Some might say I grow up living a sheltered life, fairly ‘normal’ family, growing up with both parents and my younger sister. When I was growing up I always knew I wanted to work with children, but never really thought about being a social worker, because to be honest I didn’t really know they existed – so I decided to work in a day nursery when I left College.
I worked in a busy day nursery in a socially deprived area, many of the children were vulnerable and on the ‘Child Protection Register’. I remember thinking ‘wow’ I really have lived a sheltered life. I had no idea how many children lived in poverty, were neglected, and that lived with parents who did not prioritised their needs.
I was the key worker of a little girl, called, Amy. Amy was 3 years old; her parents used drugs and alcohol and often argued. Amy was smaller than her peers, a thin little girl, she always attended in dirty, ill-fitting clothing and shoes – sometimes she didn’t even wear shoes. Amy was smelly, always had dirty hands and face and her hair was matted and covered in head lice. Sometimes Amy would scratch her head so much, her scalp would bleed. Amy didn’t really mix with the other children, she was a quiet and withdrawn girl. I remember attending meetings with different professionals and saying ‘why is this little girl living with her parent – remember I was naive, I lived a sheltered life!!
One day Amy came into nursery, her mum was particularly angry and shouted ‘you can F*****g keep her’ Amy was crying, she looked even scruffy then normal, her matted hair was down, covering her face. I took Amy’s hand and we sat together on the carpet area. I reassured Amy that mummy would return because she loved Amy very much, even when she shouts. As I was reassuring Amy, I was stroking her hair to move it out of her face. It was then when I noticed a large red/purple bruise on the left hand side of her face. I remember asking Amy ‘what have you done to your face’ Amy continued to cry and said ‘mummy, mummy did it’.
Social Services and the Police came to the nursery to look at the injury. Amy was taken from the nursery by her social worker and I remember them saying, don’t worry she will not be going home. I was so relieved. I wasn’t sure I would see Amy again, I didn’t really know where she would go.
The following week Amy returned to nursery – she looked like a different child. Amy was clean, wearing a lovely summer dress, cardigan and sandals. Amy’s hair was shining it was so clean, she had her hair up with yellow ribbons and bobbles. Amy was so proud of her dress and yellow ribbons. Not only did Amy look different, there was a significant change in her behaviour. Amy had become a confident, chatty young girl and she even started to play alongside her peers.
Amy never returned to her birth parents, I believe she was adopted out of area. The social worker and many other professionals made a huge difference to Amy’s little life – they give her a childhood, a childhood every child deserves. Amy’s story had a big impact on me, it was Amy that me change my career path and I became a social worker.