A mother who is actively engaged in her child’s life by volunteering at school and sports activities; someone who likes nothing more than doing art and craft projects with her child to decorate their house, and someone who builds relationships with others in her local community.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Kelly grew up in a home where family violence, drug use, neglect, sexual and physical abuse were part of everyday life. Kelly had been under the watchful eye of Child Protection since she was 2 years of age. Her dad had died when she was little and she lived with her mum who had mental health issues as well as an addiction to heroin.
Kelly made it through adolescence and became a mother to a baby boy. However, her experiences as an adult were beginning to mirror her mother’s life – something that Kelly did not want but seemed unable to control. Although a proud Aboriginal women, Kelly was not well connected to her mother’s side of her family or her culture. Kelly had been struggling with the loss of her partner due to a fatal motorcycle accident and was using drugs to block out the pain. She had been to court for a number of offences and was at risk of going to prison. When Kelly was referred to our Kids in Focus program, her child had been placed in the care of his paternal Grandmother. She did not have stable housing and was living anywhere she could. She desperately missed her child but could not seem to break out of the downward spiral she was in.
With the support of our Kids in Focus Team, Kelly started to engage more with Child Protection and was able to access stable housing. After a year of working with her, Kelly was able to take her child on our Kids in Focus Family Camp. It was the first time Kelly’s son had stayed overnight with her in more than 2 years. She also began some mediation sessions with the child’s Grandmother to improve their relationship and create a better environment for her son.
The Odyssey House Kids in Focus team provides specialist child, parenting and family support to those affected by parental alcohol and other drug use. Typically, families also have mental health, housing and family violence problems as well. Our workers assist families to identify and address the needs of the parents and the needs of children, and they help manage issues such as trauma and connection to culture and community. Our Kids in Focus Manager, Anne Tidyman says:
‘Trauma affects everything – how we think, feel and see the world. If someone has suffered from trauma all of their life, including generational trauma, working with them for a short period of time is not going to fix it.’
Following a year of hard work with our staff, Kelly was able to work towards reunification with her child. This meant demonstrating to Child Protection that she was no longer using drugs (via urine screens), picking up her child regularly at school, and taking him to his Grandmother’s house. This involved more than an hour each way on public transport. Sleepovers were also a part of the process, and they became more regular as time progressed until ultimately after many months of committing to this routine, Kelly was able to be reunited with her boy.