Calm after the storm

The second of a series by teenager Heidi
Osborne on experiences of growing up in residential child

Last week I wrote about how a new residential
social worker had been a catalyst for positive change in our
children’s home. During the past 14 months our whole staff team
have given me the confidence to identify and achieve my goals.

have helped me to develop the choices available in terms of
education and social activities. For example, I have gained a
diploma in child care and education. I received a wealth of
unconditional love, support and guidance while studying on a
one-to-one basis. At present, my sense of security has increased as
the causes of my problems are being addressed rather than just the
symptoms. Two particular residential social workers are my
saviours, and I have an immense respect and admiration for

Analysing my own learning
experiences over the past four years, I feel like a totally
different person. Primarily, I have learned that life is not black
and white – there are many unexpected twists and turns that
challenge and develop us as humans. I have learned to accept and
direct change rather than fearing and avoiding it. Specifically,
the residential social workers have enhanced my courage.

I have
spent a lot of time reflecting while in the home and consequently I
have been able to ascertain my own strengths and weaknesses. I have
a more objective outlook on life and in turn I now have the ability
to assess people and situations in a multi-dimensional way. At the
same time I have become a lot more cynical – or you could say that
I have become a realist. I am now aware of people’s expectations –
I can distinguish between ambitions and fantasies. These
developments have improved my self-awareness, but at the same time
they have suppressed my imagination.

summer of 1999 was undoubtedly the most unsettling time for me in
the home. My weight had hit an all-time low of five-and-a-half
stone and I was under the threat of being sectioned. Day by day my
sense of isolation and confusion increased. At this stage, I was
living with four boys who were drug abusers, which often led to
them being highly aggressive and disruptive within the house. The
home had become totally dysfunctional within the space of two
weeks, the sense of cohesion between the young people and staff had
been destroyed, and there was a major divide – “them and

staff were fighting against the young people, institutional rules
were being enforced every day. I suppose it was the staff’s way of
surviving, but it just heightened the conflict rather than
resolving it. I remember feeling invisible, like a passive
spectator watching it all unfold right in front of my eyes. My
needs were not being met, although the staff were trying to be as
sympathetic as they could. I desperately needed to escape, but both
mentally and physically I was not strong enough. I was trapped and
my only way of coping was to lock myself in my room and go into
long-term hibernation. It was soul destroying, but I had to do

Heidi Osborne has been a resident
of Maumbury House children’s home, Dorchester, since 1998. She will
be going to university in the autumn. The final part of her series
appears next week.


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