Supporting a determined mother to get her kids back

In the face of overwhelming challenges, seeing the steps to move forward can be difficult.

Pamela Maygard had a client whose children were going into Permanent Government Ownership (PGO). It is always tremendously difficult to get children back to the parents in this situation.

The woman was a single mother with four children, working full-time and struggling to cope with her own past trauma. She badly wanted to have her children in her life. But she was under financial hardships and had difficulty meeting the expectations that Children’s Services (CS) had for her.

“She was traveling 3.5 hours one way to visit her children, and did not feel financially supported by CS,” Pamela says. “She was expected to provide them with a healthy meal, but how could she make it and transport it? She wasn’t doing well and had been involved with CS for quite some time.”

Pamela worked to connect with the mother and engage in supportive activities together. The first step was helping the mother see the importance of taking care of herself. CS helped connect her to a therapist to understand and address her own trauma. This helped the mother understand the emotional neglect she had been through and how she was repeating that with her children. She realized that she needed to be present for her kids and less focused on her own attachment needs when she was with them. Through this step, she began to regain the belief that she could be a good, dependable mother.

“A thing that was really important for her was just to feel supported,” Pamela says. “To feel heard that she loves her kids, to understand that she’s doing the best that she could.”

Pamela helped the mother to advocate for herself and overcome barriers that were impacting her ability to get her children back. They would organize and clean her house as well as plan meals when she went to visit her kids. These may seem like straightforward activities. But, for a single parent who was working full time and confronting their personal trauma, they were daunting tasks. Especially for someone who already thought so poorly of their self worth. Pamela connected her with financial counselling, taught her how to do laundry, helped her get a vacuum, and found her a crock pot for cooking. Through donations, they also got a coffee maker for the mother because they knew how much she loved the beverage.

“She was so thankful and grateful that we even thought about her,” says Pamela. “The little things in taking care of her emotionally and treating her like she mattered, it made quite an impact.”

Pamela says the mother harnessed this feeling and made great strides. Eventually the kids could come visit her for the weekend. The mother took the initiative to clean her house. With Pamela’s support, she was able to get her kids into school. Then, her kids were officially returned to her care. Pamela notes that it is very rare for children to be returned to their family after going into PGO, highlighting just how much the determined mother had progressed.

“The most important thing is relationships, and the whole team worked together to provide this for her,” says Pamela. Supporting the mother through practical activities such as cleaning, assisting with appointments to see her kids, and connecting her to counselling helped the mother build her own self-esteem and focus on the wellbeing of her children.

“Everybody needs to feel supported in a caring and compassionate manner. We reminded her she could do it and you have to be consistent with hope.”