Rehabilitation: The End

I’ve tried, and failed, to write this many times; the emotion of the circumstance has overwhelmed me each time.
This is how the post originally began when I started it in August last year:

“I write this on what should be Day 12 of the rehabilitation programme for my 12 year old son’s return home after four years in local authority care.

It’s a home in which the smell of fresh gloss paint still lingers, hanging in the air when you open the front door, a reminder of night after night spent painting (and trying to avoid dripping it all over the carpets). A home in which my son’s books stand tall and to attention in his room, toy boxes half full, cupboards half empty. It’s a home whose walls should be reverberating with the sounds of joy, and relief and family and togetherness; the results of months of hard work…and of four years of waiting for these moments.

Instead, my home is very quiet, its inhabitants in shock; confused, thoughtful, and somewhat in despair trying to work out what has just happened to our family.”

Following Day One and Days Two and Three, the rehabilitation plan for my son broke down and he made the decision to return to his foster carers.

I love my son very very much, and support him and each one of his siblings in making their own choices in life, no matter how it may affect me. I failed my son, and his siblings years ago. Yes, I was mentally unwell, yes, many things were done to me by various people throughout the years, yes the “system” failed me as a child, and was not always helpful as a mum – but I also made some very poor choices without any real insight into the consequences for my family, and I accept full responsibility for them. These choices have hurt my children, caused them real trauma, disrupted their lives and deeply damaged their relationship with me and their siblings.
I can’t go back, I can’t change what I did; I wish more than anything that I could. It makes me sick to my stomach when I now think about my children’s experiences. I would give anything to make it better for them.
This is not a pity-party; I can’t bear self-pity. This is real, raw pain, guilt, remorse and shame.


The impact of my son’s decision has been deeply painful for him, for me, for his siblings. Shock was felt by the social worker and the foster carers; no one was expecting this to happen. In the days that followed, my son’s social worker was an incredible support to us all. She remains the only social worker in my local authority I will ever trust, primarily because she treats me with dignity, speaks to me like a human being (not a “case” or an “other”), and totally respects my expertise as my children’s mum. She repeatedly told me “you could not have done anything more” and made me feel safe enough to cry in front of her.

Initially, we didn’t talk about “it”. We carried on having contact, in limbo, neither sure what the future looked like now and both bottling up how we were feeling. We talked about everything but what had happened.
One day, I just broke down, and he did too. He said he was sorry; I told him he had nothing to apologise for, that he had to do what was right for him. He told me it was “too fast”, “too different”, that “the foster carers had a car each and lived in a posh house” where he “didn’t have to share a room”. He wasn’t used to walking everywhere and he was used to his own space. These things matter when you’re 12, I understand. I suspect it runs a lot deeper than that, but that’s to be explored at his pace, when he is ready and without any feelings of guilt on his part.

I think we both thought that the desire to be back together would be enough.
It wasn’t.

Since he went back, he’s been ok. Slipped back into the life he has known for nearly five years. He has amazing foster carers who I am grateful every day for. He has got on with his life, and I’m proud of him for it.
We’re now not having contact, I feel because he needs to assert his position where he is. Perhaps he feels shame or regret. Perhaps, despite reassurances, he’s worried he’s upset me, or worried I’m cross with him. He shouldn’t feel any of those things, he’s a child, he’s my child and I love him as much as I always have.

I’m working through the feelings that this has left me with. I still feel like a failure. I think it will be a process and I’m being patient and kind with myself. I’m trying very hard to stay away from words like “karma” and “deserved” because I find it all very self-indulgent and not at all helpful. Instead I’m acknowledging that this has been a trauma, another twist in the road, another loose thread in life’s rich tapestry. But we all survived. Where there’s life, there’s hope.


As painful as this has been to write, I have put together some advice from my point of view on the rehabilitation process for both parents and practitioners. I use the word practitioner to mean any professional involved in the construction and support of a rehabilitation plan. I hope it can be helpful for any of you when thinking about a child’s return home. The link to this is below:

Rehabilitation: Pointers for Parents and Practitioners


6 thoughts on “Rehabilitation: The End

  1. Unbearably moving and must have been so hard to write. Lessons for all of us who work in Social Care – whatever our role. Keep up the work you do – people are listening and you are making a difference. I have heard you speak – at the Making Research Count event at KCH a year ago – and saw and felt the impact you had on that audience.
    All good wishes to you and yours

  2. A difficult one to both write and to read but needed for all parties involved to see that best of intentions and those all important ‘plans’ do not factor in human emotions and never will. The need for strength in the relationships and trust in each other to adapt and change as needed is a must.

  3. Keep writing to your son,he knows you are there for him .hopefully time will heal the situation x

  4. I keep mulling over your post with mixed thoughts. I’ll try to explain as clearly as I can

    1. Is it right that a birth family bond can be so easily thrown away by a 12yr old through a period of being in care. Is it right he is given that choice at his age given the limitations at that age of his ability to analyse the situation in any depth? Isn’t that the responsibility of mature adults?

    2. Should a financially more comfortable environment with foster carers (who unlike birth parents are paid to be parents ) be allowed to influence a child’s decision. Should materialistic considerations be allowed to have a greater importance/ significance in a child’s life than a mother’s love? If so, then its not too far a link on to saying low income families have little right to keep their children if a more affluent alternative presents itself.

    3. However good the foster carers are they do not have the same kind of connection with the child as the birth parent (s). Aren’t we undermining the value of birth parents if, in the absence of any safeguarding issues, a child of 12 is allowed to opt out of that fundamental relationship?

    The ‘wishes and feelings’ child approach utilised in today’s safeguarding may come back to haunt us all…….as adults are we opting out of our responsibilities to children, handing over undue control to a child who has only a limited understanding of life…..

    I don’t know but I can’t shake the feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong in this scenario……dare i say that I know the pain you are feeling over your son’s ‘choice’ having experienced something similar. I too thought at the time it was right to abide by my similar aged child’s ‘choice’ … I’m not so sure…….now I wonder if the child should ever had had the choice, should instead have been taught the value/ life long importance of family and made to understand that foster care is but a mere imitation of the genuine love of a safe parent. I remain troubled….

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