The difference relationships make
As Practice Lead at Pause Doncaster, it is my privilege to work with women who inspire me every day. These women have all experienced the removal of children from their care and the deep sense of grief and loss that comes with this. Pause sees each one as an individual and recognises their differing needs. Their needs vary ranging from homelessness, to transitioning out of care, mental and physical health, experiencing domestic abuse, low confidence and self-esteem, and there is often a feeling of being excluded and disconnected from mainstream society.
We recognise the impact that having children removed has on women and understand the importance of relationships and connection when working with women who have experienced trauma and pain. Our work is underpinned by building relationships with women, recognising their individual strengths, acknowledging their extraordinary life experiences and understanding their needs.
We support women long-term. Through the ups, the downs, and the times when they want to give up and disengage. We send cards and letters, do doorstep drop-offs, call and text, so they know we are keeping them in mind. We ensure that they know we are here and we will be there when they are ready to face the world again. They choose to work with us and we feel privileged that they do.
“Pause is life changing in a great way, everyone makes you feel comfortable and they don’t judge – this is the most important thing.”
Woman, Pause Doncaster
This work is challenging and sometimes requires us to ‘sit in the dark’, not able to experience or fully understand the emotional pain women feel. By talking and having someone who listens they are able to begin to understand their feelings and emotions and develop new coping strategies that are helpful. This builds their resilience and ability to cope in the future.
Through providing safe and consistent support, we build trusting relationships in which women can start to talk openly about their thoughts, feelings and needs. Often, I reflect on one of my favourite ‘grounding’ quotes, ‘relational trauma requires relational repair’ [Karen Treisman] and it really is all about relationships. Relationships with partner agencies are important too. We work with agencies in Doncaster to help them understand the needs of the women we work with and think about how they can do things differently. This makes Pause a place of learning and curiosity – a community of women, Pause People and partner agencies.
We work at a woman’s pace on the goals that are important to her, empowering her to make decisions and supporting her to work with other agencies to achieve her ambitions. We support women to move forward, whilst helping them recognise that setbacks are part of life. Together we develop coping skills and the ability to emotionally regulate. This supports women to sustain the changes they make, engage with services and build healthy relationships. It is hugely rewarding when a woman tells us that she doesn’t need us to support her and that she can do this alone. Success in Pause is often about women needing us less and developing the skills to do things for themselves.
We learn from the women we work with every day – how best to support them, how they feel and what works for them, how important feeling valued and being held in mind is, how difficult navigating systems can be and how we can use our learning to help other women in the future. We have learned about the importance of group work and having a space to share feelings and experiences.
“Meeting other women who have been through similar situations is surprising in both good and bad ways but I think we help each other without even realising…”
Woman, Pause Doncaster
Women tell us that so many areas of their lives improve through working with Pause. Importantly for many of them, these changes are also acknowledged by family, friends, and professionals. This reduces the sense of stigma and shame they feel and removes barriers to them building relationships with others. This is vital for sustaining positive change, ‘some of the most therapeutic experiences do not take place in ‘therapy’ but in naturally occurring relationships’ [Bruce D Perry]. For the women we work alongside, being able to identify the change they have made and feeling proud of their achievement is so positive. We build a relationship together, they do the work, and I don’t think the power of that relationship will stop inspiring and motivating me anytime soon.
Paula Jackson-Key is Practice Lead at Pause Doncaster, delivered by Doncaster Children’s Services.
This week Pause is publishing data and information on the difference Pause Practices made across the UK last year. The data shows the continued need for services like Pause and the experiences women have when they start the Pause Programme. Since 2013 Pause has reached nearly 1,500 women who have had over 4,500 children removed from their care. Find out more here.
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