The sweet taste of freedom

Parent watching their child playing with toy trains at home

Zaara was so anxious about Covid that she and her two toddlers had not left their home in Perry Barr for eighteen months.

Shalina Khatun, Spurgeons Health and Family Support Worker at Birmingham Children’s Centre explains that there was more to this story than first met the eye.

“The local Health Visitor was visiting Zaara’s flat for the children’s first at-home development check. When she discovered that they had been housebound throughout the pandemic, she referred them to us for support.

“Zaara agreed to bring her daughters Amira and Parisa, to meet us at the centre and take a look around. We wondered if the two little girls, having been confined to the flat for over half their lives, would be anxious about being out. But that was far from being the case – as they ran up and down the corridors here at the Children’s Centre, laughing and shrieking with excitement, it was clear that they were delighted to taste freedom!

“At our suggestion, Zaara started coming to our Feel Good group, where mums can get support to overcome anxiety and stress. Meanwhile, we looked after Amira and Parisa in our creche.

They were so happy to be with other children after all those months stuck at home, and they had such a good time playing with the toys and games. It was lovely to see!

“We provide a protective safety net around vulnerable women and children by working with partners. One of them is HomeStart who provide practical and emotional support to isolated families in their homes. They began visiting Zaara – and it became apparent that her isolation was due to domestic abuse and the suffocating control that her husband exerted over her.

“We invited Zaara to join the Freedom Programme which helps women understand domestic abuse and make sense of what is happening to them. Her husband believed she was going to parenting groups so did not try to prevent her attending.

“Often women experiencing domestic abuse do not recognise it as such until they are with others going through the same. Initially Zaara was very quiet, but she nodded in agreement at what other women were saying about their own experiences. By the third session, she was joining in the conversations.

“We witnessed the control Zaara’s husband had over her when, during one session, he texted her to say he was outside to take her home. Some weeks later, Zaara told him she was leaving him, but he laughed and said she had nowhere to go (she had no friends or relatives in the UK). Zaara asked us for help to escape – she was terrified that she and her children would end up on the streets. We explained that wasn’t the case and put her in touch with another partner, Shanthi Aid who help women fleeing domestic abuse. They talked her through all the support that would be available to her and reassured her that they could get her and her children into accommodation.

“That was all the encouragement Zaara needed. She left her husband and Shanthi Aid resettled her and little Amira and Parisa in a new home in another area, and we connected her to the local Children’s Centre for ongoing support. The future will be so much brighter for this little family.”

About Spurgeons Children’s Centre Services in Birmingham:

Spurgeons Charity delivers Children’s Centre services in four Birmingham districts under the Birmingham Forward Steps Partnership. Spurgeons children’s centres are places where parents of children aged 0–5 years can share the challenges and joys of parenthood. The centres offer a range of activities and support services to help you with all aspects of parenting, helping you make sure your child gets the best start in life.

Learn more about our work in Birmingham

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