21 February 2019
Grace's Story - Help our Children Reach New Heights
“Every child’s situation is different, but our focus at Cholmondeley Children’s Centre always remains the same - doing what's best for the child and making sure they have a safe, stable and caring environment at the earliest opportunity.” – Arron, Chief Executive of Cholmondeley Children’s Centre
Imagine living in 20 homes by the time you’re 12 - moving, on average, at least twice a year. Now imagine that this unpleasant cycle began when you were only four-years-old, too young to make sense of the instability, or why your parents aren’t by your side. This is the case for many of the tamariki we support at Cholmondeley Children’s Centre, and this was the case for *Grace.
At four-years-old, Grace was removed from her birth mother and put into care. Being taken away from her mother must have been very upsetting and confusing for Grace, especially at such a young and vulnerable age where she thought she was being taken away for doing something wrong, and not because her mum was unable to cope.
Grace is one of over 6,000 children in New Zealand who are in state care, representing thousands of children who are looked after by caregivers. In December 2018, 695 Canterbury children were in state care because of an emergency situation that occurred at home. When these situations arise, children need to be temporarily, and sometimes permanently removed from their homes to ensure they are safe.
Being taken into care can be a traumatic experience for a child, but what happens next can be hugely positive and life changing if the right support is available. During Grace’s placements, the team here at Cholmondeley was consistently and compassionately there to support her in her time of need. Every child’s situation is different, but our focus always remains the same - doing what's best for the child and making sure they have a safe, stable and caring environment at the earliest opportunity.
As I write this letter, I look out of the window to our playground. It’s a beautiful summer’s day in Governors Bay and the tamariki have ventured out into the playground to enjoy the morning sun. A group have grabbed balance bikes and scooters and are racing down the path towards to skate ramp and a few girls are playing on the monkey bars. An energetic applause erupts through the centre as two girls cheer on their friend as she proudly makes her way across the monkey bars in a couple of short, swift swings. This girl is Grace. She joins her friends and they all continue to take it in turns and encourage each other. “Go on, it’s okay. You’ve got this,” Grace shouts as she patiently watches her friends participate and then runs off to the trampolines with glee as her friends follow behind her.
There is no doubt that the children love being outside. I can hear the joy and laughter daily through our office windows. The playground may be an ordinary activity for our tamariki, but it’s the kind of place they can forget their stresses and troubles in. For many of our children, attending Cholmondeley is their outlet; they can be themselves, explore their character and be respected by our team. As the adults in their lives, we can foster a love of play, not just because ‘that’s what kids do’, but because of its inherent importance. Our centre provides a reprieve, a space to thrive and succeed, a place that they are valued. Even if they’re too young to know it, we are there every step of the way to help prepare them for a positive future.
Grace has been with her caregiver, *Donna for two years. Donna tells me that being a caregiver is rewarding, but there can be lots of challenges raising someone else’s child.
“Grace suffers from problems with her self-esteem, often walking out of the room when her mind uncovers painful memories. Over time she has learnt to let me in and I feel her time at Cholmondeley has helped with her anxiety and confidence. What I like about Cholmondeley is that children like Grace, have a safe, fun and inclusive environment where they can have a break from stresses in their lives. Having time out is helpful to refocus as a caregiver, and it helps me to be a better parent. Grace gets to express herself in a positive environment and learn social skills, while enjoying a range of activities. When Grace arrives home we appreciate each other more. One of the biggest highs associated with caregiving is really seeing the little milestones they achieve on a daily basis.”
Like Donna, we consider it our moral imperative to ensure that children like Grace are supported and protected. Children are at the centre of all we do and our goal is to work with their whānau, caregivers and the wider community to create circles of protection and care around children whose wellbeing may be at risk.
On behalf of Grace and all the children we support at Cholmondeley, thank you for reading our impact story.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our family