The other morning I passed a young woman as I was rushing into the Metro Station, she said 'I haven't seen you in a long time!' I stopped and must have looked confused because she added 'You don't recognise me do you?' Actually I did but could not place her and said so. She was Laura and I last saw her over 10 years ago when she was 18.
At that time I was working for Social Services, Laura she was one of the young people in our care and my job was to chair the regular reviews Social Services are required to have of children they take care of. Laura's father had disappeared long before, then her mother died and Laura had gone to live with an uncle supported by Social Services. Laura was 14 when I first met her and testing her uncle severely. Within a year he had lost all control of her, she had lost all respect for him and was doing exactly as she pleased. All the professionals who knew her were very worried by the risks she was taking with drugs and the older men she was spending most of her time with. Things came to a crisis landing Laura in a Secure Unit for three months for her own protection. Laura hated us all for 'locking her up' but surprisingly it was the best thing that happened to her because she used the time to catch up on school work and to decide she wanted a fresh start.
I liked Laura, she was a bright girl who had been dealt a very unlucky hand. We found her a room in the house of a supportive family on the other side of the Borough and helped her get a place in college. Things settled down pretty well for her until she fell pregnant. A great many 'professionals' expressed deep concern that Laura would be a poor mother, however she had not been a mother before so we gave her the chance to prove everyone wrong. We helped Laura find a flat for herself and the baby, fitted it out for her and gave her as much encouragement and professional advice as possible. Laura proved to be a devoted and able mother but the cost was loneliness - she had no family to talk too and after the initial attraction wore off her friends left her alone too.
Laura's flat was close to my office and she often came in on the pretext of asking for money. I would see her each time and have a chat, which I suspect was the real reason for her calling in. Then I got another job in a new place and lost contact with Laura. So it was great to see her at the Metro Station, her little boy is 10 now and doing well. As a teenager Laura had been a handful and caused a lot of headaches; had WEYES been nearby it would have been the ideal place for her. Nevertheless I did what I could and it felt really good was to be introduced by her to her friend as 'This is Jeremy, he's a good bloke'.
Thank you Laura, you make it all worthwhile for all of us working with young people.