Neglect: Leanne's story

When Leanne was at primary school, things at home got so bad that she ran away and put herself in real danger. 

"kids would call me ‘smelly’ and ‘dirty’"

"We led a very chaotic life, moving house all the time. The houses were in bad condition and always dirty. I remember not washing enough, my clothes being dirty, and my hair being messy. At school the kids would call me 'smelly' and 'dirty' and I was bullied all the time.

"The bullying got so bad that the bullies said that if they saw me out of school they'd kill me. I was really scared that they might.

"I was often left to cook my own dinner and do the cleaning. There was no table to eat at. I thought our place was normal until I saw other children's homes which were so very different. My friends at school didn't want to come back to my place.

"I think mum just didn't know how to be a good mum. She had a terrible childhood herself. When I was really small, mum used to tell me she loved me, but as I got older this stopped and I thought she didn't love me anymore.

"Her moods were up and down, she drank a lot and there were often big rows, sometimes violent, with her partner. I was frightened of her when things got bad.

I got to the point where I was really stressed and not sleeping. I felt isolated. There was no one to turn to, only my mum, and that wasn't working.

"I always got good grades at school, but after a while I just gave up. I didn't see the point in trying. I think the teachers should have noticed something was wrong, but no-one asked me what was going on. I felt worthless and alone – nothing was working in my life.

"I got to the point where I was really stressed and not sleeping. I felt isolated. There was no-one to turn to, only my mum, and that wasn't working. It all got too much for me, I was utterly miserable, so I ran away from home.

"Before I ran away I went to social services, I told them how stressed I was and that I wasn't going home. They gave me some money and told me to stay with a friend for the night but I was worried if I did that my mum would find me.

If they hadn't helped me when I ran away I hate to think what could have happened to me. I really don't know what I would have done without Childline.

"I was 11 years old and on my own at night and scared. Luckily, I saw the number for Childline in a phone box and I spoke to a counsellor who listened to me. They managed to find me a safe place to stay but I was told I was only allowed to stay for a few days. Then I was in care for 6 months and it didn't work out, so I ended up back at home.

"Things soon became unbearable, so I ran away again. I slept rough for 3 nights. After that I was put into another foster home where I stayed for several years.

"I can't help but think that it could have been much better for me if our problems had been recognised, and mum and I had got more help earlier. Through all those difficult years Childline was there for me. If they hadn't helped me when I ran away I hate to think what could have happened to me. I really don't know what I would have done without Childline."

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