Trying to help a stranger, made me a mum again
3 minute read
My life changed just over a decade ago when I was at work in my local library. I noticed a young girl who would come in during the day wearing her school uniform, visit the bathrooms and then reappear in her own clothes. She was often alone but sometimes with friends.
I was concerned and would watch out for her. One day I approached her when she was asking men for cigarettes outside. I didn’t want to frighten her but talked to her about the importance of going to school and not putting herself at risk by speaking to strangers.
At first, she was wary of me, but we started speaking about her home life. She said that her mother had left, and she lived with her father, with whom she had nothing in common as he was so strict. I felt duty bound to refer the matter to the truancy officers and this, amongst other concerns, subsequently resulted in her being placed in the care of children’s services at 14. But she still visited me in the library.
Aged 16 she was sofa surfing and refused to stay at her foster carers. I could not accommodate her and worked full time. But my family were so concerned about this vulnerable, naive girl that my adult daughter, herself a mother of two, took her in to keep her safe. I advocated for her with children’s services, and she was placed in a semi-independent living property. Whilst living there she met someone and aged 19, became pregnant.
I saw her baby when she was 9 days old. The parents wanted to keep her, but they were unable to manage the responsibility and six months later, their baby was in care. It was heart-breaking to hear they hadn’t even known how to apply for child benefit for her.
I saw the baby again, during her mother’s contact visit at my library. She was aged 13 months and so beautiful. The mother asked me for my support through the process and I agreed. When I contacted children’s services and expressed a wish to get involved and support her, I had had no legal advice whatsoever. I didn’t even realise that I had agreed to be assessed to care for her child. This only became clear when the social worker told me I had passed my initial assessment and they would be supporting me to care for the baby following my full assessment. When I tried to get legal advice, it was poor, and I was left still feeling uninformed.
I had an adult child, was caring for my young daughter as a single parent and had never considered becoming a mother again. However, my heart went out to this baby, and I couldn’t turn my back on her.
The local authority told me that they’d sort everything out. I didn’t know I could challenge anything and to this day I don’t know if I got what my daughter was entitled to in her support package. All I know is aged 22 months, with the proceedings finished, I became a mum again, all because I fell in love with and had to protect this child and I feel exactly the same way eight years later.
Unfortunately, her parents are not in her life, and have constantly let her down in relation to contact. Her mother’s inability to prioritise her child’s needs has also caused our friendship to breakdown.
My daughter is a beautiful, intelligent, loving child with blond hair and blue eyes, and I am a middle-aged black woman. This can cause people to stare but it doesn’t stop us loving each other.
Whilst other kinship carers are grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings, I became a mum again after I tried to help a young, vulnerable stranger in our local library.
About the author
Tracey is one of the newest members of Family Rights Group’s kinship carers’ panel. She writes about a chance meeting with a vulnerable young stranger. Despite being a single parent of two and working full time, Tracey felt that she needed to help this teenager and her blog illustrates how by caring and supporting the teenager, she became a mother again when she never expected to.