Alice Holly,* 14, had been reported missing from the family home for 24 hours. She was staying in a refuge (part of the ROC project, a partner of Railway Children). She refused to return to her mother’s care – and at this point her mother was also refusing to have her back.

It wasn’t the first time Alice had run away. She had been living with her mother and her partner for three years since leaving her father’s care. Her decision to move out followed her father’s siding with his partner, who had assaulted Holly.

Alice stayed in the refuge for a week, during which time she met her mother, social services and the school. All parties were keen to plan a return home. The plan included outreach from one of the refuge workers under which Alice and the worker set goals, agreeing the focus of their work and the frequency of contact.

The following week, during a planned outreach contact, Alice failed to turn up. Her mother was unhappy about a notification of Alice’s poor school attendance that she had just received. When Alice returned there was an argument. Alice refused to stay in the family home and her mother threatened violence towards her. Alice said she was going to run away and leave the city.

With the situation escalating and little else available, Alice returned to the refuge. During this three-day stay the relationship with her mother was fraught; neither was prepared to consider a return home. So Alice stayed with her grandmother for a week.

However, supported by refuge staff and social services, she returned home with an increased package of support, looking at sexual health, self-harm, education, parenting support for her mother, quality time between Alice and her mother, as well as family time.

With mother and daughter working hard at improving their relationship and working to the plan, and an increase in community-based services providing support, all agreed that the refuge outreach be withdrawn.

Alice remains at home, receiving support and working on her relationships within the family.

*Not her real name

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