Time out from family problems

18th November 2005 at 00:00
Joanne is 13 and has run away from home many times. Previously she would go to her aunt's house but last year, for the first time, she came to the ROC refuge.

She lives with her mother and step-father, who have two younger daughters and a son.

Joanne says: "I prefer the refuge because my aunt drinks too much.

"So does my mum. When mum drinks she gets angry and threatens me. My brother and sisters don't get shouted at as much. My mum and step-dad love them much more than they love me."

During her time at the refuge, the staff discovered that Joanne was cutting her arms and that she had an eating disorder. She already had a local authority social worker but no one had realised just how anxious and upset she had become.

The social worker and a refuge worker met with Joanne, her mother and step-father to discuss how they all felt. At first her mother and step-father were defensive and blamed Joanne for being a badly behaved adolescent. About half way through the meeting though, Joanne's mother burst into tears and agreed that she was taking her own emotional problems out on Joanne. She agreed to accept support from the local authority social work department to help her to deal with her mental health problem and to help her develop her parenting skills.

Respite accommodation was arranged for Joanne once a week, which gave the family some time out. Workers from the refuge also helped Joanne to get information, advice and support for her eating and self-harm problems and this helped her to rebuild her confidence.

Joanne now attends art therapy sessions to give her space and an opportunity to express her feelings.

She says: "I feel better about myself now and I've stopped self-harming.

It's not brilliant at home but I like going to respite care and the art therapy sessions."

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