Making Memories… Giving Hope

Children's Mental Health Week


It's Children's Mental Health Week.

Many of the children referred to CHICKS for a respite break face daily challenges. They might have caring responsibilities for a parent or sibling.

They might be suffering from abuse, bullying or neglect. They might be living in child poverty. They might be suffering from bereavement.

Children who are referred to CHICKS for a respite break come from a variety of backgrounds but the thing they have in common is a need for a break from the difficult circumstances that can often lead to anxieties, worries and mental health issues. On a CHICKS break they can set these worries or trouble aside and just enjoy being children for a week.



8-year-old Matthew has had a tough childhood. His mother suffers with mental health issues that have had a negative effect on her parenting abilities; she has been emotionally abusive towards Matthew and neglectful of his needs. As a result, Matthew has been taken out of his mother’s care and placed with his father. He no longer has any contact with his mother and only sporadic contact with his half-siblings, which he can find very upsetting. Whilst life is more settled with his father, Matthew’s home environment can still be difficult as his father also struggles with mental health issues and isn’t always able to give Matthew the care and support he needs. Matthew’s school therefore referred him to CHICKS to that he could enjoy some time away from the stresses of his home life and benefit from spending time with attentive and positive adult role-models.

Matthew was extremely excited to be at CHICKS and was an enthusiastic and outgoing member of the group from the off and he loved taking part in all of the activities on offer at CHICKS, particularly enjoying the more adventurous or sporty pursuits such as swimming and horse riding, and was always the first to give everything a go. Matthew was also very inclusive of his peers, ensuring that everyone felt involved, which meant that he quickly made lots of new friends. He also got on well with the adults on break, seeking them out to play and chat and benefiting greatly from their praise and attention. At the end of the week Matthew said that his ‘best memory’ of his time at CHICKS had been “everything and swimming because I haven’t been swimming in a long time” and said of his overall experience on break, “I really liked the whole thing!”


11-year-old Callum has had a troubling childhood. From a young age Callum witnessed domestic violence in the home, was exposed to his mother’s substance abuse and suffered from neglect. As a result, several years ago Callum went to live with his grandmother. Callum continued to have regular contact with his mother until last summer when he was placed on a ‘Child Protection Plan’ after she physically assaulted him. Whilst Callum’s mother is still allowed supervised contact with him, she has chosen not to, which Callum has found extremely upsetting. Furthermore, Callum is one of seven children living with his grandmother and their home environment can be chaotic. Callum has also recently been displaying some challenging behaviours and presents as emotionally detached from his grandmother. The local council team working with Callum and his family therefore referred him to CHICKS so that he could enjoy some much-needed respite from his difficult home circumstances.

Callum thoroughly enjoyed his week at CHICKS and really made the most of every opportunity. It was his birthday on the Monday and he was
delighted to receive a ‘birthday boy’ badge, cake and presents from CHICKS, enjoying the special attention he received from everyone in the group. Throughout the rest of the week, Callum got stuck into everything, getting to know all of his peers, spending time with the adults on break and taking part in all of the activities and games. He loved going swimming, grinning from ear to ear throughout the session and naming this as his favourite activity of the week because “it was the best”! Callum really flourished during his CHICKS break, visibly growing in confidence and telling the group at the end of the week how much he had enjoyed himself and how they had become a “family”.


“When they have had the experiences that the children we support have,” explains Head of CHICKS’ Respite Breaks Richard Whitehouse, “space away from that environment is more than a nice thing, it’s an opportunity to completely leave behind all of their stresses, pressures and challenges.”

So that we can provide more children like Matthew and Callum with the CHICKS respite break they deserve please consider a donation.

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