At age 11, Leah was battling with an uncontrollable inner turmoil that no child should have to bear. When she was referred to Dandelion Time she had poor school engagement, was struggling to form and maintain friendships and slowly drifting further into an isolated world consumed by anxiety, fear and guilt.
Leah was born when her mother, Jodie, was 17. Jodie was a single mother and had no support from a wider family. At the age of two, Leah began to witness escalating violence inflicted upon her mother by her new partner. Jodie went on to have two more children, trapped in a toxic relationship without a strong support network to help get her the break she desperately needed. This relationship continued until Leah was ten, when eventually with support, Jodie managed to break free and remove herself and her three children from the grasp of this abusive figure who had controlled their world for so long.
Leah was referred to Dandelion Time by her school as they shared worries with her mother about Leah’s struggles in class and on the playground. It soon became clear that having been exposed to such high levels of aggression from a young age, Leah had moved into a state of constant unrest, not ever fully embracing her childhood, constantly feeling that she must be prepared to protect her mother or brothers or run and hide to protect herself.
Not only had Leah’s experiences deeply affected her ability to relate to other children her age, they had also impacted on her relationship with her mum. Their relationship had become fractured. The line between parent and child had become blurred over the years, and Leah felt increasingly compelled to look after her Mum, to protect her in any way she could. With this came resentment and guilt. Why couldn’t she stop her mum’s partner’s violence towards them? Why couldn’t her mum protect her and her brothers and make it all stop? Leah had been left with an array of thoughts and emotions that no child should ever have to try and process.
Due to their past experiences, Jodie and Leah began attending Dandelion Time in a very small group, comprised of female staff and volunteers. On their arrival they both appeared anxious and withdrawn, never fully able to relax and accept one another’s company. As their sessions progressed Jodie and Leah began to settle and rekindle their mother daughter relationship. Jodie and Leah particularly enjoyed preparing and cooking food together, looking forward to sharing their creations with the group. We began to see a shift in their relationship as Leah began to relax into her mother’s embrace, finally being able to resign herself to the 11-year-old girl that had been absent for so long. Leah began turning to Jodie to guide her, relying on her to take the parental role and we could almost see the metaphorical weight of her past slowly lift from Leah’s shoulders.
After a few weeks we gradually began to introduce a male presence into their sessions. Guided by experienced therapists, we encouraged interaction between Leah and Jack, one of our male members of staff. Leah had a keen interest in our donkeys, so out in the fields without the confinement of a room, Jack begin to tell Leah all about the donkeys. Very slowly as the sessions progressed Leah began to communicate with Jack voluntarily, asking him questions and even standing near him to stroke the donkeys. As time moved on Jodie and Leah were able to accept Jack being in the same room as them, and even sharing a meal together. This positive experience gave both Leah and Jodie an alternative perspective of men, and that perceptions of men going forward need not be dictated by their negative past experiences.
Leah and Jodie’s time at Dandelion Time came to an end after a 12-week placement. Since leaving Dandelion Time, we have been told that Leah is doing a lot better at school and home. She is sleeping much better and therefore more able to concentrate and engage in class. Leah is also beginning to form solid relationships with peers and tells us that she now has a best friend at school. Leah still has her worries, and some days are harder than others, but she is slowly moving forward towards the happy, healthy young girl she deserves to be. Jodie described her time with Leah at Dandelion Time as their ‘special time’, a time she’ll cherish forever. She continues to ensure that they have this time together at home, just the two of them.”
This is a composite case that is indicative of our work, names and images have been changed.