I am the 35-year-old mother of Emily, 15, Joanne, 12, and James,
seven (not their real names). For 15 years I have been involved
with social services, which are only now withdrawing from our
It started when I gave birth to Emily and did not think I could
cope. Social services assured me that this was indeed the case. The
truth was I was suffering undiagnosed post-natal depression. Social
services told me what to do and how to feel – I was their child and
they were my parent.
When Joanne was born in 1992 I still feared I could not cope. In
1994 I had a new social worker, Mary, who believed in me and said
she knew I could cope. Gradually I became the teenager questioning
what social services were doing to my family. But then my social
worker changed and wasn’t reassuring and became critical of my
life. I lied to social services and did things I knew they would
not approve of. This led to Emily being hurt by my decisions.
Social services would not listen to me and I could not see the
logic in their decisions. I was becoming more vocal in wanting to
be heard but was criticised and was told I was trying to behave
like a professional.
Again my social worker changed and matters became worse. She talked
to my neighbours about us, which caused problems. When my son was
two I was assigned yet another social worker who hardly ever
visited, so things drifted. This gave me the impression progress
was being made when it wasn’t. My lies were found out, causing
Emily to briefly move to her father’s.
In the end I asked the social worker to refer us for family
sessions at the family centre. We’d only had a couple of sessions
when James had a tantrum which shocked the centre’s workers. Social
services had a closed meeting to discuss their concerns and offered
James individual sessions to work on his behaviour. Emily overdosed
because of her problems and there were more closed social services
Once when I went to an individual session at the family centre I
was asked whether I was going to the next meeting, which I knew
nothing about. In the meeting I could only listen and at the end
was given just 10 minutes to talk.
The next planning meeting changed everything. They allocated me a
new social worker but I wasn’t going to have a woman I didn’t know.
I was so angry I cried and said I wasn’t prepared to work with them
any longer. Then everyone agreed there would be no more secret
meetings. I wrote a report listing what help I wanted and how best
they could provide it. Suddenly I was an adult to social
At the next planning meeting I talked while social services
listened and compromised. Now I could deal with the roots of my
family’s problems. This way of working doesn’t mean everything is
fine, it just means it is ok if it’s not fine. If you are honest
and value people they will respond positively and will have happier
Pam Gooch is a single parent.