Rebecca, 11 years old, came to Barnardos after she tearfully disclosed to her school teacher that “things are just too much at home”. Rebecca is the eldest child of the Quigley family. Her younger sibling is only 5. Rebecca told her teacher that her Dad, Alan, had been taking drugs, which would make him very angry sometimes.
While their Dad had never hurt them directly, he would regularly shout at their Mam, Kate. Their Mam would tell them to go into the sitting room and turn on the TV nice and loud. Trying to get her children to drown out the noise that might affect them for a lifetime. Rebecca did as she was told, she wanted to mind her sibling.
Other times, it was the opposite. Alan would fall asleep and Rebecca’s Mam, Kate, would try to get the kids out of the house to avoid waking him. She would walk the streets with her children, pretending they were on some sort of adventure. Kate thought that she was doing a good job of hiding the issue from the children, but they all knew things were not right. Rebecca knew they were avoiding Daddy. Their home, where they spent most of their time due to the COVID restrictions, did not feel like a safe space and Rebecca was exhausted from worrying. She hadn’t been sleeping at night out of fear that something might happen to her. Or that something might happen to her Mam. Her brave Mammy.
Can you imagine having that weight on your shoulders at just 11 years old? Lying in bed at night, terrified to close your eyes. When she finally went back to school she couldn’t concentrate, worrying whether things were OK at home when she wasn’t there.
Rebecca’s teacher notified the relevant state agency and an in-depth assessment was carried out. The case was referred to Barnardos as we have the appropriate resources to support Rebecca’s family.
We talked with Kate, Rebecca’s mother, and helped her in securing a safety order. We sat down with her and created a safety plan. This involved identifying key people within Kate’s circle who could offer a safe space for Kate and her family should they need it. Kate also had to face the reality that her little girl Rebecca was more than aware of what was going on, which broke her heart. Working with the children was an amazing experience, their case worker Leah said. Such lovely kids. While the younger one attended a Barnardos After-School group, Leah organised 1-to-1 sessions with Rebecca. Rebecca was so hesitant to open up initially, so worried that she’d get in trouble. Worried that she’d get her Mammy and her Daddy in trouble.
Leah assured Rebecca that their sessions were a safe space. They worked on managing Rebecca’s worries and she was encouraged to talk about them.
Rebecca loved to draw and loved creating things. With Leah’s help, she made a list of calming activities that she could use to help her cope with anxiety and stress. She wrote them down on strips of paper that she decorated beautifully, and linked them to make a “chain of calm”. Leah told her how she could use her affirmations at night time, when she couldn’t sleep. She hung them right beside her bed so she could remember them when she needed them the most.
We are working with Rebecca’s parents too. Some silver lining in the situation, was that Alan recognised and acknowledged his addictions, and wanted to move forward. During conversations with him, he revealed he had suffered trauma during his own childhood and using drugs had helped him numb the pain he was feeling. These cracks had been building up for such a long time. He didn’t want his children to follow his footsteps, so he was committed to getting the help he needed.
While things are definitely looking up for the Quigley family, they still have quite a journey ahead of them. And there are so many other families that need our help. But thanks to your support, we have so much hope for Rebecca and families like hers. Together, with your help, we can build brighter futures for so many children.
While Rebecca’s story is true, we have changed all names used in this story and some other details in order to protect the family’s identity. Photos used are models.