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Finding a place to belong - Tom’s story

Everyone gives up on me 

Tom* was 15 years old when he came to live with us. Previously, he’d been abusing drugs and skipping school for extended periods of time. His relationship with his family was in tatters, and he felt very anxious and alone. 

The first thing he said when he arrived was, “I won’t be here long; everyone gives up on me”. Those words made us even more determined to help Tom, give him the nurturing he needed, and make him feel as welcome as possible. 

Tom found it difficult to adapt to life with us at first. He couldn’t understand why we had rules and boundaries or comprehend that we cared about him. 

He struggled to build trust and form positive relationships and had several challenging incidents in the early months. 

Focused on positive experiences 

Tom started at Esland Grantham school a short time after moving in with us. He initially found it challenging because he’d been out of education for so long. 

To help him feel more settled, we focused on creating as many positive experiences as possible. He learnt to play golf, took up boxing lessons, joined a football team, went on holiday to Skegness and got involved with fundraising for several charities. 

We threw him a special VIP-only birthday party in the garden with giant inflatables, and we invited his older sister and nieces along to celebrate. 

Tom loved seeing how happy his grown-up sister was with the care he was receiving. She told him she wished she’d had the same support growing up. Her reaction and all the effort we’d put into the party, and his experiences up to that point gave Tom a sense of belonging and helped set off a catalyst of positive changes. 

The turning point 

For starters, the frequency of challenging incidents reduced dramatically as Tom relaxed and settled into life at the home. He became more adept at regulating his emotions and would actively find space to reflect on things before reacting. 

Things improved at school, too. He engaged more in lessons and started to make friends. He passed his Functional Skills exams in maths and English and went on to receive so many certificates we ran out of room to display them all. 

He’s now learning to be more independent by spending time in the community. He goes to the shops to run errands and buy things he needs, and he’s starting to use public transport. 

Tom has learned to trust and invest in his relationships. He has a more positive view of himself and his abilities, and he’s slowly learning to accept how lovable he is. 

We’re immensely proud of his progress so far, but most importantly, so is Tom. 

“The team has given Tom a stable, warm, and nurturing home. They’ve supported Tom to invest in himself and others around him. Tom had no trust in professionals previously, but he’s certainly built trust in the Esland team.” 

Quote from Tom’s Independent Reviewing Officer 

*We have changed the name to protect the young person’s identity. 

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