June’s* story is of a trafficked young woman, her struggles and sadness but also her strength to survive. Her journey may have been different if she hadn’t had the consistent support and guidance from the community of childcare professionals we work with and, if we hadn’t been there for her. Providing support throughout her journey to recovery and, freedom.
Her story represents many trafficked young women, it’s why we never close a case and, will be in her life for as long as she needs us.
Meet a trafficked young woman called June*
We were first aware of June when a referral was made to us by a Local Authority regarding a 17-year-old girl who was 5 months pregnant. She had been trafficked from Vietnam across China, Russia and ending in the UK. She was held as a prisoner before she escaped. When she was found, she was taken into services, and placed with a local authority before being moved a month later to another local authority and a foster carer.
June* was then referred to us for specialist work and support.
“When we met June* she was so small, quiet and spoke limited English. But she did her best at working with police to inform them of her traffickers and exploiters and, those she escaped from and who abused her.”
Despite her tramatic journey from being a trafficked young woman to rescue, she started to engage well with the trafficking and safety sessions that our Social Worker, including forming a good connection with our Vietnamese interpreter. Our interpreter was key in enabling June* to be at the centre of any conversations around her future.
They would be there, speaking to her regularly on the phone to reassure her, and providing essential translation at the Local Authority and professional meetings ahead.
Initially, we placed June* on a modified safety plan. This meant she didn’t have access to the internet or phone.
We did however provide her with our safety device which meant that June* couldn’t contact or be contacted by potentially dangerous individuals. But it would enable her to communicate with her foster carer, social workers and police.
In the initial weeks of rescue, trafficked young women like June was still at risk therefore she needed to keep in close contact with her foster carer when out at college, temple or with friends.
This partial ‘Safety Plan’ was a temporary measure to keep June* safe and provide a ‘full stop’ separation and extraction from previous exploitative situations.
As June* was progressing through the safety plan, there were concerns about her worries of traffickers, that they were still looking for her. And how this may affect her positive progress regarding her confidence, college and the work with our support and social workers.
Therefore, we would see her multiple times a week and keep in regular contact with her.
When June* went into hospital to give birth to her baby, Min, the birth process seemed to go fine, however shortly after baby Min started to deteriorate and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him.
Devastatingly, June* lost her baby as he died early in the morning the next day.
During this traumatic time, June* was supported by friends and professionals around her, and a blessing ceremony was held in the hospital according to her religion. We were there for her, and both one of our Love146 UK social and support workers were present throughout.
“In the following days, across the network we didn’t want June* to be alone so we shared shifts to cover and to give the foster carer respite when she needed to go out.”
June was grieving, and throughout this process our support worker took regular trips to a temple where June had set up a shrine to Min and prayed.
A couple of weeks later June had her Home Office interview, to establish her ‘right to stay’ which she didn’t want to postpone. A Love146 UK and LA social worker attended with her.
However, the interview was postponed due to her caseworker’s consultation with the Home Office regarding her recent bereavement.
June was desperately disappointed by this and both her solicitor and social worker shared their professional view that June seemed okay to go ahead. but the Home office held the decision to postpone, pending a note from her doctor confirming that June was okay to continue with the interview.
In the following weeks, June continued to regularly visit the temple with her Love146 support worker, whilst she grieved for Min.
There was a long wait in getting Min’s body back to have a proper burial as is custom with her religion. But the hospital was investigating his death and a timeframe could not be given for the return of his body.
“So, we would be there for June* to explain this, whenever she needed us.“
After a month, June felt able to start to return slowly to college, however we still had no update on Min’s body from the hospital which was very distressing for June* and, would often set her back in her day or at college.
Therefore, our social worker continued to visit June at college and her placement and worked through questions she had for the hospital and details of the birth. And over the next few weeks both our social and support workers acted closely together with June to support her during this very difficult time.
Within 3 months of baby Min passing, June turned 18.
Therefore, she must move from foster care to living on her own. And a month later our formal hours with June came to an end. But our support would not end there. We attended the funeral of Min and continued to provide an ‘independent visitor’ role and saw her regularly for another 7 months.
“We helped June* to organise Min’s headstone and to get a work experience job. And continued to support June in her appointments with her solicitor.”
“We would visit her at college and take her out for hot chocolate and even to a restaurant for a nice meal once a month. June* had always wanted to visit the coast so, we took her and a friend down to the coast, together with the Love146 UK team.”
“At Christmas we took her to the theatre as her Christmas present to see Swan lake which was her first live ballet she’d seen.”
We had many lovely and difficult visits over the months but being there for June and showing that we care and that our support will continue, is what mattered. We’re here for as long as it takes.
Our weekly visits eventully came to an end but we told June* that we’re always here when she needs us and wants to get in touch. And we continued to touch base with each other over the months with our Vietnamese support worker having essential contact from time to time.