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We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

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Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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by Tori

I have always been a strong independent woman with a successful career. For the last 15 years I’ve worked in a professional capacity within the Youth Justice system and delivered Nurture and Resilience training in schools. I have facilitated Restorative Justice Conferencing; both within prisons and victims’ homes to enable the process. I have travelled and taught in many countries and thrived on the spontaneity of life. However, like most people, have been thrown obstacles throughout my life which have tested and strengthened my character.  

The cruellest test of life so far; the man I had been entwined with since I was 18, a love, passion and friendship that is deep rooted in my core, the father of my child, killed himself three and a half years ago. The depth of grief is indescribable, but the financial aspect is something that does not slow down. I found myself throwing myself into work, grappling at keeping mine and my daughter’s home. I could not even fathom the grief or turmoil my six-year-old was suffering. Nearly a year after her dad’s death, my daughter’s paternal grandmother was then diagnosed with bone cancer and died four months later. My daughter and I were thrown into bleakness and my daughter’s grief became frenzied and angry.

I decided I needed to get back into my profession but I needed to apply for a term time position so I could be there for my daughter. After speaking about my worry and concern for my daughter with the head teacher, he told me to bring her to the school I was working at, so I did. Work was going well, my daughter coped with transition well, but our home life was miserable. She was eight and able to hold it together during the day but as soon as we were home, she threw marbles in my face, refused to go to bed, screamed, banged walls and kept hiding my keys.

Lockdown struck and her behaviour was heightened by anxiety. She would not let me go to work and kept running out of the house when it was time for me to leave. We were staying with my mum through lockdown, and I had to walk her back inside a number of times before finally leaving for work. When I got to work the neighbours had called in ahead of me arriving to relay the account ‘portrayed’ to them; the head spoke to me. I told him how awful homelife was (again), but work was going well and keeping us both in a routine.

One night, her behaviour was so erratic, and she went running out of the house. I could not catch up with her and I was so terrified of something happening to her I began to beat myself in the face – and could not stop. She came running back but I had split my eyes open and the release of physical pain to that of the emotional torture I had endured was a relief and sadly my daughter witnessed it.

I disclosed the events because I knew we needed help. I was dismissed from my job, and it then led to a social services referral. When they called, they said it would be Early Help – I stated I could not keep my daughter safe from harm from her behaviour, and I was so worried I had begun to self-harm.

I vaguely remember being asked by social services if they could refer us for a family group conference (FGC). By the time I was contacted by the FGC coordinator, Louise; I had lost my dignity, hope, and was extremely reluctant and resistant. I was adamant there was no point in engaging, but her persistence and non-judgemental approach slowly began to soften my barriers and helped me put the most recent events into perspective.

The family group conference coordinator saw me at my lowest ebb, but it was made clear that to be referred to the FGC service was an optimistic approach from social services and that it was about myself and my daughter as a unit. I shared information and said that the coordinator could visit my daughter whenever she needed.

FGC is a professional service; if there was anything they had concerns about it would of course be referred. It gave me the confidence to talk through everything, boundaries, and parental struggles I had. I wanted my daughter to be listened to as it was important to understand how to reduce her worries and anxiety. I had continually fought to get her counselling without success but the change in my daughter after that one meeting was evident. Louise, the family group coordinator, asked her the questions no one else had: An example of this is opening up the conversation around my sudden bout of self-harm, which had remained the elephant in the room both with school and social services.

Everything implemented from the FGC is still in place. I never lost parental responsibility or even close. I received a formal apology from the school as I had the confidence to push forward for a restorative meeting of my own facilitated by the Chair of Governors. I got my voice back and I am still continuing to grow, all thanks to the support of the family group conference service.


About the Author

Tori is creative and dynamic. She enjoys reading books of all genres and writing children’s stories or anything that pops into her head. A passion which she enjoys with her daughter, especially making up lyrics together. She has a great love for the outdoors and absolutely loves being part of the Family Rights Group panel! 

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