Flourish

Flourish is a therapeutic outreach service for women in Lambeth who have experience of care proceedings or the removal of a child from their care and are at risk of recurrent care proceedings.

Funded by Lambeth Council, Flourish began operating in May 2021 and is based within Children’s Social Care. It offers a range of short-term interventions, as well as an 18-month structured programme. 

About the team

The team comprises two Lead Practitioners and one dedicated Team Manager who have all been systematically trained to work with individuals with complex needs. The advisory board, chaired by the Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care, consists of key internal and external partners.

Why have a Flourish service?

“God sent service- Flourish is exactly what it says: helps you Flourish as a person and as a parent- you matter!”

National research by academics, including Broadhurst et al (2015 and 2017), has highlighted the likelihood of parents reappearing in the family courts following the removal of a child from their care. Until recently, very few birth mothers or fathers who lose a child in this way are offered any follow-up support, despite often facing multiple challenges including addiction, mental health problems and domestic abuse. They themselves have often experienced extreme adversity since childhood, including  care experience, and are further dealing with complex unresolved trauma as adults. The removal of children through care proceedings is traumatic and often exacerbates the parents' existing feelings of grief, shame, stigma and isolation.

In 2017, discussions began about how the local authority could support such women. Subsequently, PAUSE was asked to conduct a scoping exercise within Lambeth to assess the level of need. Of the London local authorities, Lambeth has one of the highest rates of involvement in proceedings within family justice. Therefore, they wanted to implement a service that was more suited to the needs of their community, which took inspiration from the PAUSE model. 

About the service

“They want me to succeed and grow, not just meet certain criteria to tick a box for audits.”

Flourish is a service-user led service. It is at a woman’s discretion whether she engages with the service. 

Despite working with parents who are apart from their children, the child’s journey is at the centre of the Flourish approach, given children who have more positive relationships with their birth families have better outcomes. 

Referrals

To work with Flourish individuals must be aged 17 years and over, live in the London Borough of Lambeth and have experience of court proceedings. Self-referrals are not accepted, and women have to be referred by a key worker or social worker, with the majority of referrals coming from social workers. 

The service provides two pathways:

Pathway A: Support during court proceedings

This pathway is early in development having emerged through feedback from the women Flourish work with. This is an example of how the Flourish service has been developed alongside the women they work with. This pathway involves support for parents who are at risk of, or who have experience of, care proceedings to help them navigate the challenging processes and access support from the professionals around them. Flourish will hold expectations meetings with social workers and a client to agree what this work looks like in the early stages of this work.   The team support women by listening, by sharing skills to regulate their feelings and by helping them to understand and navigate the legal process.

This work is most helpful to the women when referrals are made as early as possible, including during pregnancy, in order to give the client the best opportunity to make positive changes as well as to reduce the trauma where a decision of separation is made in the courts. 

Pathway B: Support when a final decision has been made 

This is post-proceedings prevention through an intensive 18-month intervention programme, which supports women and their family during the weeks and months after their child has been taken into care. A woman may have already accessed Pathway A and know the practitioner, or she may have only just begun to receive support at this stage. 

The intervention begins by supporting each woman as they come to terms with the court decision and experience high levels of grief, loss and isolation. The service user and practitioner spend time getting to know each other, discussing Flourish’s values, establishing boundaries and creating a safe and trusting relationship before deciding together whether Flourish could be helpful to them. If so, the Flourish practitioner and woman develop a plan of work together to help them move towards stability, safety and acceptance. They support service users to work through challenging behaviour and emotions, explore what parenthood looks like for them now, and to prioritise their needs so they can continue to be there for their children. 

Flourish recognises the importance of relationships and so works with the service user's professional and personal networks, to help them feel less isolated, prepare for their future and to enable them to fully access the resources of their community. It can also include supporting access to education, such as literacy and numeracy programmes, employment or specific training.

Whilst Flourish does respect that a mothers parental identity remains important to them and that they hope to be reunited with their child in some way in the future, it does not challenge the local authority’s decision-making. This is because they acknowledge that their highest priority remains the safety of the children in Lambeth.  

Evaluation

It was internally evaluated at six months but a full evaluation by their Essex partners will begin after 18 months in October. 

To learn more about Flourish, please contact Sally Tripptree at STripptree@lambeth.gov.uk. 

Logo designed by service user.

Case study by Maysa Clam and Isabella Anderson, 2022.

Case Study and Testimonial

Flourish began working with J during towards the end of care proceedings where a decision was made that her children should live in foster care. J has experienced trauma and abuse since early childhood, she struggled with her mental well- being and began using alcohol to cope at just 12 years old. J’s resilience shone through at 17 when she moved into independent accommodation and was working full time. She sadly went on to experience high levels of domestic violence from her husband after the birth of her first child, escalating her use of alcohol and impacting her mental well-being. 

At the beginning of Flourish’s work J was in the depths of grief and isolation. She didn’t believe life was worth living without her children and felt professionals, that should have been supporting her, didn’t have time or respect for her.  Flourish was alongside J as she navigated these painful feelings, getting to know each other, creating a safe space, and deciding whether she wanted to work with the service. 

J was motivated to change, but her alcohol dependency and poor mental health was making it difficult to access services to address her health and well-being. Flourish supported J with fast- track access to sexual health services and attended appointments with the local drug and alcohol service together. J’s determination and commitment gained her access to residential rehabilitation, and Flourish travelled with J during this vulnerable time. Flourish supported J to learn skills to manage difficult emotions so she could bring her best self to meetings about her children and get her views heard. Flourish remained alongside J at her most vulnerable times such as the first contact with her children or when she moved back into the community. J made it through these experiences safely and maintained her recovery. 

As the Flourish journey comes to an end, J continues to come to terms with the loss of her children to care and process her long standing trauma however she now has skills and resources to manage future challenges. She has gained access to longer term psychological therapies to continue to be supported with this trauma and has successfully applied for an employability programme, supporting her to get ready to return to the working world whilst accessing holistic support alongside. Flourish hope J will continue to help Flourish and colleagues learn about how best to support women in her situation as an expert by experience and will remain in contact moving forward her in the future.  

J reflects on her progress during our work; being alcohol free for over a year, experiencing life as worth living and looking forward to the future. J doesn’t think she would have got to there without Flourish support. She believes she has been offered the perspective that she still has a life without her children in her care and she can continue her role as a mother in a different way. 

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