Supporting families to stay together
Story by Debbie Wallen – Family Mediation Worker
In my role as a Family Mediation Worker, there really is nothing more rewarding than to see a family come together to overcome barriers and challenges they thought were impossible to move past.
To see the face of a mother who has just understood, for the first time, why her teenage son is struggling to deal with something, and then to watch them both come together and talk openly about their feelings and concerns, really does give you a feeling that is difficult to put into words; but it’s definitely one of warmth.
It’s important to acknowledge that sadly it doesn’t always work out that way for some families and for wellbeing and safety reasons, difficult decisions must be made, but ultimately I do everything I can as a Family Mediator to keep a family together.
When I first meet a family, I give them time and safe space to effectively unburden themselves by venting their frustrations aloud. By doing this I’m able to identify what is important to them and the difference change would make. It also allows families to refocus and together we break down the issues so they can be discussed openly. The aim is to get to a stage where ‘offerings’ are being made and agreements follow. So a parent or young person may say something like “I’ll try to be more open about this…” or “I’ll try to be more attentive when…”.
It’s when understanding is found that families are able to effectively listen and communicate with each other. This in turn reduces the risk that a young person will become homeless due to a family breakdown.
There’s no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic triggered a number of challenges to the way in which we deliver Family Mediation, but I’m so proud of how we came together as a team to make sure that the service continued to support families.
When lockdown came into force and people started self-isolating, I think it helped that we were effectively all in the same boat. I had some families asking me how I was feeling during their mediation sessions, which although we don’t want families worrying about us, was really nice. It shows how important our working relationships are and after all, we are all in this together.
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Last year, Family Mediation helped2/3of young people remain at or return home.
Homelessness was prevented for almost 500young people.