Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. They weren't wrong. Yesterday we had a visit from the children's SW. It's been a struggle these last few weeks (understatement) and we're seven days on from rock bottom. The reason for the visit was our first education meeting at school. The news was mixed, behaviour was good and the teachers were all hugely supportive but it quickly became obvious that up until now they'd all been 'let down by the system' and 'not given the educational support they needed' needless to say our start point is children who are currently working to an ability of a child 2-3 years younger than themselves. The visit unsettled everyone and we ended the day with an in-car, back-seat punch up, tears, hurt and a series of "I don't want to live here anymore", "I want to go back home" and "I think you're mean" all things you know will be said but are hard to hear.
SW left a parting gift, recently completed life story books, a USB from birth Dad of photos that he thought we should have and some books from Mum.
After a tearful bedtime I ventured downstairs for my my appointment with 'stick'. Call me mental but I did dither for a minute wondering if birth Dad had put some ingenious location finding device in said USB, I overcame this momentary madness and downloaded the files.
What I saw was clear, a family that couldn't cope with family life. For the sake of anonymity I can't really say more other than how totally overcome I felt flicking through the images. These were pictures that had been voluntarily handed over and yet many showed the children looking distraught, dishevelled, malnourished, pale, drawn, scared and exhausted. There were toys and clean clothes in some but others just showed the utter depravity that these children endured. I wept for them and snuck upstairs just to check that they were warm in their beds. Little Man stirred when I went in but not like a normal child would, instead his immediate reaction to hearing something in the night is to sit bolt upright, rigid as if in defence. I laid him down (he was still asleep), told that I would always keep him safe and that I loved him. I meant it.
I have put the files onto another USB which is being put in a safe place at our neighbours house to avoid any unplanned un-coverings in the future. Maybe one day these images will be shown to the children, I can't imagine this day at the moment but I know it will come as we start to try and make sense of the 'why'.
The pictures might not be to hand but they are imprinted in my mind and I will hold them there to remind myself that every little step forward these little soldiers take is such phenomenal progress.