April 26, 2023

Rebuilding broken bonds

“All the connections that we had were broken.”

Three of Danielle’s four children are living with autism. The other, Jacob*, has been going through more complex mental health issues and until recently was on the verge of leaving home. Jacob is the eldest of the four, he turns 18 this year.

With four kids sharing two bedrooms, Danielle’s household was at breaking point.

“It felt like we were living in a box,” she explains. “It was heartbreaking watching the children fight all the time, slamming doors and all that sort of stuff. There was no bond between any of the kids, whatsoever. I was losing my family.”

The biggest concern was Jacob.

He was sleeping in a loaned caravan in the drive. There was no toilet or tv. It was hot and horrible inside. At one stage Danielle set up a security camera to make sure he didn’t leave in the night.

“He was going through a full-on time with his mental health. He was wanting to run away from home, didn’t want to be here. He was fighting with his brothers, was arguing with me. It’s a frightening thing for a parent. The feeling of him going out there at night and wondering whether he’d wake up in the caravan… or whether he’d be gone.”

When her application for a Kids Under Cover studio was approved, Danielle felt like finally there was some hope. Both for Jacob and for the fabric of her family.

The impact of the studio was immediate and far-reaching. The dynamics through the whole house changed and the bond between the siblings – once at risk of being torn apart – began to build again.

“I just think it’s amazing. If we had have waited two years, I don’t think our family would still be together…”

Jacob’s younger brother found a freedom that allowed him to thrive. Even his school teachers said that his mood was more positive. Danielle puts the improvement down to the boys no longer having to share a room.

And for Jacob, the impact has been profound.

“He’s so much happier,” Danielle says. “It’s not just the space of the studio but also the fact that it’s quite a comfortable place to live. He wants to be there. He’s now doing landscaping with his uncle. And that was NEVER an interest before the studio. Ever.”

“It’s given him the chance to rekindle his bond with us. And the chance to be able to step back and ask ‘am I on the right track? I’ve now got this roof over my head that is a safe space for me. I still have my family here with me – which is the most important thing – but I also have my independence.

I just think it’s amazing. If we had have waited two years, I don’t think our family would still be together, to be honest with you. So, I’m just thankful to everyone who’s made it happen.”

* Name changed to protect identity