Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Martin, CEO of Wandsworth and Richmond Council. It was an informative meeting, and I was able to share my experience of being a former looked after child in Wandsworth and my journey as a survivor of sexual abuse. Paul wrote a blog (he is an avid blogger too!) in which he featured our meeting and other issues surrounding safeguarding and sexual abuse. I have decided to share an edited version of his blog (I have withheld certain present information in relation to me). Let me know your thoughts. -Yvonne
The single best thing about being Chief Executive at Wandsworth and Richmond councils is the opportunities it brings to meet with our incredible staff and learn more about the work that they do.
Sometimes, staff contact me directly. One of these – Yvonne Ellis, emailed me recently. Yvonne explained that she had been taken into the emergency care of Wandsworth children’s services in 1989 after she disclosed to a friend that she had been sexually abused by her Father from the age of 9 to 13. Yvonne was placed with foster parents but had several different placements. As you can imagine, she experienced many challenges – depression, teenage pregnancy, mental breakdown.
So, we met. And Yvonne explained her amazing journey which has led to her becoming a success at every level – as a mother, council employee, inspirational speaker, writer and leader. Yvonne has now given over 40 talks,
As a society, we continue to learn more about the criminal abuse that has stolen the childhoods of far too many young children. In fact, it was the abuse of a child in a former Wandsworth Council children’s home called Beecholme fifty years ago that took me down to Kent two weeks ago, to meet with a survivor who has set up a support group and who is now a campaigner. It was moving to meet with him, and I do believe that there is no substitute for the leadership of an organisation that can compare to the impact of listening and, hopefully, understanding.
These reflections and the experiences of survivors provide even greater determination to ensure our child protection services are as strong as they possibly can be. This means ensuring that we are vigilant, responsive and accessible across Wandsworth and Richmond. More than that, it fuels our commitment to improving early intervention and permanency planning so that children have the opportunity of the best possible childhoods. A key part of that is fostering and adoption.
Many thanks to Yvonne for sharing her story, and for quoting the American writer Maya Angelou‘s words which form the title of this blog.