Joe is seven years old. He came to live in the refuge with his mum and one year old brother. When they arrived, their mum was very upset, and so was taken by a worker into the lounge area to talk.

Joe and his brother went into the playroom. They were shown around it, and the child worker stayed and played with the children until their mum had finished speaking. That same evening, they were taken around the refuge and shown their room. The workers made sure they had all they needed including food and any necessities. Initially Joe was very quiet and withdrawn and found it difficult to talk about his feelings and experiences.

The next day when the children came into the playroom, they found out more about the activities they could do, and met the other children. Their mum was helped to find local playgroups for the younger son but didn’t need help to get Joe into a local school as he was already enrolled in one. As time went on Joe and his brother got to know everyone in the refuge, mums, workers and of course the other children. They participated in different activities the playroom had to offer. This included arts and crafts, playing games, cooking and going on outings. This all helped them settle into their new home and to express their feelings through play. Their relationship with their mum strengthened over time as she became more confident as a result of the support she was receiving.

The two boys went on the trips organised during the school holidays, such as to the cinema, swimming pool or the local park. Mum went on some of these trips but stayed at the refuge on others, to spend time doing support work. Joe also did activities in the playroom which helped him talk about his past and helped him express his feelings. This was done through play, an example being creating a ‘memory jar’.

Joe participated in the children’s meetings, which included talking about how he felt about living in the refuge, and any difficulties he was having. He was also involved in doing Transformers, a Women’s Aid programme designed to help children who have experienced domestic violence. He also completed the Helping Hands programme to develop self-esteem and help him feel safe. Joe also attended the young person’s group at the refuge in Belfast.  The group was on twice a month, and he made new friends in similar circumstances to himself.

Joe’s confidence grew and over time, he opened up and talked more and got the support he so clearly needed.

Joe’s mum participated in Positive Parenting, along with other courses on offer and grew in confidence as time went on. Joe and his family stayed with us for over a year until their circumstances changed. He and his brother still come to visit along with his mum and they continue to get support from Women’s Aid.