The removal of children is one of the most important aspects of the lives of the women who come to Street Talk. There are occasions when a woman who is working with Street Talk is not well enough, or does not have the capacity to take care of her child. Street Talk works in co-operation with social services, reporting concerns for a child when those occur.
Street Talk supports women around the removal of children in a number of different ways. There are women who become pregnant at a time when they are extremely vulnerable but who find their motivation in the desire to become a good mother, to recover. Street Talk supports women to fight for the right to a parenting assessment. It is usually a fight for women in street based prostitution, that word is used advisedly. The ethos of Street Talk is that anyone can recover and on that basis Street Talk will support every woman’s right to a parenting assessment. Over the years there have been women who have been allowed a parenting assessment but who have been assessed as unfit to parent their own child. In those cases, the work of Street Talk is to provide support at a time when a woman is most in need and most vulnerable.
There have been a number of cases where social services have wanted the child to be placed for adoption without a parenting assessment. Some of the women we have worked with have fought against that in court, been awarded the right to a parenting assessment, have succeeded and have gone on to provide a loving home. Over the last thirteen years Street Talk has worked closely with fourteen women who fought against having their children adopted. All women eventually were awarded full parental responsibility through the courts following the due process of assessment which was carried out over several years. The various judges in the family court in those cases have always thanked Street Talk for their work with the woman when social services had not wanted to give her a chance. Out of those fourteen families, all but one continue to do really well, all of their children are thriving and they are making excellent mothers. One woman, referred to in the case history above with the given name Laura, did not manage and her child was removed at a later date. That is extremely sad for Laura’s child, as it is for Laura. Out of fourteen families there are thirteen who are together and doing well, where the cycle of growing up in the state care system has been broken.
One small way in which Street Talk supports women who have not been reunited with their children is to archive a letter from the mother to the children. Women take comfort at the point of removal, or in later years, knowing that if their children should come searching for them when they become adults, there may be a letter to give the child written by their mother. The letters all say the same thing, that their mother wanted to keep them, tried her best to keep them and that they love them. It may be in the future that some of those children may be equally comforted by those letters, should they make contact. There is particular poignancy to that work because some of those women will not live long enough to meet their children when they grow up and the women are well aware of that. There is a failure in the system to represent the mother’s voice in the records when children are removed. Adults trying to find out why they were adopted are usually told that there was neglect, abuse, heroin addiction and so forth. The words “ The mother loved heroin more than she loved her child “ occur in many social service reports. Street Talk has never met a woman who loved heroin more than she loved her child. There is addiction and chaos and sometimes neglect but those are only part of the picture, consequences, not causes. The mother is a victim of her past and is paying the price for that, but loves her children as much as any mother. Most of the women put up the fight of their life to be able to have a parenting assessment and a chance of keeping their child but there is no record kept of that. One woman had her baby removed several days after the birth then stood outside the hospital day and night through two weeks in January just fixing her gaze on the window of the room she thought he was in although it was several stories high and there was no chance of getting a glimpse of the baby. She was only persuaded to leave when she learned that he had been taken from the hospital to foster carers. Street Talk has archived an account of that so that if in the future he researches his mother he will know that she loved him.