THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURE
Mentoring can help to turn a young person’s life around.
At first glance, Kerry’s story seems to be one of familiar tabloid fodder: a former teenage mum with six children who are frequently out of school. But of course, behind the headlines there’s a much more complex tale…
After falling pregnant with her first child as a teenager, Kerry went on to have three more children with a partner who became increasingly abusive. Eventually Kerry plucked up the courage to leave and tried her best to bring up the children who, to varying degrees, had all been affected by the violence and abuse they had witnessed.
As the years passed Kerry found the behaviour of her eldest son particularly challenging, and after he became involved with a local gang, Kerry moved the family again to try and lessen the chance of her son falling into criminality. By now, the family were in regular contact with a variety of support agencies but, because of her previous relationship, Kerry found it hard to trust anybody and resisted help even though it was desperately needed.
Mentoring is a simple but effective way for one person to give their support to someone else who is going through a tough time or wants encouragement in making difficult decisions
As the children’s behaviour grew more challenging, Kerry found herself in a spiral of debt and unable to cope with the mountain of problems she was facing. Then Kerry met Sian, Surrey Care Trust’s mentoring co-ordinator. Sian remembers the day well: “I called round to meet her and she was sitting with piles and piles of unopened letters and bills. It was obvious that even though she wouldn’t ask, she needed more support.”
After years of keeping outsiders away from her children to try and protect them from any more emotional trauma, Sian had to work hard to win Kerry’s trust and convince her that mentoring could help her second eldest son, Jordan. Jordan had dropped out of school during Year 10 and Kerry was concerned that he would end up following in the footsteps of his older brother or his father.
Mentoring is a simple but effective way for one person to give their support to someone else who is going through a tough time or wants encouragement in making difficult decisions and Sian was able to persuade Kerry that this could really help Jordan.
Suffering from bulimia and ADHA, Jordan lacked confidence and became easily aggressive. He had adopted the position of the ‘father figure’ to his younger siblings and as such, had grown up much faster than his peers which is why he struggled to fit into his peer group at school.
“Jordan had lost his way. He’d seen too much really in his young life but he wouldn’t talk to me about anything really because he felt that he didn’t want to add any more pressure. He was spending a lot of time with his older brother and I was worried that Jordan was going to end up in a gang too but I just couldn’t seem to get through to him.” Kerry
Slowly, over many weekly meetings Jordan began to open up to Sian and talk to her about his concerns and his feelings. Once trust between mentor and mentee was established, Sian was able to guide Jordan back into education. Although he hadn’t any formal qualifications, Sian was able to help Jordan secure glowing personal references which gained him a place on a carpentry course at college where he is now also studying GSCE level English and maths.
Jordan’s calmer behaviour has rubbed off on his siblings at home and Kerry has found stability too. Now married with a steady job, Kerry has learnt that it’s ok to ask for help which is why two of her daughters are being mentored too so that they can have a better start in life.
“I know that burying your head in the sand doesn’t make the problems go away, it just makes them worse. Sian’s support has really helped to turn our lives around; Jordan has a great set of friends, a lovely girlfriend and is really enjoying his college course and I can see the positive effects on the girls already. Seeing the change in the children through the mentoring is helping me to feel more confident about my future too.” Kerry