Elliot had a very tough start to life. As a terrified little boy, he would throw himself between his parents as they screamed, kicked and punched each other in drug-fuelled rages.
Suffering agonising injuries, he had no medical care and no one to comfort him as he cried. For hours he would be left alone in an empty house, with nothing to eat but mouldy scraps and dog biscuits. It was only when he started school that an alarm was raised. After several unexplained absences, Elliot arrived one morning with a bandage hiding an excruciating third-degree burn on his arm, which he said happened when his dad held his arm against a blistering heater.
Elliot’s school called government child protection authorities, who found signs that Elliot’s arm had been broken at least once, and discovered he was covered in bruises and hidden scars from many vicious beatings.
Elliot was immediately taken into our care – and Barnardos caseworker Gabi* vividly remembers working with him:
“We brought Elliot into the centre before taking him to his emergency foster home. He was very thin and extremely hungry, so we gave him some afternoon tea. He just looked at the food and asked why it wasn’t green. I remember my horror when it dawned on me, he was used to eating food covered with mould.”
Elliot was placed with Barnardos foster carers where he could finally get the nurturing care every child needs. As he works with his psychologist and therapists, he’s piecing everything together and realising that no child should ever have to suffer the way he did.
“It’s been absolutely heartbreaking to see Elliot realise that the mum he loves cannot keep him safe. He’s going to need a huge amount of help to manage his anger and grief as he grows up and comes to understand more deeply what has happened to him.”
Elliot’s parents can’t keep him safe – but you can keep him safe from the devastating effects of trauma. Children who have experienced family violence and neglect are at high risk of developing debilitating mental health issues such as PTSD, OCD and depression1, and Elliot is already struggling with extreme, overwhelming emotions.
Elliot has been diagnosed with OCD. He obsessively cleans until his fingers start to bleed. This compulsive behaviour is especially worrying, as we know from experience that this need for control can develop into self-harm. He needs support to keep him safe from the effects of abuse and neglect.
1. Effects of child abuse and neglect for adult survivors. CFCA Resource Sheet 2014.