Pre-loved shoes will be used to create a sole-ful labyrinth in Victoria Square on Tuesday.
The labyrinth pattern will be drawn with donated shoes, which those in need can take for free after walking its path.
Leftover shoes will be donated to the Hutt St Centre.
The labyrinth is being facilitated by Centacare as part of Lunch in the Square, a celebration to mark Mental Health Week.
Centacare Support Worker Carole Schroeder has been facilitating labyrinths for 15 years and says they are often confused with mazes.
While mazes are made to puzzle the mind, labyrinths can relax it.
“A maze is a game; it’s a place to think your way out of,’’ says Carole.
“In a maze you lose yourself; in a labyrinth you find yourself.
“A labyrinth has twists and turns but offers a single pathway into the centre and the same pathway out, so it’s intuitive; it can be a way of slowing down the mind.’’
This will be the second walking labyrinth Carole has facilitated with shoes. Previously, she used footwear to create a community labyrinth in Eden Valley.
“The whole town got together and donated their shoes and it was a huge hit,’’ she says.
In October last year, Carole and the Barossa Community Labyrinth group, together with the Barossa Mayor, officially opened the permanent Barossa Community Labyrinth – which doubles as a walkable public artwork – in the Barossa Bushgardens.
“Labyrinths have been around for at least 4000 years,’’ she says.
“Their resurgence in recent times has been associated with walking meditation and an active way to practice mindfulness.’’
Hosted by the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia, Lunch in the Square begins 11am Tuesday, October 8 and runs til 2pm. There will be activities, arts, crafts, games, music and more.
If you’d like to donate shoes for the labyrinth, contact Broady Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 8215 6700.
Foster and Kinship Carer Month has begun. This is a chance to say thank you for everything foster and kinship carers do. For people like Jeannie, foster care is not just a job; it’s a precious opportunity to make a difference to the lives of our smallest and most vulnerable. This is Jeannie’s story.
This video was made a year ago. We still have the same twins in our care, and it has been a roller coaster ride to say the very least.
We have had good days, bad days, and some days where we didn’t even want to get out of bed.
Foster caring isn’t something for the half-hearted; we are here to care for the most vulnerable in our society. These little people are our future, and they deserve only the best care and support that we can possibly give.
As a foster carer, we work 24/7. We don’t get sick leave or annual holidays, but then again you don’t get sick leave or annual holidays with `family’, and while in our care, this is what the children are to us.
“All we want is to make a difference, and to make positive changes in their lives – but we don’t do this alone.”
A good sense of humour and a fantastic support network keeps me going on some of the worst days. I am blessed to have a wonderful partner and son, so when things get a bit much, one of us can just get away from whatever the situation is and just breath.
Laughter is the best medicine and it’s amazing what you can find funny after a particularly trying day, when the kids are tucked up in bed and we have a glass of wine for company! But it’s important to have this time to recharge and hash over the day’s events, and sometimes laugh, when really all you want to do is cry!
My son has really connected with the twins and is like a big brother to the children, especially the boy who really loves the male figure in the house.
The little boy wants to be just like Liam, and often goes and changes his clothes or shoes to match what Liam is wearing – it’s really cute.
Liam takes the twins out every Sunday for a few hours to a play cafe, the beach, or park, and it just gives us a chance to recharge our batteries and have that short time of peace and quiet which really soothes the soul.
The twins are an absolute joy – on a good day! But their short time on this earth has been less than ideal. The trauma and neglect these children have faced should never have happened to any child, and their pain and suffering can be seen every day of their lives.
The boy used to be so angry, with absolutely no self-regulation. He would lash out and scream at anything and everything – not even the family pets were safe. All we could do was keep himself and his target safe.
This little boy kept dark secrets from being told not to tell, which obviously weighed heavily on him, and I believe he targeted his sister as he was angry at her for not being able to keep him safe.
