Child support workers

Refuge works with children to overcome the trauma of witnessing or experiencing domestic violence. More than a third of the residents in our refuges are children, the majority of whom are of pre-school age.

Where we are fortunate enough to raise funds we are able to provide child support workers. These workers help children rebuild their lives. They support children to process their thoughts and feelings and support mothers to communicate effectively with their children and re-establish their bond following abuse.

Many children cope with and survive abuse, displaying extraordinary resilience. However, the physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children can be severe and long-lasting. You can find out more about the impacts on children here.

Children’s workers provide stimulating play opportunities to encourage children from all backgrounds to develop and express themselves, as well as support children with homework and literacy. They also refer children to wider support services, including counselors and children’s centres. Sessions might include:

  • Arts and crafts, story-telling, singing, cooking, gardening and play activities
  • Help with homework
  • Group discussions, exploring issues such as friendship, kindness and respect

Our workers also run one-to-one and group sessions, so that mothers can speak freely about their experiences of abuse without their children being present.

Trips and outings for mothers and children to explore community resources such as libraries, play groups and leisure centres are also arranged.

One child support worker from Cambridgeshire describes the difference this specialist support can make:

child supporter thumb“Janice and her three-year-old daughter Charlotte arrived at the refuge after Janice’s partner had abused her and attempted to abduct Charlotte. They were both painfully shy and very introverted.  Charlotte would hide behind her mother’s clothes, not speaking or making eye contact with anyone. She had also reverted to having a comfort blanket with her at all times, and using a baby bottle at night.

“I worked with Janice to help lessen Charlotte’s separation anxiety, advising her to take small steps towards increasing Charlotte’s independence. For example, Janice would leave Charlotte with me at the table whilst she went to sit on the sofa or into the garden – still staying within sight. Reward charts were encouraged to recognise small steps forward and we devised a game called ‘Can Mummy be back before we count to 3, 4, 5…’  

“Gradually Charlotte began to trust me. She started to join in activities with the other children. A breakthrough came five months after they had moved in, when Charlotte asked if she could stay with me to make a mother’s day card whilst her mother was upstairs. Charlotte is now going to nursery. She leaves her comfort blanket on the peg before joining in activities with other children, and has positive interactions with other adults. She is going from strength to strength every day.”