OzChild President and champion for vulnerable children, young people and families and people living with type one diabetes, Helen Maxwell-Wright has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her dedication to improving the health and well-being outcomes of others.
“Our family fell apart when mum and dad went off the rails. I had to grow up pretty quickly, caring for my five brothers and sisters.”
Please help us deliver greater support to kinship carers by sending a gift of $35.00 by 30 June so more kids are given the chance to grow up with family.
At OzChild we often hear of the life-changing difference being made through the many programs and services we deliver.
Some stories bring a tear to the eye, others bring about feelings of hope and joy.
But every story fills us with pride when I think about the incredible courage, resilience and spirit displayed by the children, young people, and families we have the privilege of working with.
Like Katie’s* story. A story which sadly, is not unique, but does remind us of why we do what we do, and why, our supporters are such a vital part of the story.
In 2021 OzChild is marking 170 years of caring for and supporting children, young people, and families. Support from individuals, the community and our partners are a fundamental part of our history and our future. Our shared belief in what we do enables us to continue to provide support, like our Kinship Care First Supports program to young people like Katie in their time of need.
Kinship care is the care provided by relatives or a member of a child’s social network when a child cannot live with their parents. Last year, OzChild’s Kinship Care First Supports team supported 223 families during the critical first 12 months of a new care placement.
When Katie took on the full-time role of kinship carer for her two younger sisters in 2020, OzChild’s Kinship Care First Supports team were there to guide her, providing practical support to ensure the immediate and ongoing needs of the family were addressed.
We need your help to continue the work we do. The ever-increasing demand for support from sibling groups means your donation today is critical for us to raise the $40,000 needed to provide practical support for children and young people at risk of falling through the cracks.
Katie’s story begins in 2017. For reasons unknown her mum began taking drugs, mainly ice. Pretty quickly the drugs started to affect her mental health and she began to hallucinate, seeing and hearing things.
Katie’s mum believed her husband, Katie’s dad, was ‘after her’ and that he was hacking into her phone, soon she became violent toward him. Katie’s mum was becoming a completely different person and her psychotic episodes were escalating.
“Mum and Dad would argue in front of us six kids, their fights got worse and then one day Mum just ran out onto the street screaming, that’s when the police got involved,”– remembers Katie
“Dad was the sole provider for our family, he would work hard all day and come home only to get abused by Mum. The day Mum ran out screaming was the beginning of the end for our family.”
“The police straight away thought Dad was the problem, and took him away, after that he became homeless, and Mum was left in the house with us kids.”
For about a year Katie, her two brothers and three sisters stayed in the house with their mum. During that time, no bills were paid, the mortgage fell into arrears and Katie’s dad filed for bankruptcy. The family had now well and truly fallen apart.
“Dad’s mental health crumbled, he was couch surfing and he started taking drugs too. My two little sisters were sent to New Zealand to live with our aunty. My brothers and sister stayed with mum, and I went to live with my best friend.”
After some time, Katie’s dad managed to get back on his feet. Katie’s sisters returned from New Zealand, and along with their brothers and another sister they moved back in with their dad.
However, Katie’s hope that this was the beginning of a fresh start for her dad and siblings was short lived.
“It wasn’t long before dad started to lose control again. I’d get a call from the kids to say he wasn’t home and could I come round to get them some dinner. For a while I just thought he was out or working late, but then he began to go missing for long periods of time, for days,”– remembers Katie
Soon, Katie was dropping around every day, getting the kids ready for school, and preparing their meals, often she would take them to spend the night with her.
“I had to grow up pretty quickly, caring for my five brothers and sisters.”
“When dad would eventually come home, he was a mess, he was not eating or sleeping, there was no way he could look after the kids, he couldn’t even look after himself.”
Then Child Protection stepped in. Child Protection asked Katie if she could take all five of her siblings to live with her. At the time Katie was doing her VCE, she was just 18 years old and living with her boyfriend’s family.
“I felt so guilty that I couldn’t take them all, but there was hardly enough room in the house as it was. When my partner’s mum saw how upset I was it was her idea for me to take the two youngest girls. It’s a squeeze with five adults and three kids in the house but I am so grateful the girls were able to stay with me, they are just 10 and 12 years old.”
A gift of $35.00 goes a long way in supporting families in times of crisis. Your donation could contribute to the costs of activities no child or young person should miss out on, like art classes, excursions, or even a new washing machine or dryer to support the needs of the family.
Of the nearly 45,000 children and young people living in out-of-home care more than half are living with a relative or close family friend. Right now, our Kinship Care First Supports team have more than 100 kinship cases, and many are sibling groups.
In all cases when a child is removed from the family home the first port of call will be to place them with a family member or someone known to them. Keeping kids with family is the preferred option, and so more and more young people are stepping up to take on the role of primary carer for siblings.
Katie’s story is just one of the thousands we could share with you. Since we opened our doors 170 years ago OzChild has provided love and support to hundreds of thousands of children, young people, and families.
You can help ensure that for the next chapter of our history book, all children and families have OzChild should they need us.
We really hope you can help.
*Names have been changed and models used in imagery to protect the identity of the family
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