Helen Pryor-Andrews works with family charity Safe Families For Children. She recently met with a young girl from Dudley whose family has experienced an encounter with local Christians that has begun to change everything in her little world.
This is Fiona's* story.
Hello, my name is Fiona and I’m 8. My mum and dad used to fight. One day my Dad had a knife and mum had to call the police. We had to run away and now I can only see him if there is someone else there as well. Mum got a new boyfriend and had my little sister, Edie. She’s nearly 2. Then last year, Mum got cancer and had to have an operation. When she came home from hospital, my step-Dad said we couldn’t live with him anymore and we had to leave. We didn’t have anywhere to go. We had to live in a place called a hostel. It was a very long walk to school and back and mum is often very tired.
Mum isn’t very well, and she sleeps a lot. She takes tablets called chemotherapy and when she takes them she sometimes gets sick. I thought my mum would get better in a few months. But then I heard my grandma talking to someone and she said that mum was going to die but I don’t know when. She’s still my Mum and she still takes me to school and cooks the tea.
I sometimes get angry. I had to leave a lot of my things behind when we moved - I hated it. I have a few nice things now but my little sister messes with my stuff. Sometimes, I tell my mum that I don’t care if she dies and that makes her cry. I do care. I’m just frightened and angry. Who is going to look after me and Edie?
A few weeks ago, just before Christmas, Mum told me that I would have to be patient as we didn’t have anything, and she didn’t have much money. I was so angry. My friends would all have presents and a tree and I was stuck in the stupid hostel with just mum and Edie. Grandma doesn’t live near us and sometimes Mum is too poorly to go on the bus to take us to see her. I decided to ignore Christmas and pretend it was just another day.
Then, one day, Mum had a visit from a lady while I was at school. The lady was from something called Safe Families and she came back the next day when I was there and brought another lady who is a Safe Families volunteer. She said that she had little girls as well and one was nearly the same age as me. I can go and play at her house sometimes when mum isn’t feeling well. She was nice, and she brought me a little present which her daughter had made.
A few days later, I came home from school and there was loads of food in the kitchen. Mum said that the Safe Families lady had been and brought us lots of food for Christmas. We still didn’t have any decorations, so it didn’t feel like Christmas.
Then, the next day I got home from school and guess what? We had a Christmas tree from the Safe Families lady! We didn’t have any decorations, but our social worker got some money for us and we went shopping and then decorated our tree. I felt much better.
On Christmas Day, when I went into the living room, there were so many presents waiting for me and Edie I couldn’t believe it. There were even a few presents for Mum! The Safe Families lady had told some people that we couldn’t have Christmas this year and they bought us lovely things. In the holidays, I got to go and play at Hannah’s while mum went to hospital. And I went to church. It was brilliant and there were lots of children and not too many prayers.
Mum has told me that another lady and her husband are going to come and see us. They have got 2 spare bedrooms in their house and this means when Mum goes to hospital, Edie and I can go and stay with them and not have to go into foster care. I don’t want to go into foster care. The people have also said that if Mum is poorly and can’t look after us, she can come with us, so she can rest and be with us too.
Last week, we moved. It’s brilliant and it’s close to school so I don’t have to walk for MILES. We have a table and a little sofa and a fridge. I don’t have a bed yet and me and mum and Edie sleep on the floor. We don’t have any proper plates either! But the Safe Families lady has been to see us and is going to bring us things for our house. I might even have some curtains and paint for my new bedroom.
A few weeks after we moved some of the Safe Family friends have made our house comfortable and nice. I have a bed with furniture and we have new carpets. We all go to church now and I often go to play with friends from church. Sometimes Mum prays with the volunteers. We also have days out with our volunteers. I love these days – we have lots of fun!
I don’t like to think about Mum being ill and I really hope she doesn’t die, but the social worker is helping us, and we have some new Safe Families friends now.
Fiona's family's story is just one of thousands like it in our region. Just this week, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee released a report that announced local authority Children's Services are at breaking point across the country. The need grows every day and the Church is ideally positioned to help provide the answer. Through the work of charities like Safe Families for Children, local churches can connect with vulnerable families in their communities and offer them very practical hope for the future. To find out more about how you can become part of the solution, visit the Safe Families for Children website or contact Helen Hoarle on firstname.lastname@example.org.
* All names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.