My Friend’s House received a phone call from a local school. The guidance counsellor discovered that some of the students were witnessing their mother being abused at home. Information was disclosed by these students that was alarming, and the guidance counsellor knew it had to be reported.
Our Child & Youth Worker at My Friend’s House was able to go to the school to meet with the students’ mother, Amanda, as her partner would not be suspicious of her going to the school. More information was divulged in that meeting and it was determined that the home was not a safe place for these children or Amanda herself.
Once we met with Amanda, we created a plan. Together with our Child & Youth Worker, the family would come to the shelter that week when the school day ended. Amanda would go to pick up her kids from school as usual, and they would come directly to My Friend’s House. The plan was successful, and we were able to bring Amanda and her two children into a room of their own – where they felt safe.
Our partnerships with local schools are very important as teachers and education workers have a duty to report when violence is suspected in the home.
Amanda was now settling into the shelter with her children. A safety plan was then put in place to get her children to and from school safely, often using Children’s Aid Society volunteer drivers to ensure they were delivered with no issue. While custody arrangements are often challenging in these times, we do also offer Legal Support Services to help mothers through the court system when it comes to seeking custody of their children when the father has been abusive. If there is no imminent risk to children, we can help facilitate visits with the children’s father.
We will always communicate these types of situations with schools, and we also encouraged Amanda to share this with her employer to ensure her safety in the workplace. We educate women on how to stay safe and make a safety plan that we are all aware of – such as planning your routes to and from work, keeping your phone on and charged at all times, avoiding walking alone at night, and calling the police immediately if approached by your abuser. We will never engage police unless specifically requested to by our clients or unless there is an emergency.
After staying with us with her children for a month, and helping her get her financial affairs in order, we were able to help Amanda secure housing for herself and her children. With our ongoing counselling and supports, she felt confident enough to do this and has maintained her lifestyle outside of her abusive relationship.
It is very hard for women to choose to leave, and often takes multiple times for women to attempt to do this. With the intervention from the school and the partnerships and trust we’ve built there, we were able to remove this family from a violent home.