‘I didn’t feel wanted and looked after as a child…Over the years I’ve had so many different social workers and so many different homes and foster carers…They used to stick me in secure units all the time, so from 14 I was basically in jail… It’s like instead of helping this girl out, it’s like, ‘Where can we put her so she’s out of our way for a bit, keep her out of our hair for a bit?’
Sam became pregnant at 17. Her son is now six years old and is looked after by her mother under a special guardianship order. Sam has regular contact with him and they have a close relationship. Sam is grateful to her mother but also resents the fact that she was not supported to care for her son herself. Sam feels that she was stigmatised for her mental health needs, and that if she had received the right support she could have been more involved with her son’s care.
Every time mental health is mentioned… bad news, because people are not trained
enough in it…
‘… if her son’s away from her then even better because she can’t be around children if she’s like this with bipolar and violent outbursts and all this sort of stuff,’ not, ‘Right, maybe she needs anger management, maybe she needs a referral to a mental health place and do all this stuf and start bringing her and her son together.’
Sam was involved in abusive relationships for many years and her offending, drug use and mental health problems continued.
I’ve just literally followed in my Mum’s footsteps, you know going from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, taking as many drugs as I could, constantly getting arrested for fighting and … in and out of being sectioned and stuff like that. Sam regrets the trauma her son has experienced when witnessing her being arrested, and feels that the police did not make any effort to protect him.
They don’t care…it’s your fault for what you’re doing…you’re pinning me to the ground in front of my screaming child rather than letting me … calm him down…
And if they’re searching the house, they’ll break up the stuff in his bedroom, they don’t care that he’s there screaming or whatever. Previously when I was a child they didn’t are if I was screaming… For about 15 years, Sam did not feel she had a positive experience in court and feels her son’s interests were not taken into account:
‘It’s your fault, you’ve done this to your kid,’ rather than, ‘Hold up, why is this girl acting out the way she is? What’s behind all of this? Let’s see if we can work towards getting this better for her and bring her and her son…’ None of that is looked at.
However about four years ago, Sam received a community order which led her to the Advance Minerva service.
… my solicitor told me the judge had got my pre-sentence report and had actually taken a lot of it into consideration… I was really grateful for that time because then it led me here.
Sam has not offended since then and is working as a peer mentor. She attributes her success to the support she has received from the Advance Minerva service, as well as the judge’s decision.
[My keyworker at Advance] was so amazing and so helpful, like it’s the first time that I’ve got to where I’ve got to today and I do believe it’s got a lot to do with Minerva and Advance. And the judge giving me a bit of a break.