John, the gifted chippy

John, 13, is a bright boy who lives with his foster Mum Fran as he was taken into care at the age of 7.

He had never developed many interests, preferring instead to stay in his room when not at school, playing computer games. John wasn’t happy leaving his room, apart from during the night.  Then he would seek his carer having been scared by recurring nightmares.

John’s attention at school had rapidly become worse as he entered teenage years. He would challenge teachers, especially if they raised their voices or aggressively confronted him.  He started to walk out of school and hang around the local town. He was taking drugs paid for by the theft of money and belongings from his carer and others. John also struggled with his behaviour at home. Fran believed this to be a result of the domestic violence present early in his life. John’s school said he was at risk of exclusion due to his poor level of attendance and behavioural issues. Understandably, Fran was very worried about where he might go to if he was excluded, as he was a vulnerable boy. John also had very low self-esteem and a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He was referred by his Social Worker to Dandelion Time.

When John and Fran arrived at Dandelion for the first time, we showed them the chickens and the pigs, and took him on a tour of the vegetable garden. John was polite, but very quiet. Then we showed John how to use the lathe in our purpose-built wood-working unit. With some encouragement, he started carving, and continued to work at the lathes with his Mum for two hours. He proved to be a natural craftsman, producing a beautifully carved spindle.  John couldn’t believe his own natural talent, and neither could his foster Mum. We promised John that he could do some more wood work on future visits: ‘And can I live here, too?’ he asked. John learnt he had an amazing skill on his first visit, but more importantly he left that day with a sense of achievement.

This was the start of enormous change in John’s confidence and self-esteem. With guidance and support from Dandelion therapeutic staff, he started to build a stronger relationship with his foster Mum.  They shared time doing positive activities.  And so John began to learn how to manage his emotions and behaviour, increasingly managing to relate to others without conflict. Within two months John had returned to school and felt more able to cope with the authority of teachers and mix better with his peers.


This is a composite case that is indicative of our work, names and images have been changed.

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