Inspiration for Change is a parental support service in North Yorkshire to help parents who have had a child or multiple children removed from their care through care proceedings.

We spoke to Maggie Mitchell, Inspiration for Change Manager at North Yorkshire Council about their Inspiration for Change service. 

What is Inspiration for Change? 

The service was started in 2020 to support parents across North Yorkshire who have had a child or multiple children removed from their care. There are four main areas of support: practical, health, relationships and lifestyle, which are discussed in more detail below. The criteria for referral is parents who have had one or more children permanently removed from their care and a likelihood that if they were to become pregnant again, their child would subsequently be removed from their care. Both parents can work with Inspiration for Change, even if they have separated.


There are currently four Inspiration for Change (IFC) workers who cover the whole of North Yorkshire. Each IFC worker covers a significantly large area and while everyone receives general training, they are able to specialise in one particular area. One IFC worker has had in-depth training in benefits meaning she is able to support her other colleagues with well-informed advice on the subject.

How do they help?

The support offered is extensive. A key element of the work is listening to and empathising with parents. The worker will begin by understanding the parents’ truth, aiming to meet the parent where they are to avoid distrust and withdrawal. Issues they want to focus on addressing are identified, which can include substance use, housing, finances and debt or frequent contact with the criminal justice system. The key worker and parent will look at their physical, mental and sexual health and assist them in arranging medical appointments, occasionally dropping parents off to their appointments. Maggie explains that the IFC team has made good links with local sexual health, housing and drug and alcohol services and this provides an opportunity for parents to rebuild trust with the agencies who they can often see as the agencies involved in taking away their child. 

Another area of focus is around self-esteem and self-worth, emphasising the value of connections. They also help parents entitled to letterbox contact to make use of it. Letterbox contact is a formal agreement for birth parents and the adoptive parents to share information about the child, where appropriate, through writing. If care proceedings are ongoing or have recently concluded, the key worker helps the parent to envision how they can be the best parent to their child while no longer having legal custody of them. This includes encouraging them to think about future aspirations and build a life for themselves, without their child. They will support parents with life story work, to help their children understand their past and assist parents in understanding why the decision to remove their child was made and explain the process to them. If parents are still struggling to understand the decision, the team will seek clarification on why a decision has been made so this can be relayed to the parent. They also support ongoing contact with their children. There have been instances where supervised contacts have been deescalated to unsupervised contact because a parent is no longer in the same place and the risk has changed. Maggie explains that the confusion and anxiety parents experience during care proceedings deter them from showing their positive progress and having their cases de-escalated.


As of February 2021, Inspiration for Change offers students from local colleges who are undertaking counselling courses, the opportunity to complete their final year placements with them. Maggie supervises students during their placement while they provide counselling sessions to the parents. Previously parents were struggling to access counselling services due to the long waiting lists and their lack of trust regarding services. Even once they had reached the top of the waiting list, they were offered six sessions which Maggie explains was not enough to significantly help parents going through this level of emotional stress. As parents often have disordered lives, if they struggled to attend appointments, the opportunity would be taken away from them. The agreement with the local colleges means that IFC can offer a service otherwhile inaccessible to most parents. 

Restorative Practice & Lived Experience

Inspiration for Change employs two parents with lived experience of children's social Care who have had a child removed from their care and / or experienced Child Protection/ PLO. Parents who are going through a similar situation, or who have recently gone through care proceedings can receive mentoring support from workers who understand and can empathise with what parents are experiencing. The parents have been trained in restorative practice. 

The lived experience parents also lead workshops and presentations to prospective adoptive parents in sessions known as ‘Birth parent workshop’. This experience allows them to share their perspective and explain how valuable a continued connection with the child's birth family can be. One area of focus is letterbox contact, prospective adoptive parents are given examples of how to ensure letterbox contact is done compassionately. The aim of the workshops is to rehumanise birth parents and empower them. Maggie tells us a commonly used phrase is “They’re going to be your children, but we still love them and we’re not your enemy”. In these sessions, they challenge the perception of birth parents as an inherently bad person. By showing the complicated interactions between the person's circumstances and life events leading up to their child being removed, the prospective adoptive parents are given context. This aims to build a more complete picture of a birth parent's life which in turn breaks down barriers and suspicion between adoptive parents and birth parents.


A majority of referrals come from children’s social care and early help teams, including Children and family support workers, who supervise contact between children and their parents. Other referrals come from the Probation Service, GPs as well as self-referrals. Initially the service was only available to parents once the final hearing was complete, which Maggie explains was often too late in many situations as parents were becoming pregnant again very quickly. Parents expressed how useful support is during the final hearings and so the IFC workers can now become involved earlier on. Key workers will emphasise that they’re not there to help them fight their current situation, but to support them to improve their situation overall.


Maggie explains that she hopes to be able to support more Parents by expanding the team. While the service is open to fathers, there are not as many using the service as Maggie would like, and in future she hopes to be able to support more fathers. 

For more information about this Inspiration for Change, please contact:

This case-study was compiled by Leontine Gnaly in 2023

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