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How to Weather Life’s Storms and Still Keep Going

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*This is a real life story describing a family's experience of transforming their lives through the support of  the Troubled Families Programme in Liverpool. It is expressed in her own words with some names altered to protect identities.

'On the 5th of February 1993 my world stopped turning, I was 9 years old.  My Aunty gathered myself, 2 sisters and my brother together and I remember her words ‘your Mum has fallen asleep and you won’t be seeing her again.’

 My Dad had always been a drinker but the drinking got worse after my Mum died. There was very little discipline so we ran riot getting away with murder. No one asked me how I was coping or was interested in my emotional wellbeing, I wasn’t offered counselling and there was no ‘voice of the child.’

 Within months all traces of my Mum disappeared from the house and my Dad moved in Mary, no introductions, no getting to know her. He said ‘Mary this is Emily’ and that was that. I felt so alone the pain inside of me wouldn’t go away, I craved for my dad to show ME some love.

 I started drinking heavily, vodka, brandy anything I could get hold of, it numbed the pain. I went missing for days on end and on one occasion I woke up in a cemetery on a Sunday still with my uniform on, no idea where I was or what I had done.

 At 13 I was placed in care, first a children’s home then fostering I didn’t have a good experience with either. I met my first real boyfriend at the age of 16, he took drugs and we ended up in a hostel in Birkenhead, shortly after we moved to Scotland. This is when the domestic violence started, I was isolated and had very few options open to me, this is when I then started using crack cocaine to block out the world and any negative emotions. We moved around a lot and we slept on the streets in wales before being placed in a B&B. Once back in Liverpool I discovered I was pregnant with my first son Andrew, when Andrew was 2 months old his Dad was sent to prison.

 By 21 I had started taking drugs again this time heroin, the day after my Dad’s funeral I went into rehab, I have now been 14 years clean and don’t often even drink these days. Whilst I was there I met my second son James’s Dad, Chris was a good father to both my lads when he was clean and he was a worker. Chris fell back into his addiction and was in and out of prison. I decided to bring the boys up on my own.

 At the age of 27 I studied NVQ 2 & 3 in Childcare and education and then found work in a nursery. I met my 3rd son Luke’s Dad, I suffered very bad postnatal depression the domestic violence was bad but when I realised that my partner was physically abusing James I protected my children and contact Social Services I was given a Social Worker Linda who was supportive and she put me in touch with Sharon, an employment adviser from the troubled families team.

 The big difference with the troubled families support was how Sharon helped me with my dream of getting a job. Originally Sharon came to try and help with benefits as all my tax credits had been stopped and I didn’t have a penny.   I told her that I wanted to get back into work eventually, I didn’t want to end up sitting at home on a sofa all day long like my Dad and I didn’t want my children to see that of me either.  She’s been supporting me for 18 months through ups and downs. I now have a CV, I have been on a Nurturing Course which I really enjoyed. I have been offered a voluntary placement at the Surestart Children’s Centre and eventually want to look for some paid work. Sharon also helped me claim Personal Independence Payment for my mental health.

 If it wasn't for Sharon I wouldn't be here. She helped me get my confidence back.  The courses helped me feel self-worth and to break my family cycle.  They’ve made a difference not only for me but my children who deserve a good start in life to achieve their goals. I am very proud of my boys I have brought them up to have manners and tried to give them a home full of love. My children are much happier and content because they see me smile again. Andrew is about to leave High School, he is looking to go to College to be a Bricklayer, Sharon has done him a CV and is helping find a little job. I still have my ups and downs but I now know where to go when I need help.  I just wish there had been people like Sharon around to give my family this kind of support when I lost my Mum.'

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