Posted on February 21, 2020 by Iosis
“I’m so grateful to be given this opportunity.”
Bianca-May grew up in Auckland but barely knew her parents as she spent most of her childhood living with foster carers. The pattern continued when her daughter went into foster care – until she was referred to Merivale.
When she was 20 years old, Bianca-May had her daughter, Peyton-May. However, she was in an abusive relationship and her baby daughter was also abused.
Her partner at the time was charged and Oranga Tamariki (OT) uplifted Peyton-May when she was three and a half months old and put her into foster care. Bianca-May could only see her once a week for an hour with a social worker. She turned to alcohol and marijuana as a means to cope.
“I was starting to feel hopeless and that I would never see Peyton-May again. Eventually I met the man who has now become my fiancé and he gave me the motivation to keep fighting for my baby. I went through three court hearings with no luck – because of the abuse she had suffered early on in her life, OT considered her to be high need.”
In 2018 things improved when an OT Social Worker suggested she go to Merivale and that her daughter could come with her. She was thrilled, but she says it was a difficult time initially. “Peyton-May was more attached to her foster carers than me. She missed them and called them ‘Mum and Dad’, which I found very difficult. We didn’t really know each other.
“I just kept thinking, ‘all I want is my baby to be with me,’ and that’s what kept me going. We both had big changes to come to terms with – getting used to living at Merivale and getting to know each other.”
Merivale – transforming the lives of mothers and their children.
Merivale is a residential parenting programme for mothers who have a background of abuse,addiction, or domestic violence – and who are struggling with the challenges of parenting. Women receive counseling and attend a range of life skills, self-development and parenting classes.
Most mothers graduate after six months and leave the programme with their children in their care. Most women are referred by various agencies, but they all have one thing in common: Merivale helps them get their lives back on track.
Bianca-May admits she found Merivale a struggle to start with. “I am very independent and because I’d been on my own for so long I didn’t like the rules and structure of daily life at Merivale. I’d been in care since I was six months old and discharged at 17 years, so it was hard.
I would just shut down and get angry – that was my way of dealing with things. Now I know how to deal with challenges differently.”
A new life together.
“I realise how lucky I’ve been,” she says. “I’m graduating next Friday and I feel like I will be leaving my family. I’ve learnt how to control my emotions, how to be a mother to Peyton-May and how to trust. I have learned so many practical life skills during my time here.”
Next weekend they’ll both be moving home to be with Bianca-May’s fiancé and her daughter will start at a new preschool. “I am so grateful I have been given this opportunity. It’s such a relief to not feel like I have to fight the system anymore – it helped me get to where I am today. I’m looking forward to the future.”