Case Studies: Cath Print

Supporting In Care Survivors
I have been in post as a development worker for the In Care Survivor Service since its launch in 2009 and I cover the Forth Valley area. The task of developing a service whilst supporting survivors through counselling, group work, advocacy support and accessing records has been a challenge but has also been a really rewarding experience.

Each encounter with a new service user is always unpredictable. Most survivors come to the service with complex care needs and it’s my job to try and make sure that these needs are addressed appropriately and that the service user is made aware of the variety of services we can offer.
As a person centred counsellor I work with survivors in a way that values and respects who they are as people, and the main purpose is to build up a relationship that is consistent, empathic and non-judgemental to enable healing. What I have found is that most survivors take time to trust in this relationship and this is normal given their past experiences. When we consider that in childhood the fundamental trust in a significant care giver was broken, it is hardly surprising that later in life when the opportunity to trust in another individual is offered they find this very difficult.

Due to the complexities and severity of the issues our service users bring it is important that we offer a service that is paced respectfully, and that we can accompany each survivor for as long as they need our support. One of the great advantages of our service is that we can offer long term pieces of work; the survivor is then able to trust that we will be there for them, allowing them the opportunity to work through their experiences in a meaningful way.

Some of my work with service users has involved doubling up as their counsellor and advocacy worker. This has not always been straight-forward and has meant having to really remain mindful of boundaries in order to be effective and ethical in both roles. And it’s my sense that modelling boundaries clearly to service users is crucial, and can also have a positive impact on that individual.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the work has been facilitating the service user group. The group members had already accessed individual counselling from our service and felt ready to be part of a group. The members spoke about feeling less isolated with their issues within the group and soon felt empowered enough to start working on a project to produce a DVD of their own experiences. The process of working together on this project has involved a personal journey for each member and I have witnessed their positive growth and development as a result. The film is now complete and the group have been involved in promoting it as widely as possible in order to raise a greater awareness of issues of childhood abuse as well as promoting the service.  

Developing an awareness of the service throughout Forth Valley is an on-going aspect of the post and some strong links with voluntary and statutory services have now been created. There has been a steady stream of referrals to the service but it always takes time for pieces of development work to have a direct impact on referral numbers.

It is crucial therefore, as a development worker to keep promoting the service in as many ways as possible to increase referrals. Despite the sense of pressure from our funders to achieve more, I feel it is also important to keep acknowledging the quality of service that is being offered to our service users and to feel valued by our funders for the achievements we have made so far. It is certainly rewarding to receive the positive comments from our service users and feel that they have really appreciated what we have offered.

Here are some of our service user comments:
“It is a relief to talk about my abuse. It’s like another world opening up to me where I can see things through new eyes. I used to feel suicidal and self harm to take away some of the pain I was feeling, but I don’t cut myself anymore and I want to live.”

“In some ways producing the DVD gives some meaning to the abuse I experienced. Even if it helps one child, it will be worth it.”

“The In Care Survivor counselling sessions have been of tremendous help to me. My experience has been positive and the attentive ear I had so longed for was there when I truly needed it most. I survived care, I must now survive the rest of my life. I now feel more able and content to do so.”     

Cath Taylor
Development Worker Forth Valley