A man who first ended up at the Stanmore Boys’ Home in Christchurch at the age of 8 after smashing all the windows in his mother’s house says his stay in the house, which was run by the Ministry of Social Protection at the time, was terrifying at first, but quickly became a very positive experience.
Stewart Best, 52, grew up in the Hoon Hay suburb of Christchurch with his mother who had five children from two different men.
Best was the oldest boy and says he was the natural candidate to be beaten by his mother.
He said physical and sexual abuse ran through his family history.
“I was not the only one to be mistreated. My two older sisters and potentially my younger sister were too. ”
“ It was systemic in our family. ”
At one point, a social worker came to his home after a neighbor found him in a garden shed beaten with an electrical cord by his mother until he was bleeding. ”
Best said his welfare record showed the social worker came to the house and questioned his mother on the doorstep and left without seeing any of the children.
The social worker was assured by my mother that things had stabilized and that everything was now fine. It was my first interaction with the state. ”
He said that one day he was accused of breaking a window that he had not broken.
In rage, I smashed all the windows in the house, and then four big, beefy policemen came to take me to the Stanmore Boys ‘Home.’ ‘
It was something my mother had threatened for years to say bluntly, and then it came true. It was a terrifying experience, ” he said.
“ I was tiny, malnourished, probably undernourished, all the physical and sexual abuse, all the drama that had happened before and here is this rabid little ball of energy and these four brasses grabbed me and me put in a finger lock, put me in the back of a cop car, where a guy held me from my mom’s house in Hoon Hay to the Stanmore Road Boys house. ”
Best said that when he arrived, a woman working from the home picked him up and detained him.
She saw what was going on. I was that broken and traumatized little boy. I was neither a thug, nor a criminal, nor any risk to anyone other than me. ”
He said the woman had kindly and very carefully guided him through the process.
The first two weeks at Stanmore were terrifying, but it didn’t take long for him to get a feel for how the place worked.
“ At the bottom of the rung you don’t have any privileges you sleep in a dorm but I quickly progressed to the next level where you have your own room but the whole process has been really positive. ”
He said the level of love and respect from the staff was second to none.
“ There were staff there who were fools, who go with the territory but for the most part they were cool. They would sit and talk with you and they would listen to you, encourage you and interact like parents. ”
“ When you look at my upbringing where parenting wasn’t a strong thing and then you walk into an institution like this where they really cared about the people they worked with, they treated us very, very well. ”
“ They were pretty tough, they were old school and I felt pampered. ”
He admits that there was violence among the boys.
“ When you put a bunch of wild young men in a common space there will be a punch but it was not a constant. I had a few punches myself. I was the smallest boy there, so punches were a fact of life. ”
He said the boys were busy playing sports.
“ When you have boys spending so much energy, there’s not much left to fight. ”
Best said he had never experienced violence from staff.
He ended up at Stanmore Boys’ Home a bit later after a foster placement didn’t work out.
He said life at the boys’ home was the same as before.
Her life worsened after she left home and was placed with a foster family.
“It was the only bad experience I had in fostering. The foster parents were unfortunately Métis and they treated the boys in their care very badly. ”
He said over the next few years he grew up as an angry, violent and drug-taking young man, but managed to stay out of jail.
“ I survived without a criminal record by the grace of God, I suspect. ”
Best said in the following years through a path of therapy and self-reflection, life turned out “really, really good.”
He said looking back on his young life, he found it hard to blame anyone.
There is causality in everything. If you look at my mom’s background, I know enough to know that it was particularly traumatic and her role models weren’t great either. So she grew up stuck in this spiral ”
‘She was a terrible mom but I can’t blame her because frankly she didn’t know any better. ”
He said he used to be bitter about the way the system worked at the time.
“ I used to talk about it enough, but having been a social worker myself for many years, I am starting to realize that in fact social workers in New Zealand are an underrated resource. ”
“ They are undervalued by the people who use their services and by the government that employs them. ”
Best now works for Men’s Support Services, Awhina Tane Waikato, sharing her experiences and helping other men who have been abused.
“ I tell people quite comfortably that my experiences make me good at what I’m doing now. ”