Pause for progress [espresso]

Since June, Pause Bristol has been working with women who’ve suffered the trauma of having children removed from their care. Pause supports women to choose and make positive life changes.

How do you begin this kind of work when the needs are so complex?

Isobel, practitioner: I start by asking ‘where would you like to be in a year’s time’ and working back from that. One woman told me she hates her surname; it was her abuser’s and it reminds her of him. So we’ve ordered her a birth certificate so start the legal process of changing it.

From that we have a platform to start looking at the bigger things. You can talk to people about drug use and housing but if they feel awful all the time it’s really hard for them to make wider changes.

How important are women’s relationships with practitioners?

Hayley, practitioner: I’m working with a woman who suffers terribly from anxiety. She needs to find something that brings her joy and builds her confidence. Then she’ll naturally start moving away from her violent partner, reducing her drug use, relating well with her child who she still has opportunities to see.

It’s taken six months for our relationship to get to this stage but she’s confident enough for me to go with her to an activity she mentioned was a way for all that anxiety to just disappear.

So small changes can actually be a really big deal?

Charlie, practitioner: A woman I work with, when she’s off her script she sex-works and uses drugs intravenously. When she’s on her script all that is very much reduced. Recently, I wasn’t around but she was able to make an appointment to secure her script and go to collect it.

Two months ago she wouldn’t have been able to do that. Now she can and because of that her script is in place and she’s stable. A small task affected her whole life. And she’s got a sense of achievement.

Is it just about self-esteem?

Amy, coordinator: A lot of the women we work with don’t really understand why their children have been removed. The gulf between them and the decision makers is huge.

Sometimes women know that experts have recommended that they should undergo two years of counselling. But knowing what that is or how to access it is something else! Pause helps women to understand and to get the services they need.

And what’s the bigger picture?

Caz, practice lead: If we work with twenty women in our 18-month pilot programme, we can estimate about fifteen children won’t have been born only to be immediately removed. We’ll have prevented massive trauma to women and children.

When women are able to take a break from pregnancy and work with us, there’s a set time and space to deal with underlying struggles and the impact of previous traumas. They might reconnect positively with their children who are in other people’s care and will be in a much better position to care for children in the future.

The effects are big and they’re long term.

Read the full interviewFind out more about why Bristol needs Pause

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