The little girl had low muscle tone and both twins had poor vocabulary and pronunciation. If lying was an Olympic sport, the girl could potentially win gold for Australia! These were usually purposeless lies, but we think this was her `norm’ from an early age being trained in deceit.
“Fifteen months later, the change in these children today is unbelievable.”
At four, they were both in nappies full-time. The boy has now been nappy free for quite some time, and the girl is nappy free during the day. She is very proud that she is a `big girl now’.
The boy’s angry outbursts have just about ceased, leaving typical five-year-old outbursts, and we are left with a young man who just wants to give and receive so much love.
The twins see a speech therapist, and the change in the children is remarkable. Every professional we see cannot believe how far they’ve come. This is still very much a work in progress but, for children with Global Development Delay, they are certainly on the right path – and they are catching up with their peers.
The girl’s low muscle tone has vastly improved with correct nutrition and exercise. She has the most beautiful smile, which she constantly reminds us of.
The children are enrolled in the most fantastic kindy, where the staff are all trauma informed. This has made a huge difference to them. The boy is not labelled as a trouble maker. Instead his actions are understood and supported. We will be eternally grateful to this bunch of professionals.
The kids also have help from a podiatrist, a paediatrician who has known the twins from a very young age, and we have access to psychologists who have given us invaluable insight and strategies into the twin’s behaviour.
Although we foster the children, there are so many others who support us to support them, and we all work together towards positive changes in their lives.
Last but definitely not least, we have the team at Centacare.
Every single person we have come into contact with has touched our lives and been vital in the success and fantastic changes we now see in the twins.
“The team at Centacare knows the interests of children are of paramount importance, and know that by supporting us, we can better support them.”
We have the most fantastic foster care support worker who listens to us endlessly, and we never feel that we are wasting her time. She helps us better understand issues, and also helps us put things into perspective.
She lifts us up when we are down, and always follows up any queries we may have. We know she has many clients, but she always makes us feel like we are her number one.
So, thank you Centacare, and thank you, Dani, for all you do for us and the children.
* If you would like to follow Jeannie’s lead and explore becoming a foster carer, please phone our team on 8159 1400 or email email@example.com For more information about Foster and Kinship Carer Month, please visit the Department for Child Protection.
(L) Jennifer Boyle, Senior Foster Care Support Worker; and Jeanne, foster carer.
The drive back to work from a home visit is a critical time for Eve Beaumont.
“It’s a good space to make sense of what’s just happened because sometimes it’s pretty full-on,’’ says the Family Preservation Senior Practitioner.
“We can nut out what’s just taken place and what sort of actions need to happen after that.’’
In her role, Eve supports case managers and social workers as they walk alongside vulnerable families to address safety concerns and build parenting capacity.
This can take her into their homes twice a week, for up to a year.
“We are coming into their lives at a really, really vulnerable time, when they are quite worried about whether their children are going to be in their care,’’ the 28-year-old says.
Often this is due to “persistent issues’’ such as drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, medical neglect of children, and poor hygiene in the household.
“Due to some of those complexities, you are definitely facing risks just getting out of the car and knocking on someone’s door.
“Often if might not be the clients themselves but it could be other associates or environmental factors that we need to consider.’’
A new study, released this week by Centacare and UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, reveals the personal cost of helping others.
For example, absorbing trauma “through osmosis’’ and sensory experiences, through to regular issues with sleeping.
“There’s smells, sights, things that you can never unsee and the feelings that come with that,’’ Eve says.
“You might see something in someone’s home and it brings up a feeling associated with something else from years ago. You’ve got to quickly get yourself together sometimes.
“There’s a lot of sadness, even just leaving a visit. You’ve got kids that are screaming out to take them with you; children that are hugging you and you know they shouldn’t be because you’re a stranger.
“Someone could tell you their story and you never could have put two and two together and been prepared for what they are about to say.’’
The study, Understanding Vicarious Trauma, identifies the inspiration that frontline staff take from clients’ small wins, and how sharing their trauma by simply doing their job can be transformational.
