From wanting to close St Michael’s down, to returning and asking us how he could help us help other parents
“I’ll be honest. I had a picture of St Michael’s on my bedroom wall and every time I got up in the morning I used to focus on it, and then I’d be angry for the rest of the day,” explained Rob, whose child was taken into care after he and his partner came to St Michael’s for a family residential assessment.
“I never thought I’d forgive St Michael’s. I was really dogmatic… instead of thinking ‘I’m going to fight tooth and nail to get my [child] back, I had it in my head for months, ‘I’m going to go out of my way to make sure St Michael’s gets shut down.’ Which is a very stupid thing to think. What I should’ve been thinking was ‘I going to prove myself as a dad.’ But me, being me at the time, I looked for battles.”
Asked to leave the house
When Rob stayed at St Michael’s he was very angry and aggressive towards staff. Our team talked to him about needing help with his emotions and dealing with his past, but it wasn’t something he wanted to work on at the time. He was constantly battling with everyone. This led to him being asked to leave the house.
His partner was asked to carry on the assessment alone but the result was that their baby was placed in foster care.
Hit rock bottom
Since then Rob has been on a huge journey which saw him leaving our house, breaking up with his partner (he describes their relationship as toxic), hitting rock bottom, living on the streets, then in hostels, before reaching out for help.
Finally he got support through emotional therapy and started to deal with his past. Then he enrolled to train as a security guard and things started to fall into place for him. He says he’s now working hard towards making all his kids proud, and not being anything like his own father.
Like many of the men we work with he’d had a difficult relationship with his father – Rob describes his dad as an aggressive old school gangster type who was in prison for armed robbery until Rob was 12. It left him not really knowing who he was and hating authority figures.
Made him realise how St Michael's had been trying to help him
Rob’s now married and lives with his wife, and their one-year old baby. His background meant the couple had to prove they could care for their new child safely– so they had to take part in a community based assessment. Rob says the mixture of working with social workers a second time around, and getting therapy, made him realise how St Michael’s had been trying to support him.
“I think a good parent, a good dad, makes sure that your family, your kids come first over everything. And that’s what I wasn’t doing at St Michael’s… by fighting back I wasn’t putting my [child] first, I was putting my ego first, which took one hell of a hit when I lost him.
Everything I have done since then has been so that when my [child] is older, they can see that I am father material.”
He wishes he could've done that for the child he lost
He realised during his last assessment that he did have it in him to be a good dad. He wishes he could have done that for the child he lost. But he also accepts that the volatile relationship he was in, combined with his own past issues, would have made it impossible for him to keep his child safe and nurtured. Rob says he’s really thankful for what St Michael’s taught him, even if he didn’t realise it at the time. Some of it was going in, he says, and it helped him to turn his life around.
Last year, he wrote a heartfelt email to the staff member who had worked with him at St Michael’s. He wanted to let him know about the difference he had made to his life. He also wants to help other parents
What advice does he have for other parents?
We asked him what he would do differently and say to his younger self and other parents in his position:
“I have thought about this a lot and always come to the same conclusion. Don’t get into that relationship.
But realistically, if it was just before I walked through the door, it would literally be ‘keep your mouth shut and your ears open, and do as you are told.’ I would say the people in there are not the enemy… the number one thing they need to do is look out for the welfare of the child. Obviously, no one wants to see a child taken away from its parents, so they are there to help.”
The child he lost was adopted. Rob was happy that the couple didn’t have their own children. “So all their love and attention can be on my [child] And that’s what I want, especially since [my child] has special needs. So... needs that extra bit of love as it were.”
For our teams who work with families every day it’s really powerful to know that the work they do is having a positive impact on people, even years after they have left our houses.