Emma came into contact with Barnardo’s when she was 12-years-old and was living in a children’s home. She had a history of running away and it was thought that she had been sexually abused.

There were concerns that Emma was being sexually exploited on home visits or when she absconded. It soon emerged that her mother had different men coming to the house, who would often be physically abusive to her. The mother was a known prostitute and the Barnardo’s worker believed that she was putting her daughter on the streets, forcing her to sleep with men for money.

From the age of 8 or 9, her mother had taken little responsibility for her. However, despite this Emma still loved her mother, felt protective towards her and would put herself in danger to protect her mum. On the occasions that Emma ran away from the care home, she would always head for her mother, even though her flat was being used for “adult prostitution”.

Once at “home” Emma would give the different men her mobile number, or go off with them, so that they would leave her mother alone. She was putting herself at risk, but she confided in her Barnardo's worker that she just wanted to see her mum. Emma just wanted to be part of a family, to be loved, to be treated as a child. 

However, through working with Barnardo's Emma finally came to understand that by running away, she was risking her life. She realised that she couldn’t live with her mother, because despite how much she loved her, the mother would put her on the streets.

Emma is now 14 and for the first time in years, is attending a specialist school regularly. She has discovered that she really enjoys “doing well” and talks enthusiastically about doing Karaoke with friends or her new teachers – in fact all the normal things 14-year-olds chat about.