Amy* was only 7 years old when she arrived on the doorstep of her Berry Street foster carer, Rebecca.
Rebecca said she’s never forgotten that first meeting: “When I opened the door, there she was holding a plastic bag with a few measly items in it,” she said.
Amy's home life affected her development
Rebecca soon found out that Amy had never slept in a made bed or been taught how to use a knife or fork. She could barely write her own name and had been living on just cereal.
Rebecca explained how Amy’s home life had affected her: “She was very anxious and scared. For the first few weeks, the only time she really spoke was when she was playing with her dolls.”
Amy’s mum had experienced trauma as a child herself, and was battling alcohol addiction – she struggled to care for her daughter.
At school, Amy’s teachers became aware that something was seriously wrong. Amy was often absent. When she was at school, she had trouble concentrating and couldn’t read or write at the level of her peers.
The first time she was given something new
It was evening when Amy first arrived at Rebecca’s house, with just her favourite doll and her small bag of possessions. Rebecca said one thing that comforted Amy that day was a gift from Berry Street:
“Amy was overwhelmed by the gift of pyjamas and a blanket. It must have been such a long time since she’d been given anything new, and entirely her own.”
Pyjamas, a snuggly blanket and a teddy bear are basic childhood necessities that provide a child with a sense of comfort and belonging at a scary time. Items that we often take for granted show a child experiencing trauma and neglect, sometimes for the first time in their life, that they are important and cared for.
Hope for the future
Amy is slowly learning to open up to adults, with the help of a stable routine, therapeutic support and Rebecca’s kindness and patience.
She is also gradually catching up at school and becoming more confident in the classroom, developing her own identity. Rebecca said one of Amy's favourite things is having bedtime stories read to her.
“It’s been really encouraging to watch her get better, and slowly but surely come out of her shell," said Rebecca.
Amy will need help over a long time to recover, but she now has hope for the future.
*Name has been changed in the interest of privacy. The models and volunteers pictured are not connected to the case study.
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