Martin was born into a family where both parents suffered mental illness. After the birth, he was transferred to a psychiatric unit with his mother, so that she could receive treatment for severe depression. Martin then went into foster care for eight months, following which he was sent home.
Martin lived for four years in an environment dominated by drug use, domestic violence and suicide attempts by both parents. He was sexually abused by his father. He developed emotional and behavioural difficulties, including extreme physical aggression.
Martin was moved into foster care at the age of four, but was repeatedly reunited with his parents, only to be sent back to foster care. Martin came to us aged seven, when no foster carer could safely manage him any more. By then he had moved home 40 times in his short life.
Our initial experience of Martin was a very angry and physically aggressive little boy. He was unable to conform to any boundaries and would break his toys repeatedly. Our first challenge was to keep Martin, and everyone else in the home, safe.
On the basis of our developing relationships with Martin, as part of the structured daily round of community life, we were then able to begin the painstaking work of piecing together an understanding of his inner world and working therapeutically to heal him.
As a result of sustained and expert therapeutic attention, Martin was gradually able to integrate his experience of himself and others, and to articulate and process what had happened to him. In a loving community, he began to develop the capacity for trust and for hope.
Martin’s physical violence diminished as his ability to put feelings into words increased. He began to be able to accept adult reassurance and praise.
Martin left us at age 10, ready and able to cope in a residential special school, where he could mix with a wider group of children and be looked after and educated in a less intensive environment. Martin is 15 now and is working towards his GCSEs.