03 August 2017
In the last 18 months Michelle has turned her life around with the help and support of her Shared Lives carer… and most importantly having the belief in herself that she could be a great Mum.
Rewind to February last year and it looked like social services were set to take Michelle’s baby away from her and she was on the brink of losing him, due to her circumstances.
“I was under criticism with Devon Social Services who said I wasn’t able to look after Owain and I was angry,” she said.
“Hearing that was the most awful thing in the world.”
A social worker suggested that she could possibly look into living in a Shared Lives placement and Michelle knew it was the way forward.
“ I wanted to fight for Owain and I had to go to court to keep him.”
Following the court process, she was matched with carer Alistair Dodge in Torbay and moved in with Owain.
“Alistair has given me encouragement every step of the way and I’ve had the chance to be more independent over time.
“I’ve learnt from living in a Shared Lives family home how to become cleaner, organise myself and create plans. I’ve also learnt how to manage my anxiety, be a better person and a better parent and realise I’m not being judged all the time.
“I want other people to learn from my experience and I want to show others that people with a learning disability can be good parents. We usually get stereotyped.”
While living with Alistair, Michelle has had the support of SLC Jane Rolfe.
Michelle praised Jane for her support through the court battle for her to keep Owain.
“Jane has been very supportive,” said Michelle.
“Assessments said that I couldn’t see risk, which was hurtful to hear.
“She put a report saying how amazing I am and how much I’ve improved, which really helped my case.
“I would also like to thank Lorna (Tresize) and Children’s Social Services for giving me this opportunity and Jo (Morgan) my advocate has been brilliant and let me know my rights as a parent.”
Michelle believes she’s changed her whole lifestyle beyond recognition.
“Before I lived with Alistair I had bad hygiene and didn’t know how to play with Owain or bond with him.”
Michelle has become a part of the local community and has regularly attended parent classes to make sure she is the best Mum she can be.
“I also go to walking groups, take my son to meet up with my friends and he goes to gymnastics and swimming.”
Throughout, she’s had the support of Alistair who has helped her think about risks, hygiene and getting her anxiety under control..
“My support has reduced as I’ve had so much encouragement from Alistair. I’m proud of myself,” she said.
“When I moved in I thought I would have to live here with Alistair all my life, but I don’t have to now.
“I now want to move into my own flat. I’d like to live in Torbay as it’s where I’ve been for the last two years and it’s where I feel settled.
“I’m excited now about my future and I’m just waiting for a date to move out.
Alistair, who has been a Shared Lives carer for two years and followed in the footsteps of his sister Iona Fusco who is also a SL carer, is proud of Michelle.
“T0 see how far she has come gives me a good feeling,” he said.
“We all get on well and don’t argue, the biggest challenge is deciding whose turn it is to do the dishes!”