was wrong done by because my children were always clean, fed, well dressed and had really nice things, but I knew deep down the damage I was doing.
Wine at the time was more than just my friend, it had become my comfort. It gave me a false confidence and stopped my mind playing games. On a bad day, which became every day, that first glass, mug or mouth full from the bottle was like taking a really strong pain killer. It was really sad because I got to the point where I couldn’t see a future without alcohol in my life. It had taken over. The reason I started to drink was no longer my problem, drinking became my problem and I was one step away from no return.
My friendship with wine grew stronger and stronger over the years and as it did, passing the buck became second nature to me. I did not want this life anymore. Children’s Services and SWIFT must have seen this before I did because I was given one last chance, FDAC.
FDAC is a problem solving court. I had to go and see the Judge every 2 weeks to tell her what was going well, and what wasn’t. I had FDAC workers from SWIFT who I met with every week to help me understand what I needed, and more importantly what my children needed.
At first I didn’t really understand the difference, court is court, game over, but it’s wasn’t. I didn’t see it at first but the planning that goes into FDAC to make people safe is unreal. I for the first time in a long time felt I was safe and I was given the biggest gift of all …time.
All the help was there for the taking and that was made clear at the start, it was just down to me to take it. At the beginning I would take 2 steps forward and then felt I was taking 5 steps back. I know now that it was because I was getting to the roots of my problems and my past. That was painful in itself, going over things time and time again, but now looking back it was to help me see when I started to lose grip of things and it’s also helped me to remember all the good things that had happened in my life and no longer let the bad take over.
When I had FDAC court I never felt talked at, and when I spoke I was listened to. The non-lawyer review meetings at court were my chance to tell everyone how things were going, the good and bad and everything in between was noted.
Being a victim is what I held so dear because it was easy to pass the blame. The support I got from SWIFT saved my life. The same people worked with me every week for the last year, no new faces. At first it was nearly every day always something or somewhere to be. I started to feel that I was important and not just a problem. I know it’s their jobs and they get paid for doing this for people…. but it is so much more than that, they saw the good and bad in me, helped me find the good and leave the bad where it belonged.
Video Interaction Guidance was done at the right time, a time when I felt I was losing the bond with one of children because they had been in care for months. When I was initially told about VIG I thought how is this going to help? Seeing the bond with my little girl right in front of me though somebody else’s eyes gave me confidence, drive, and belief. It let me see that all the loving feelings I have for this little person was not one sided, that she loved and needed me as much as I did her. All of my children need me at my best. I walked out of the first VIG review and cried happy tears and felt even more confident in knowing I had it in me as a parent, to be a parent.
I did not know until much later on that the children would be coming home to my care, but what SWIFT and the FDAC court had helped me do before that decision was made meant that I was well again and had the tools I needed to live for me first. I am now enjoying being me for the first time in a long time and most of all I am more than enjoying being a mum to my children, the mum that they need, and want , not the robot that replaced her for a while.
The shame I once felt is replaced with pride, it’s not always a bad ending to a dark beginning…… I still see my old mate wine on a daily basis, in every shop I walk into, thinking about it everywhere I go. I see this ‘not so great mate’ but I choose not to invite this mate into my life anymore. I feel ill thinking about it. Before this journey started I would have moved heaven and earth to get my hands on wine but not now, instead I move heaven and earth to make my world happy. With the help and support I have got from all the professionals the cycle has been broken I will not do to my children what my mother did to me, and that was always my goal.
I cannot imagine how my children must of felt, and still feel about what has happened to them over the last few years, time will tell. I understand there are going to be lots of questions that will need to be answered. My eyes were shut for such a long time, scared to see the damage I was doing. I would look into their eyes and see how lost, let down, and scared they were. That is the difference now, my eyes are wide open and when I look into their eyes I see hope and happiness. I now see children with all the cheekiness that had gone away for a long time.
After 10 months of proceedings myself and my children walked out of court after our graduation with the wise owl (Judge) and everyone else that had played a part in bringing my family back together, all sitting in the same room, all talking about how things had changed. There were so many happy tears, a court room full of joy and happiness, crazy I know. As this all was happening I watched my children’s little faces and you could see that for them this was the missing piece to the puzzle. The importance that came from them being involved in going and putting faces to names in court was more than a relief for them. To hear the wise owl tell them in person that they can live with mummy and be safe and happy was so needed to help them let go a bit and have an understanding that things can change. I really do believe that as young as they are, they will be able to take this with them through their lives and use this understanding to learn if things aren’t great, with hard work and time, anything can change for the better.
We are lucky because my children had the best foster parents. I don’t have the words to explain or express how big a part they played in my children’s lives. They gave them normal and allowed them to be children and allowed me to sort myself out knowing that they were being more than well looked after. In time they started to open up and let some of the knots start to unravel. My children were too scared to talk to me, not wanting to upset me because I was so unpredictable with my handling of anything. Now our home is full with little chatter boxes that talk about everything good and bad knowing they are safe to off load because they are the child and I am the parent.
So thanks to the FDAC… SWIFT and Children’s services, my home is always a mess, my days are always busy, my bed is not my own and it’s just the way I want it to be. This journey has been more than hard but it has saved my life and brought a family back together in more ways than one. Now we look forward to what is to come each day. I am very mindful that just because my children are home all is not over. I will have to use what I have learned over the last year to be able to keep a tight grip on things for the rest of my life and I also know at any point my grip starts to loosen there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
I once believed I had lost our happy ending but after a lot of hard work and getting to the roots of our problems, there it was, our happy ending, there for the taking and I took it with both hands never to lose it again.