I was nineteen when I fell pregnant with Cody. Despite everything I’d been through in my childhood, including being taken into care at the age of 10, I knew that I had what it takes to be a good parent. My experience of being in care wasn’t great and there was no way that I would let that happen to any child of mine.
I still don’t know how children’s services found out that I was pregnant. When I was fifteen weeks my support worker phoned and asked if she could see me. That’s when things started to go wrong. Instead of offering support it felt like she was constantly issuing threats.
I was living on £200 a month at that point and I wanted to start saving some of that money to buy things for the baby. I asked her food vouchers. Her response was that if I carried on like that I would end up having my child taken away.
The next thing I knew, my unborn child had a social worker. I was 16 weeks pregnant. From the first meeting I felt the social worker was very negative towards me. On the basis that I’d asked for food vouchers she also told me that it wasn’t good enough that I couldn’t budget for myself. I felt so trapped that I asked my support worker for an advocate. That’s how I meet Sophie, an advocate with an organisation called Just For Kids Law.
I started to get Sophie to do all the talking in my meetings because by this point so much anger was building up. When I felt I couldn’t communicate she did the talking. Sophie was amazing. She also asked for help with things I hadn’t even thought of mentioning, like housing.
In late 2016, after a 23 hour labour, Cody was born. I couldn’t pick him up at first because I was so worried they would take him away. But after 20 minutes of panic I thought, oh what the hell, he needs his mum.
The day after I gave birth children’s services called a meeting. I was told I couldn’t leave the hospital with my son unless I agreed to go into a mother and baby foster placement and sign a Section 20 agreement that would bring Cody under local authority care.
Luckily, Sophie knew that a Section 20 is intended to be voluntary and asked if we could take some legal advice before going any further. I feel that, if Sophie hadn’t been there to support me that day, there’s a high chance my child would have been taken from me.
When Cody was 4 months old Sophie asked me if I’d like to be involved in making a film that would help other young parents in my situation. I jumped at the chance.
At one of the first planning meetings I met Yasmin and Ashalene. That was really moving. I had had help at the right time and still had my child with me, but for both of these mothers it had come too late and their kids had been removed.
Cody was taken off a child protection plan at six months old. I’m now really excited about our future and confident that I can create the kind of childhood for him that I wish I had had. And I am still working with Sophie and her colleagues helping other young parents that are finding themselves in the same situation as I did.
Yasmin, Ashalene and I are really proud of the film we helped to make. It’s called ‘If I could talk to me’ and it captures how the current system can make you feel, but also encourages parents to reach out for that crucial support that for me came soon enough to lead to a happy ending.
*Names have been changed