A PARENT’S STORY
Joan (not her real name) and her husband adopted their daughter Lisa when she was four years old. Born to parents who were heroin addicts, she had been severely neglected during her formative years.
Although her behaviour was challenging, Lisa was part of a loving family who deeply cared for her.
However, matters took a serious turn for the worse when Lisa started senior school – an environment that she found profoundly traumatic. This led to her becoming increasingly angry and even violent towards her parents and older sister at home.
When she was 12, it was decided she should live with foster carers although she still spent quality time with the family at weekends and holidays.
However, throughout Year eight at school, Lisa became increasingly involved in risky behaviours such as talking to strangers online, making some very inappropriate friendships, and running away from school and from her foster carers sometimes overnight putting herself at huge risk.
Joan explained: “My daughter has since been diagnosed with a number of psychological conditions including attachment disorder due to her early childhood trauma. Her desire to be part of the group has meant she was easily led and yet could not appreciate the consequences of her actions.
“This made her an easy target for online grooming and the real worry was that she was regularly running away from school and the foster home.
“She and others in her friendship group were targeted by a man online – who turned out to be living abroad – but luckily she eventually told her foster carer what was going on.”
Lisa was assigned a support worker from Safe and Sound who consistently worked with her on a wide range of issues that were unfolding in her life including online safety, sexting, and healthy relationships.
Joan continued: “At a very traumatic time in all our lives, Safe and Sound were a positive, professional, and calming influence.
Safe and Sound are specialists in their field and the support worker built up an honest relationship of trust with our daughter to try and help her recognise the dangers she was facing.
“Most importantly, the support worker did not judge Lisa or us but was a listening ear. She was totally focused on our daughter and the approach of challenge with support made a positive difference.
“We have never blamed Lisa for what has happened. Essentially, she has got herself in situations that she couldn’t get out of for many reasons rooted in her early life trauma
“More recently, Lisa is now able to reflect on what has happened and is much more aware of consequences.”
Now aged 15, Lisa is at a new school and shares her home life with the family and foster carers – an arrangement that is working out well.
Joan concluded: “We are by no means out of the woods yet but things are slowly improving.
“My message to other parents would be to ask for help early – don’t just think that this will go away on its own.
“The consequences of leaving a situation is that it maybe too late for your child and they will already have been assaulted or worse.
“Not enough people know about child sexual exploitation and particularly online grooming. We all need to be much more aware of the dangers facing our children.
“Safe and Sound’s prime focus has always been to keep our daughter safe. They are the experts in this field and I hope that they will be around for a very long time to help families like ours at a time when we so desperately need it.”