Posted: 12 December 2015

Advent: Opening doors, year by year

Today's Advent calendar blog explores some of the issues we face on a daily basis, at The Children's Society

 

Advent Calendars have always been part and parcel of the build up to Christmas. Traditionally behind the numbered doors, images retold the story of Jesus’ birth from Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, to the manger.

Recently, it seems, no self-respecting advent calendar is complete without chocolate! As I was searching for an advent calendar this year I came across a website that would personalise a calendar with my pictures. 

It got me thinking. I turn 25 just before advent; what if I did produce a calendar that had an image for every year of my life.  Behind door number 4 would be a snapshot of my life aged 4 – probably happily bossing my little brother around!

But for some children in our country things could look very different. For Chloe, a teengage girl like many of those helped by The Children's Society it would be the picture of her being taken away from alcoholic parents and going to live with her Gran.

Trouble at 13 years old

Fast forward, and for me at 13 it would be an image of me chatting away to my friends on the phone. For Chloe the image would be less positive as her behaviour was beginning to spiral out of control.

One year later Chloe decided to move back in with her dad. He could provide food and shelter but as a functioning alcoholic couldn’t give her the emotional support she needed. Perhaps the image behind Chloe’s 14th door would be from one of the regular nights she went missing; these disappearances often unreported by her father meant those caring for her didn’t know where she went.

Door number 16would show me celebrating GCSE results with my friends at our school prom. Chloe’s might show her being arrested for petty crime, or her use of alcohol and drugs, or it might simply show her name and address on a piece of paper in a man’s flat who is being investigated for child sexual exploitation.

What the picture would not show is how the support and care that Chloe is offered has changed. She’s 16 and now she’s no longer fully protected as a child by the law. She is being treated as an adult and her support is dwindling but she is more vulnerable than ever.

Chloe’s behaviour is now too much for her father and Gran to cope with, she wants to live independently yet neither social care nor housing can decide who is responsible for helping Chloe with this transition. She is in limbo, with no one stepping up to take responsibility for her care and her situation is becoming increasingly dangerous.

What next? 

What will the next few doors in Chloe’s life reveal?

You could help make a difference to her next snapshots by supporting the #SeriouslyAwkward campaign. Sign our petition calling on the Government to change the law to protect 16 and 17 year olds, like Chloe, from neglect and abuse.

We can’t predict what lies behind the next few doors of Chloe’s life but we can help ensure she receives the support she needs to build a happy and healthy adulthood.

By Imogen Hardman - Guest bloggers
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