Supporting family reunification

Pinafore web

Sarah has a unique and special job. She works in a small team at Surrey County Council, which facilitates the safe return of children to their families. When the parent(s) are in a position to be able to welcome their children home, an intense support plan is put in place. Part of this plan is to ensure the children have the things they need to be able to thrive once home. It’s at this point that Sarah puts in a request to Stripey Stork and it’s a privilege that we are able to help.

Sarah recently supported the reunification of two families and for each family she left our warehouse with her car full to the brim, eager to see their reactions.

Family 1: A fresh start at school

One family, whose Mum had been so worried about the cost of school uniform she wasn’t sure how she was going to manage. Her worries were increased by the length of time she was having to wait for her Child Benefit and Universal Credit to start coming through. Realising that her children (aged 5 and 7) are at such an important age in their school life, starting at their new school needed to be a positive experience. Having lived in foster care and different placements most of their lives, there had been so much instability that she really wanted to get this right!

She desperately wanted them to look nice and fit in, and to show them that Mum was able to provide them with the items they needed. Although she could have searched charity shops, finding quality items in good condition, of the right size, can be difficult. An alternative could have been to approach the school for help but she was worried this would look like she wasn’t coping, especially since she’d only just got her children back. Sarah told us how this is a common misconception of the families she works with:

“They’ve worked and fought so hard to get their children back, they think asking for help is a sign of failure. In fact, I’ve noticed that parents under these circumstances are less likely to ask for help than others. But because I’ve worked with Stripey Stork many times, I’m able to reassure them that this is a positive thing. Everyone needs a helping hand now and again, and knowing when to ask is a sign of strength, not weakness.”

Despite initial hesitations, Mum was overwhelmed with gratitude upon receiving brand new school shoes (thanks to Sal’s Shoes), nearly new coats for both children, filled school bags and all the non-branded uniform for a full school week. Particularly touching was the gift of a grey pinafore dress, which quickly became a cherished possession for her 7-year-old daughter. She loved it so much, only having worn skirts for school before, that Mum had to keep washing it every evening. Once we heard, we were quick to send her some more to take that added pressure away from Mum.

At the end of each school day, she exchanges her pinafore dress for her next new favourite item; a brand new hooded blanket. It was the first thing she tried on when Sarah arrived and what she was wearing when Sarah left:

“She absolutely loves it. It was spot on to her taste and the softest material I’ve ever felt. She kept holding it against her cheek.”

Being able to gift this hooded blanket highlights the significance of seemingly small gestures in rebuilding a sense of normality and comfort. We’d like to thank the Household Support Fund for enabling us to buy these blankets in bulk, as well as other winter essentials like beds, blankets and warm clothes.

Her 5-year-old brother, eager to embrace learning, delved straight into the story books we included. It was nice to hear the reading level was pitched just right and when Sarah left, he and Mum were reading together.

Sarah has reassured the family that Stripey Stork would continue to support them as their needs evolve; when the children outgrow their uniform or are ready for the next reading level.

For Mum, this was going to be the first Mother’s Day she was going to feel like a proper Mum. With the children being young and this being a new tradition for them, we included one of our A Gift For Mum pampering packs which they could give her on the day. Included in the pack was a special message on a card handwritten by one of our volunteers, with some words of encouragement that she’s doing a great job.

Family 2: Creating a home environment

Another family being supported, are two daughters (aged 3 and 6) now living with Dad for the first time. They’ve been in foster care for the last two years as unfortunately they were not able to live with Mum. During this time, Dad has been working hard to get things in order to create a stable home environment for his girls, and Sarah couldn’t be prouder of how far he’s come.

Dad has given up his bedroom, happy to be sleeping in the lounge so the girls can have their own space. He’s decorated their new room beautifully, but it was missing new bedding. They now have bedding fit for two princesses, in keeping with the décor they so love. We know a nice duvet cover and pillowcase can make such a difference to a bedroom, but for a child, it can mean everything. Even the small things like the new toothbrushes we provided for everyone can make a big difference. As Sarah explained:

“It’s what it represents; we are home and are here to stay!”


Sara wanted to conclude by expressing her gratitude:

“The families I support are genuinely shocked by what I’m able to help them with and how lovely the items are. They’ve worked so hard to make so many positive changes, that for me to be able to help them at the last hurdle in this practical way feels like the most amazing reward for them.”

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