We’ve posted a few times about our work with the Footsteps project so you may be familiar with it. The project offered group work and some individual support for women whose children were no longer in their care. Their children may have been adopted, now live with family members or be in foster care placements. We initially saw a need for the project because we were working with women, mostly through our domestic violence groups, who were left with very little or no support from professionals once their children were removed from their care.
For many women, this was the most difficult time of their lives and they felt alone, they told us they felt judged by friends, family, workers and even strangers. They were grieving but not able to speak to anyone, they were more at risk of returning to abusive relationships or or returning mental health issues. We developed Footsteps so women weren’t alone in this. They were able to sit in a room with others and know no-one was judging them. We all recognised that every single one of them, wherever they were in their journey with Social Care, were still – and always would be – mums. We talked about their children a lot and supported each other to cope with Christmases, Mother’s Day, children’s birthdays, contact sessions, final contact sessions, going through court and writing and receiving letterbox contact from their children’s adoptive families.
We delivered sessions on the impact of domestic abuse on children, on parenting, managing our mood and stress levels, on self-esteem and how to keep ourselves safe. The group members were able to start understanding the processes more and why specific decisions had been made. They identified how they could avoid ever being in this situation again.
We reminded each other that we were still important and our feelings were valid. The most important part of the project was how the women in the group supported each other. As workers, we could talk about how final contact might feel and support the women through it but that wasn’t quite as helpful as some words or a hug from another mum who had been through that process. We had lots of tears but also many, many laughs.
Sadly, due to the funding ending, Footsteps closed in September. We’re really hoping that we are able to find more funding in future for this hugely important piece of work. Myself (Sarah) and Leeanne were amazed every single week by how strong, supportive and awe-inspiring the Footsteps group members were and we really wanted to share with you a project we did a few months ago. We were really lucky to receive some funding support from the amazing Open Nest charity. We were able to have some sessional support from Georgia, a great Art Therapist, and also take part in a photography poetry project. The group members all had their photographs taken by Lizzie (which they said was a bit awkward at first but then they LOVED it!) and also sat with Peter to chat about important items or people in their lives.
Peter sat with us as a group and asked us how being in Footsteps felt, he came up with the following poem –
A stormy start, but sun breaking out,
mist clearing to rainbows.
A bed of roses, prickly, but each colour
soft and different.
Ups and downs, many crossroads.
A safe and steady ship on choppy seas.
Life-saver. Life boat.
Peter and Lizzie went away, worked some magic and put the poems and images together. When we sat as a group and looked at them, we were all really emotional. They were beautiful and the feelings and voices of each woman came through. It was a fabulous thing to be a part of and one of the women said “I loved the poem and photos, it made me feel heard and like I felt pretty for once =) “.
We hope you like them as much as we did!