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A wellbeing and support programme at our Staffordshire safe accommodation refuges is helping children increase their confidence after experiencing domestic abuse at home.
We’ve delivered our BBC Children in Need funded project – Opening Doors, since 2021. So far 96 children and young people have taken part in the project, which has delivered 241 group and one-to-one support sessions and activities.
Opening Doors is unique to our refuges and provides holistic, combined support for parents and children who have faced domestic abuse. This includes one-to-one support sessions, group activities, days out, messy play and other creative sessions to improve wellbeing and make sure children have fun.
One of the children who has taken part in the project is 12-year-old Alana, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. Alana lived in refuge with her mum and was supported by Children and Young Person’s Domestic Abuse Practitioner, Elise.
“When I first met Alana, she told me that she had been struggling with her feelings because of the domestic abuse she had witnessed,” explained Elise, who guided Alana through her one-to-one support sessions.
“She found it difficult to talk about the abuse she’d seen and was struggling with having contact with the perpetrator.
“She told me she felt ‘trapped’ – she didn’t know what to do with the feelings she’d been keeping in. Her self-esteem and confidence had been impacted too.”
When working with children and young people, Elise will ask them how they’re feeling, and how often. Alana told Elise that she felt angry, nervous and sad a
lot. She felt safe and happy only occasionally. She rarely felt relaxed. Elise got started on regular one-to-one sessions with Alana to change these feelings.
“While Alana was living in refuge, we met once a week,” continued Elise.
“We explored different topics, including feelings, safety planning, safe people, family changes, healthy and unhealthy relationships and coping techniques.
“As we spoke about these topics, we related them back to Alana’s own experiences and worked through the feelings she had as a result of these.”
Elise worked directly with Alana, but she also liaised with other organisations and agencies behind the scenes.
“I worked closely with social care across two local authorities, health services and two schools. While Alana was living in refuge with us, she made the huge transition from primary to secondary school. This is a huge change for any young person, let alone one living in a domestic abuse refuge and going through such big personal changes.
“Working with other agencies meant that I could make sure Alana’s voice was heard by everyone and her wishes could be adhered to.”
After working with Alana for a few months, Elise said she ‘engaged amazingly well’.
“There was such a change in her. Her confidence improved and she had a more hopeful, optimistic outlook. Other staff in the refuge started to notice it too. Her demeanour, and how she presented herself, completely shifted. It was all thanks to her newfound sense of confidence.
“As we approached the end of our one-to-one sessions, I spoke to Alana about how she was feeling. She told me that she felt brighter and happier, which was incredible to hear. Alana’s mum started to notice too. She told me, on multiple occasions, how positive the change had been for her daughter. She was more confident and more willing to talk about and express her feelings.”
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