My working week: ‘Fiona’s son was taken into care a year ago. Today is his birthday’

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I lead a team of practitioners working with mothers who have had their children taken into care.

We meet virtually for morning check-in so we can identify risks and issues, and agree what to do. We receive a call telling us that Rachel is being held in custody for antisocial behaviour and is waiting to be seen in virtual court. It isn’t her first arrest, so she could be given a custodial sentence.

She is a survivor of domestic abuse, which led to the removal of her children. Her practitioner contacts the custody sergeant. We know the devastating and lasting impact of short sentences for women: custody could mean the loss of her home and a halt on benefits, as well as a disruption to her community mental health support. Critically, it would also mean her contact with her children would stop.

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Later that evening, Rachel is back home on bail. We call; she is safe, being seen by the mental health team and can attend contact with her children next week. A hopeful start to the week.


Faith calls today, to tell us she can’t afford food. We refer her to her local food bank. She feels lost and talks to us about the profound loss of identity she has felt since the removal of her children last year, due to risks around domestic violence and mental health.

So much of what she knows and understands about herself is as a mother. She still lives in what was her family home and is struggling with her identity and purpose.

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Today I speak to Sarah, who has a history of mental health issues including anxiety, depression and emotionally unstable personality disorder. Before lockdown, her mental health was improving, but the sense of isolation and not being able to have the same level of contact with her son has taken its toll.

We talk about what music makes her smile, write positive affirmations and identify people in her life who she can talk to, as well as helping her with activities to do over Skype with her son.


Fiona’s child was adopted a year ago, and today is his birthday. Not being able to see her son today is very distressing for Fiona and leads to feelings of guilt, anxiety and sadness.

We try to mitigate the pain of the empty space and build resilience to help her manage the many more birthdays still to come. We drop off cake, candles and flowers on her doorstep and call to tell her to look outside. We sing Happy Birthday, and she blows out the candles, making a wish for her son.


Fridays are tough for the people we help as they face a weekend with limited services. My morning is spent looking at the impact Pause has had on areas such as mental health, domestic abuse and engagement with other services. It looks like we’re making a positive difference.

I finish the day by contacting a new referral. Usually I’d knock on her door. Today our introduction is by phone. There are recent domestic abuse and mental health issues that contributed to the removal of her children. We talk for more than an hour. The loss of her children has left her in a state of fear about their future.

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She feels she is ready for support and ready to make changes. She talks about ending her relationship and what that would mean for her, listing all the positives she wants to get out of her life and what she needs to get there. She sounds like she’s ready to trust us and work together.

Names have been changed. Charlie Oswald is a practice lead for Pause