Debbie had suffered historical domestic abuse, including physical and emotional abuse.

The two older children, Chris (15) and Courtney (14) had witnessed this abuse. Initially the referral into the DARE2 service had been made by Debbie who was concerned about Courtney’s behaviour both in school and at home, Debbie felt that this was child to parent abuse.

As a follow on Chris was also referred into service as he was suffering from low mood and anxiety and this was impacting on his relationship with his mum and siblings (Chris was also the carer for his younger sister whilst mum worked after school and evenings.

Individual assessments were carried out with Debbie, Chris and Courtney, from these assessments we were able to see that Debbie had unresolved issues around the historic abuse she had experienced and these were having a clear impact on her emotional well-being and parenting skills. Debbie was also angry that Courtney was having contact with her father (one of Debbie’s historical perpetrators) who was serving a custodial sentence and this was causing conflict between them.

The assessments with Chris and Courtney, reflected the issues that mum had raised but from the children’s perspective’s. Both children were self-harming and had received previous support from Families First and CAMHS.

Tailored Support Plans were agreed with Debbie receiving emotional support from the Outreach Service and Chris and Courtney receiving weekly one to one support sessions with the DARE2 Team.

The sessions for Chris and Courtney took place in school and involved giving them a safe space to talk and explore their thoughts and feelings and look at what life was like for them currently.

From this we could see that Courtney was very confused about her parent’s relationship and there was a lot of anger towards both parents, particularly mum, which made their relationship very volatile and confrontational.

Chris had very low self-esteem and very low mood, he had no real opportunity to be a ‘teenager’ as he had taken on the role of peacekeeper between his mum and Courtney and had become the carer for his younger sister. He was also in the middle of studying for his GCSE’s and trying to make decisions about his future, as a result of this he was very confused and felt isolated.

In parallel to working with the children, support work had also commenced with Debbie to help to address the issues identified in her assessment. This consisted of giving her a safe space to talk about her past and the abuse she had suffered, together with her worker they explored her thoughts and feelings around this and looked at the impact that this had had on her confidence, self-esteem and mental health but also the impact that it had on her parenting style (which at times of stress was confrontational and aggressive).

During the course of our work with this family Chris made two attempts to end his life both of which required attendance at A&E, at which his support worker was present. Courtney also continued to self-harm and made one attempt to take her life which again required attendance at A&E, again with her support worker present.

This family had a range of complex emotional well-being issues and needs which were addressed individually and collectively in the form of family sessions.

The children were taken through a journey of support which helped them to address the issues of witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse. This gave them a better understanding of their experiences and that of mums, which included the complexities of being in and leaving an abusive relationship. This improved the relationship with mum and with each other.

Being able to talk through issues and process their thoughts and feelings helped to build resilience, look at situations in a different perspective and respond in a positive and healthy way. Support also gave them healthier coping mechanisms for when things went wrong and reduced the incident rate of self-harm and also improved emotional well-being.

This was a difficult journey for Debbie as the process for healing meant there were many times when she had to re-live the trauma and her childhood during which she had also witnessed and experienced domestic abuse between her parents. This was a time of reflection for mum as she came to the realisation that the abuse had had a bigger negative impact on her and her parenting style than she initially realised. It was a journey of discovery and healing for the whole family.