Researching Reform is humbled to spotlight creative submissions from child protection experienced parents and children, and it’s our pleasure to share today’s featured poem written by a mother whose child was removed from her care.

The mother, whose name has been withheld in line with reporting restrictions, adapted her submission from an old poem whose author is unknown, called “I Took His Hand and Followed”. The poem describes the deep joy parents feel when they are with their children.

This is what she told us about her version of the poem:

“I hope it may serve to illustrate the snowball effect of social services’ involvement (Isabelle Trowler’s “Conveyor belt to care”), to show how the stress of that involvement causes poor parenting, and also highlight the importance of letterbox contact. I would really like to dedicate this poem in loving memory of Bridgey Rooney, may God rest her soul.”

I Took His Hand and Followed 2022  

Author Unknowable 

My dishes went unwashed today, I didn’t make the bed, 

I took his hand and followed 

Where his eager footsteps led. 

Oh yes, we went adventuring, 

My little son and I… 

Exploring all the great outdoors 

Beneath the summer sky. 

We waded in a crystal stream, 

We wandered through a wood… 

My kitchen wasn’t swept today 

But life was gay and good. 

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade And now my small son knows 

How Mother Bunny hides her nest, Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows. 

We watched a robin feed her young, We climbed a sunlit hill… 

Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky, We plucked a daffodil. 

My dishes went unwashed today,  I didn’t make the bed,  

But at the door, when we got home  A woman stood, who said; 

“I come from the authority, 

Your home I need to see.”  

Cos someone who she would not name  Had called them about me.  

She would not tell me who it was,  Nor detail what the sin,  

But said; “Don’t fear, it’s just routine  You have to let me in.”  

Once in, she asked, “Where have you been?  For it is half past eight.  

Do you not know your little boy  

Should not be up so late?”  

“It’s clear that he is tired,” said she,  “And covered all in mud,  

And on his legs, I think that I  

can see a little blood.”  

I told her of the crystal stream,  

In which my child had waded.  

She sighed as she wrote something down.  Her countenance was jaded.  

Then she asked me; “Where is this stream?  The water could be dirty,  

Besides your little boy should be,  

In bed by seven thirty.”  

“It’s by the woods” chimed in my son,  “Where jackapuply grows”  

“He is not speaking well”, she said,  “I’ll talk to him alone.”  

“At nursery, I’ll visit him,  

I’ll speak to everyone,  

And find out what they all think they know,  About you, and your son.”  

Then she noticed unwashed dishes,  And wrote yet more in her book,   She said; “This mess concerns me  In bedrooms I must look.”  

The unmade bed was the last straw,  It really caused her judgement.  

The worker from that very point  To take my child was hell bent.  

Climbing back down she noticed that,  I had not brushed the stair,  

 Fluff gathered in the corners,  

Did cause her to declare:  

“I’ve seen enough, investigation  

Clearly must be started!  

I will decide, if from this child,  

You really should be parted.”  

She said “You have not made the bed,  You have not brushed the stair,  

I will come back unannounced,  

To check upon your care.”  

“It could be any time”, she said,  

“It could be day or night.  

If you’re not in it will be clear  

That something is not right.”  

Then every day my child asked me,  “Why can’t we go out Mum?  

It’s boring stuck inside the house,  When will that lady come?”  

“We must be in, we can’t go out,  Our house cannot be messy,  

Don’t leave out toys for goodness’ sake.”  What matters is what she sees.    

I did not take his hand today,  

Or follow where he led.  

I left him watching TV  

And cleaned the house instead.  

“You’re always cleaning now Mummy,  You never play with me,  

Why can’t we go adventuring?  

Just like things used to be.”  

No more exploring the outdoors,  Beneath the summer sky,  

I’m too afraid, I’m filled with fear,  If they take him, I’ll die.  

Then she did say, “You’re clearly stressed,  Signs of anxiety,  

You suffer from poor mental health,  That further worries me.”  

“So, tell me, tell me everything,  

All records I will scour,  

I’m busy though, with lots of work,  I’ll only spare an hour.” 

I told her of the dappled glade,  I told her of the wood,  

She only looked at what was past,  And said; “Well that’s not good.”  

“I must consider everything,  

That’s gone on in your life,  

For parenting can be damaged  By any kind of strife.”  

One day she saw my boy alone,  Then he seemed slightly sad,  

“What can be wrong, my love?” I asked  “That lady thinks you’re bad.”  

She wrote reports and watched us,  Never let us be alone,  

But still from foster carers,  

I believed he would come home.    

The person that she wrote about,  I surely would despise,  

But I say still it was not me  

The worker she told lies.  

“The child is neglected, mum  

has never changed his bed,  

The stairs were really filthy, and  the kitchen too.” she said.  

“He could be harmed in future,  For long ago you see,  

The mother was a victim,  

And that really worries me.  

And Mum she acts erratically,  

 Showing such emotion,  

On theories of parenting,  

She does not have a notion.”  

And then she made some guesses based,  On things I’d never said,  

Claimed I’d put my boy in danger,  And my heart filled with dread.    

I cried “These things, they are not true,  why is this trial not fair?”  

Mum is confused.” The lawyers said,  Though they were never there.  

A Judge decreed; “The state knows best,”  For just a mum was I,  

“We act in the best interests,  

Professionals never lie.”  

That my house it was neglected,  That I did not brush the stairs,  

Caused my son to be ripped away,  And no one knows or cares.  

 I’ll never see my little boy  

To noble manhood grow,  

I was ‘not good enough’ they said,  So me, he cannot know.  

I asked, “How could you do it,  

Take a mother from a son?”  

But as I screamed, she laughed because  Another case was won. 

She later said “I did my job,  

your kitchen was not swept.”  

She smiled a little, knowingly,  

and watched me as I wept.  

I hope whoever has my boy,  

Loves him as much as I,  

I hope they take him venturing,  Beneath the summer sky.  

I hope they wander through the woods,  And paddle in the streams,  

 With my sweet child, my everything,  Who calls me, in my dreams.  

I wish they’d write, just once a year,  Perhaps it is a chore,  

But news about my loved lost boy  Is all I’m living for.