Case Study by Joanne

Joanne is a 12 year old girl that was looked after by her dad following her Mom being unable to care for her. Joanne’s dad has mental health and substance misuse issues that he is receiving support for but this does affect his ability to care for Joanne. Dad will also have adult parties at his home regularly and Joanne is subjected to a lot of Adult material and behaviours as a result of this.

When I was 10 my mom tried to hurt herself regularly and I would often need to call the emergency services to help her. As a result of this I was sent to live with my dad who I thought was cool and fun because he let didn’t treat me like a kid and would also let me drink alcohol with him – it made me feel really grown up. Over time Dad started to drink more and more and would often have parties where lots of his male friends would come around and take drugs at our house. At first I didn’t think there was a problem as it was fun, but then one day Dad didn’t have enough money for my school lunch. Then he didn’t have enough money to buy me any sanitary pads when I was on my period. This went on for some time and I began to get bullied at school for my clothes and because I always looked dirty. When my period next came around, I had to ask a friend to give me some sanitary pads as I was starting to leak through the tissue I was using. She asked me why I didn’t have any of my own and I just couldn’t take it anymore and started to cry to her about my life.

Outcome One

My friend listened to me but then wanted to go and get a teacher to help me also. I also just wanted to be loved and cared for – my friends parents seemed to always care about their needs and feelings. My friend convinced me that we needed an adult’s help and I said she could go to get a teacher. When my teacher came, she listened to me and then explained that she would need to complete a safeguarding referral for me. This made me panic and I started to worry how my dad would react. Once the referral was made a Lady from Early Help came to our house to speak to me and Dad. She was really nice and didn’t make Dad feel like he was a bad parent but instead put lots of support in place for him for his drinking and substance misuse issues. She also helped me to access some extra support and told me that I was considered a young carer due to Dad’s needs. It’s not perfect now, but there are not regular parties at the house, I don’t go to school hungry and Dad seems a lot happier! I am so glad my friend was there on that day or I don’t know what would have happened. The school also give out free sanitary pads now too!

Outcome Two

My friend was so shocked to hear what had been going on at home but seemed like she was angry with my dad for not taking care of me. I understood that it might be difficult for her to understand as she has a very loving family who seem to have lots of money, but I didn’t want her to be angry at my dad because even if he wasn’t the best at looking after me, he was all that I had. She then left the room without saying anything and came back with our pastoral teacher. I felt so betrayed by my friend because I did not want anyone to know how much we were struggling at home. My teacher was nice to me, but I was not willing to talk to her and even told her that I had not said anything to my friend and that she had lied. My friend didn’t like being called a liar and so stormed out of the room. I felt so bad, but I just couldn’t open up to the teacher at the time. The same teacher then began checking in with me everyday and eventually I did open up to her after she explained that the school could help. She put in a safeguarding referral for me and as a result I went into foster care. It was strange at first being in another family’s home, but they are so kind and make sure my needs are always met. The best thing is that I can still see my dad every weekend if I want to and he seems to enjoy the time we spend together more too!

What I would say to any young person living in a home with domestic abuse is:

Even if you feel like you are alone, you aren’t. My counsellor has helped me to understand that there are lots of children whose parents struggle like mine but even if they are not able to look after you does not mean that they do not care – we all struggle and we all need support.