Sophie's story How we helped her realise her parents' neglect and drug use was not her fault

crying girl sitting on sofa“My experiences of being neglected as a child are with me every day. No one was there most of the time and, even when they were there, they weren’t properly there as they were out of it. It was just hell.

“My parents both used drugs and when I was growing up there was no one there to do the basic things that a child needs, like cooking meals. Mum wouldn’t even notice whether I had or hadn’t gone to school as she was always upstairs smashed out of her face. I wanted to go to school as I didn’t want a life like my parents. I could pretend that whilst I was there that everything was fine at home. No-one there knew what was happening at home until the house was raided.

“When I was younger I constantly had to go and answer the door to let strangers in and out. I was really scared of them. At first I didn’t know what was actually going on upstairs. For a few months, I don’t remember seeing her apart from when I was getting told off or told that I wasn’t letting enough people in.

"One of the worst experiences was when mum got arrested and so I turned up to the house to find the doors and the windows boarded up."
Sophie*

“I was often left by myself and I felt so lonely. I even felt lonely when mum and dad were in the house because mentally they were completely out of it.

“One of the worst experiences was when mum got arrested and so I turned up to the house to find the doors and the windows boarded up. I couldn’t get into my own house and I had no idea what had gone on because no one had even bothered to contact the school to tell me. I fell to the floor in the back garden and bawled my eyes out. My dad did eventually turn up but he was drunk as always. The day felt so long and it was just me and my dad and my dad conked out and I didn’t know what to do.

“I often felt low and one of my lowest points was when I tried to go and speak to my mum and dad about their drug use. I just wanted her to admit that she had a problem. They just kept yelling and yelling, so I left. I didn’t know what I was going to do, it was like everyone hated me and thought I was lying and I felt that I was completely alone. It really did feel that there was nothing at that point. I took an overdose as I felt there was no way out. I wanted them to listen to me.

“I was referred to the NSPCC by Women’s Aid. I didn’t tell anyone about my parents’ substance misuse before the NSPCC got involved. I had tried to speak to schools but they thought that because I was the good kid there wasn’t really that much going on.

"I used to think that it was my fault that my mum used drugs but the NSPCC made me realise that wasn't actually my fault and that I wasn't to blame."
Sophie

“It’s normal for people in my situation to pretend that everything is OK but the NSPCC didn’t just accept “I’m OK” as an answer. They looked at my body language and realised that I wasn’t OK and they encouraged me to open up. We talked about feelings and it gave me the confidence to open up and not let everything get bottled up inside of me. I realised that I could talk to people and it would be OK.

“The NSPCC said that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal, that it wasn’t OK. It was someone being honest with me, and listening. And you can actually tell from their body language when they go: “Oh, that’s going on,” that they actually think it’s not right. I used to think that it was my fault that my mum used drugs but the NSPCC made me realise that wasn’t actually my fault and that I wasn’t to blame. I started to realise that my mum made her own choices and I couldn’t do anything to change that.

“I was also worried that I would go down the same path as my mum. Some of the work taught me about making safe choices so that I didn’t start using drugs.

“The NSPCC took the time and trouble to get to know me and because they knew everything that happened to me I didn’t have to re-tell my story every time I saw them, we just picked up where we left off.”


*DISCLAiMER

Names have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.

Helping children like Sophie

Neglect

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.
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Thriving Families

Helping to define, detect and tackle neglect and provide the right support for families.
Thriving Families service

Evidence Based Decisions

Reviewing family situations to protect children at risk of harm.
Evidence Based Decisions service

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Family Environment: Drug Using Parents (FEDUP)

Protecting children living with adult drug and alcohol misuse.
FEDUP - Family Environment: Drug Using Parents service

Graded Care Profile

Assessing the care of children and identifying neglect.
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