“I was angry at first – but then I saw how much the staff care”
In 2015 we launched our Safe Steps pilot with support from the Department for Education Innovation Programme. Safe Steps was developed as a response to an increasing number of children being identified as sexually exploited or at risk, which could lead to placement in secure children’s homes or in homes far from their own area.
Kim was one of the first girls to be referred to Safe Steps. She was 15 years old and was struggling after finding out that her mum had cancer and couldn’t look after her anymore. She had been staying with different family members, but repeatedly went missing. Everybody was worried about her and the local authority placed her on their ‘at risk’ register.
At that time Kim was being groomed by a 25 year old man. She saw him as her boyfriend and he had a nice car, money and bought her lots of gifts. He was also abusing her – sexually, physically and emotionally.
When she arrived at Safe Steps she was very angry with her mum, the staff in the home and the cards she had been dealt. We worked with Kim and her social worker to consider what was needed to keep her safe.
Initially she needed someone to accompany her when she went out. To keep her safe sometimes the very difficult decision had to be made that it wasn’t safe enough for her to go out at all. We also asked her to hand over her phone so her perpetrator couldn’t make contact.
The journey Kim then took with the staff was focused on building trust, self-esteem and understanding what had been happening, whilst also working to rebuild her family relationships. Staff encouraged her mum to visit and, while she was well enough, she would come to the home, often cooking meals for her daughter and the other girls living there. When she became too poorly she would come just to be with Kim and enjoy pamper days together. Staff supported Kim and her mum during her mum’s illness and after she had passed away.
This has been a very difficult time for Kim, but she has since started a new chapter in her life. She has been able to move in with a foster family and is completing an apprenticeship with a catering company. She still comes back to visit and tell us how she is getting on and says she can see just how much the team care.
Do you work with a young woman at risk of CSE? Speak to St Christopher’s today to find out how we can help.Place with Safe Steps today