20 November 2019
Belinda and her families story - Give today for a brighter tomorrow
When children are exposed to heart-breaking situations such
as domestic violence that end in the breakdown of the family unit, Cholmondeley is here to support the children and caregivers on the road back to having a sense of belonging in a loving home.
My name is Melanie and I’m one of the staff members here at Cholmondeley Children’s Centre who look after the children. Children come to us at Cholmondeley from many backgrounds, all with a unique and often traumatic story. This means we need to nurture each child in an individual way.
We first met Jayden and Liam a number of years ago after they were living full time with their grandmother Belinda, who was in desperate need of a break for her own wellbeing. Belinda first became Jayden’s care-giver when she offered to look after Jayden for a couple of weeks to help her daughter try and get her life together. Belinda’s daughter was 15 when she had Jayden and having suddenly been thrown into parenthood compounded her mental health issues. Despite her best efforts and ongoing support, two weeks quickly turned into full time care of Jayden for Belinda. She took Jayden under her wing and he only had visits with his mum every couple of weeks.
In the short time they lived with their mother, Jayden and Liam were exposed to heart breaking situations that no child should ever have to experience. Domestic violence, a mother who tried to end her life multiple times and the complete breakdown of the family unit. For most of us and our children, we know this is not what life should be like, but for these two young boys, this was their normal. It was so normal that they started to replicate this behaviour in their life outside of the home. Belinda has a long road ahead to give these children a sense of belonging in a loving, caring home and an understanding of boundaries. It’s a road that Cholmondeley will walk with her, giving Belinda the space for herself whilst supporting the children.
Change for Jayden and Liam won’t happen overnight. Belinda is a committed grandmother and when you meet her and see her with the boys, you can just feel the love and support she has for them. But she needs help as well. Help in the form of respite care at Cholmondeley for the boys to make sure she still has the strength and energy to go on. She is a grandmother who is parenting two young children, running a business all whilst trying to get the self-care she needs. The children coming to Cholmondeley gives her that time. But Cholmondeley is more than just respite for families.
In the early years when Jayden first came to Cholmondeley, he would often lash out at staff and those around him when he was in a situation he wasn’t comfortable in. His language was often inappropriate and he found it difficult to express his emotions. For us, the first step was getting to know Jayden and building the initial relationship with him. From here we engaged him in social developmental games to further build his skills, whether it was a simple board game or a challenge on an outing to Pioneer swimming. We slowly built his confidence and regained his trust in others in an environment that he had control over. Activities that allowed Jayden to feel supported and encouraged to discover his strengths.
At Cholmondeley all children are given the opportunity to participate in our Activities Based Learning program. We combined this with focusing on key competencies such as managing one’s self, relating to others, participating and contributing, which is done through child led activities.
On one of Jayden’s most recent stays all the foundation work and skills he had built really shined through. We had all identified his leadership potential and spent time planning Kura (school) and other activities to enable his growth. We provided and will continue to provide Jayden with the opportunities to lead a smaller group during Kura and partner him with children during activities that give him the opportunity to step up and lead. Jayden did just that, he really showed his maturity and growth. We focus on setting the children up to succeed and watching this happen makes what we do here special. After Jayden had finished his visit Belinda also made a point of letting us know how well the stay had gone and the change she had seen when he went home.
Thank you for letting me tell this story today and for taking a moment to think about how you can continue to support Cholmondeley Children’s Centre and their families this Christmas.
Cholmondeley Children’s Centre
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of our family