Mulberry Bush 70 Years of History, so many lives changed forever. By Chris Wager.

 With the Mulberry Bush now reaching its 70th year, it’s time to tell the story of The Mulberry Bush.

As a former Mulberry Bush child, its hard to look back at my time there, I am affected by many memories both good and bad, and some far to painful to even consider.

I arrived at The Mulberry Bush in 1999, a small and broken little boy, helpless and fearful. Unable to believe in or trust the adults around me. I was born in 1991, to a parent who had herself been traumatised and damaged as a child. While it is widely known that I disagree with the accepted theory that those that have been abused will go on to abuse, it is a sad and sobering reality that for my mother this theory turned out to be correct.

However, in spite of my experience I maintain the position that it is not a guaranteed certainty that the abused will abuse. I moreover believe that often times these parents are simply unable to cope with their own lives, and they struggle to cope so severely that they are simply ill equipped to care for a child through no fault of their own.

They simply find themselves totally out of there depths and unable to cope. Their abuse is not one of intentional neglect but rather the consequence of a total inability to provide the understanding, care and affection required to successfully bring up there infant. This was certainly the case for my mother.

I did not get the best start in life; my mother tried desperately to provide me with the love, care and affection that I needed, but time and time again this broke down. She herself suffered from complex mental health issues. To give her credit where credit is due, she tried extremely hard in spite of her difficulties but, unfortunately, she simply could not manage. I was placed in and out of foster carer on five separate occasions during 1992 and 1993, and was finally removed for good in 1993 on a Section 31 Full Care Order and placed with a long-term foster family.

At this point I wish that I could say that was the end of my story and I lived happily ever after. Sadly these things only happen in fairy tales.

Things were okay at first with my long-term family, but this was something that changed very rapidly. There were a long array of difficulties that were a frequent and persistent issue for me and my long-term family. I was a child that presented with extremely challenging behaviours, actions such as screaming the house down for hours on end, throwing tantrums in the middle of town and so on and so forth, and this went on from around 5 years old to around 8 years old.

By this point it is fair to say that my long-term family had reached the end of their limits. I was clearly in need of some specialist help, so that is how it came to be that I ended up at The Mulberry Bush.

The Mulberry Bush undoubtably changed my life, and while it was not a one stop shop to cure all, it certainly made a significant impact on my future.

The one thing that was never going to change was the fact I would be in the care system until age 18, and to some extent I think in the long-term this had a damaging effect on the progress I made post Mulberry Bush.

Having said that, the time I spent at The Mulberry Bush, taught me how to live, it taught me that adults can be dependable and can be there to love, care for and nurture you, and above all it taught me that I deserve to be loved.

Every child at The Mulberry Bush is loved and cared for in a way that only a Mulberry Bush Child will ever understand. While three years at the Mulberry Bush might seem like a small part of an otherwise large life, when you compare it to the prolonged period of instability and trauma a child has suffered those three years become the difference between life or an emotional death.

The Mulberry Bush is a challenging place for professionals to work, and it has developed an almost unique ability to teach, nurture and support just about any child. At the core of The Mulberry Bush, there is a deeply stabled root structure of highly experiences and skilled professionals without whom the work of The Mulberry Bush would be practically impossible.

I think it’s fair to say that I would not be where I am today without my time at The Mulberry Bush. The school’s appearance has changed almost beyond recognition from the days when I was there, but as I said when I visited, you can repaint the walls and change the buildings but the community that is at the heart of The Mulberry Bush will always remain. And it is this community that makes the school feel just the same today as it did in 1999. In spite of its exterior, its soul has remained the same.

In this day and age with all the challenges that face education institutes we must recognise what a significant achievement The Mulberry Bush is, having managed to keep the children’s needs at its heart, something that is all too often lost amongst the need to meet targets and paperwork requirements.

Lastly I think I must note that the decision to add a 52 week provision to the school is something that I am in total support of. It is something that I have felt for a long-time the school would have benefitted from. So, as they say, better late than never. This will enable the school to offer a far better level of support and potential for progress to those that do not have a home life stable enough to return to. Or those requiring a 52-week placement for any other reason.

The Mulberry Bush, goes into its 70th year with a remarkable sense of achievement and an unbelievable amount of lives changed.

The words of part of a speech by Winston Churchill sum it up for me.

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

For me I owe the greater part of my progress to The Mulberry Bush, without whom I would no doubt be far worse of than I am today.

Chris Wager

Ex Mulberry Bush Pupil



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