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Willow's Story

Willow was watching telly in the children's home where she lived. She saw a programme where someone was making chocolate fondants. Liking the look of them she said, "I want to have a go at that." One of the care workers hearing what she said, told her, "You'd never be able to do anything like that."

Life went on for Willow, but her quick temper led to offending and she found herself as one of the few girls housed at HMYOI Wetherby. Frequent disagreements between her and the others meant that all of them spent a lot of time in their rooms because they couldn't mix together.

chocolate fondant

Willow started on In2Out's Life Skills Challenge and although she engaged well, she was cautious, quite closed off, talking only about superficial things at a surface level.

She was happy to do cooking so, of course, we decided to give the chocolate fondants a go. All the way through making them, Beth from In2Out who was working with her said, "I'm not sure these will work, but it's giving it a go that counts." Willow, however, was very encouraging and told Beth to be confident in following the process. When the fondants came out a treat and were delicious, Willow revealed her true thoughts, saying, "Shit... I didn't think they would work!"

The girls are allowed to wear their own clothes in prison, but Willow didn't have much so In2Out was able to get her something to wear. We also explained to her about how bank accounts work, bank cards and PIN numbers, and the TESCO Clubcard - which was a real revelation!

Birthday cake on horror movie theme

As Willow continued working with us, she built more trust and told us more about herself. She turned 18 in custody, so we made a birthday cake together for her on her chosen theme of horror movies. When she saw it finished, she took some time by herself as she was quite emotional, and then she told us she'd never had a birthday cake before.

When Willow left custody, she was released to a completely different area. She didn't know anyone, no support had been put in place for her, no one had even arranged to pick her up at the gate. So, Beth drove her many miles to her new accommodation and helped her settle in. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before she breached her licence conditions and was taken back into custody - this time to an adult prison.

Willow wasn't engaging with any of the support offered in prison, and so we arranged to have a video call with her. Because of the relationship we had previously built with her, she was like an open book, pouring her heart out to us. We now schedule a regular call to keep in touch with her, and she wants our help saying, "I want to do something now to make sure change will happen."

She is coming up for release again, but the challenge remains as to where she will be returned to and what accommodation can be arranged for her. During her time on the out she took in a cat, which has been incredibly beneficial to her. She takes care of it and pours her love into it. She's desperate to keep it, but to find somewhere that will take her and a pet will be very difficult. Willow will be placed outside of our geographic coverage which means our support can only continue by phone.

Resettlement is quite bureaucratic covering the big things - location, accommodation, licence conditions. The shape of a life though, takes in the small things. Things like chocolate fondants and birthday cake - and a cat.

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