Janice’s story

A Refuge key worker describes the challenges of helping young children to rebuild their lives.

Young girl smiling

Janice* and her three-year-old daughter Charlotte* arrived at the refuge after Janice’s partner had abused her and attempted to abduct Charlotte. They were both painfully shy and very introverted. Charlotte would hide behind her mother’s clothes, not speaking or making eye contact with anyone. When activities were planned she refused to join in, or would only do so if her mother was also involved. She had also reverted to having a comfort blanket with her at all times, and using a baby bottle at night.

Young child playing

I worked with Janice to help lessen Charlotte’s separation anxiety, advising her to take small steps towards increasing Charlotte’s independence. For example, Janice would leave Charlotte with me at the table whilst she went to sit on the sofa or into the garden – still staying in eyesight. Reward charts were encouraged to recognise small steps forward and we devised a game called ‘Can Mummy be back before we count to 3, 4, 5.’

Gradually Charlotte began to trust me and her separation anxiety began to diminish. She started to join in activities with the other children. A breakthrough came five months after they had moved in, when Charlotte asked if she could stay with me to make a mother’s day card whilst her mother was upstairs. It has now been seven months since they moved into the refuge, and Charlotte is going to nursery. She leaves her comfort blanket on the peg before joining in activities with other children, and has positive interactions with other adults. She is going from strength to strength every day.

*Names have been changed to protect the women and children that we support.