Neglect: Steve's story

Steve's home became unsafe when his mum started dealing drugs and disappearing for days at a time. 

"always locked in our bedroom"

"My home life got increasingly worse from the age of about 8 years old when mum's drug dealer partner moved in. Drugs took over family life. My brother and I were always locked in our bedroom as soon as we got home from school and then let out to go to school the next morning.

"Sometimes we didn't see mum for days at a time. We made our own breakfast and were given takeaway for dinner all the time, also in our bedrooms. I could hear the drug dealing going on.

"There was a constant stream of people dealing drugs at all hours in the flat and some of them were pretty scary, so mum and her boyfriend just wanted us out of the way. The flat was regularly raided by police, sometimes in the middle of the night. They would bang down the door, yelling and ordering us around. That was really rough.

"Money wasn't a problem: I had new clothes, plenty of toys, computers, but no mum in my life. She only thought about drugs and her boyfriend was very controlling. I didn't really have any parenting.

I think everyone, knew about my family’s drug problem and no-one talked about it.

"Once a teacher dropped me home and mum told me not to let anyone come round, or my brother and I would be taken away into care. That was my greatest fear because it seemed really unknown and I didn't know what it really meant.

"I learnt to keep agencies out: they weren't to be trusted. I made sure I went to school and covered up any problems. I tried to be good at school as much as I could. I think everyone, knew about my family's drug problem and no-one talked about it.

"I think it was obvious to teachers that we didn't have the right clothes sometimes, had a lot of cash for children of our age and that no-one was looking out for us. I felt out of place at school.

"My brother and I did our own thing, sometimes staying out really late, whenever we wanted to. I would fall asleep at school sometimes after staying up late. Looking back it was really unsafe - anything could have happened to us.

Sometimes I would find her passed out. When I couldn't wake her up, I thought she was dead and it was really scary. I ran away once. I just didn't know what to do.

"Things reached a real crisis point when I was about 11 years old. Mum was sent to prison and when she came out a couple of years later, I went back to live with her again.

"Things were okay with mum for about six months then it got much worse because mum would smoke heroin in front of me. After doing it in front of me a couple of times, it was like she thought it was OK and normal. That felt really horrible.

"Sometimes I would find her passed out. When I couldn't wake her up, I thought she was dead and it was really scary. I ran away once. I just didn't know what to do.

"By this age, I had started to think what was happening at home really wasn't right and that other children didn't live like this. Luckily for me, I had other family to rely on and I went to live for good with my aunty. She made me healthy meals, made sure I washed and went to bed on time.

"I really liked it there and felt really cared for. Looking back, I think if the school or social services had recognised the situation and our family had got help earlier maybe it might have been better for me.

"I came to the NSPCC (which Childline is part of) when I was 13 years old. I joined a group for children of parents with substance abuse problems and it really changed my life. Most importantly, I met other young people who had been through similar experiences and I wasn't alone.

"It helped me make the most of my life and I stayed at school and did well. As I got older I helped many of the younger children in the group who had similar problems."

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