“Other professions get tangible feedback around progress, but we get it in a really unique way,’’ Eve says. “Sometimes we’ll get drawings or cards from the kids. It’s always amazing when they give you one and you’re in it.
“And there are the passing comments from parents, that, if you don’t notice then, almost kind of slip away.
“It’s those little glimmers we get. When we see them, we try and promote them and really celebrate them with families.’’
In 2018/19, Family Preservation supported 68 families, including 173 children.
“By the end of the 12-month intervention, we’ve often got families saying `can you stick around’, and that’s pretty amazing when, at the beginning, it was difficult for them to ask for help because in their minds everything was fine,” Eve says.
“There are times you get in the car and you do just drive past the beach or get yourself a coffee to not just disregard those moments.’’
Working as a window-dresser at Myer in the 1970s gave Cilla Rees a unique look at human nature.
Flanked by mannequins clad in high-end seasonal staples, Cilla would watch and wonder about the passers-by behind the glass.
“I would sit in the window arranging the merchandise and be distracted by people going up and down Rundle Mall,’’ she says.
“I could hear what they were saying and I’d try and work out where they were coming from; what was happening in their lives.’’
Cilla credits these strangers for inadvertently inspiring her to step away from visual merchandising in the early 1980s into the often traumatic frontline of community services.
“I learnt a lot from observing people and the situations that I sometimes witnessed in particular between adults and their children. This curiosity led me to reflect upon my own childhood.”
In the years that followed, Cilla worked in foster care, community development, teaching and ran parent participation groups, before she was drawn to counselling.
Cilla joined Centacare in 2001 and is today a Reflective Practice Counsellor with the Children’s Services Unit.
In her role, Cilla supports staff one-on-one to help them manage the personal toll of working with vulnerable families.
A new report, released this week by Centacare and UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, shows that trauma does not disappear when workers go home. It leaves a residual presence that can harm, but also inspire, over time.
The research identifies key protective factors for workers in traumatic environments. These include the `space between’. Time between clients, time for lunch, reflection or chatting with colleagues.
“I’m there to listen and to offer encouragement and support, particularly in relation to challenges,’’ Cilla says.
“Some staff may find it hard to switch off when they go home. Others may be struggling with decisions regarding safety issues for children they are working with which conflict with their experiences of the family, and that can be very hard to deal with on a daily basis when they’re home visiting.’’
Resilience is a common theme too, adds Cilla: “When we’re talking and I’m asking questions, often it’s about their resilience: How did you do that? Where did that skill come from?
“Regardless of the depth of prior experiences, it can sometimes be especially difficult confronting some family situations, likely to arise.
“Giving oneself permission to spend some time reflecting on the situation with the Reflective Practitioner can lessen the impact.”
Through group mindfulness sessions and visualization techniques, Cilla helps staff to balance the tension between the emotional risk factors and the rewarding aspects of their work.
Additional supports include clinical supervision, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and the Worker Security Application which monitors workers’ real-time safety status and whereabouts.
“When I was on the frontline we didn’t have any of the emotional and practical supports we have today,” Cilla says. “I worked with a number of families in quite serious situations.
“One particular time we were locked in a room because the father didn’t want us to leave. That was very scary. Looking back, we didn’t even report it which seems incredible now.’’
Cilla has her own routine for “dissolving work’’ as she heads home each night but adds that this takes practice.
“I never stop learning,’’ she says. “I get satisfaction knowing I’ve added a little bit more on to the work I’ve been doing for all these years.
“I don’t know what the staff I see take away with them, but I’d like to think I’ve been a support.’’
Iesha Hasich is holding peace of mind in the palm of her hand.
She knows that wherever work takes her, cutting-edge technology is keeping her safe.
Iesha is among more than 400 frontline workers who use Centacare’s Worker Security Application to track their whereabouts out in the field each day.
The first of its kind in South Australia, the fully automated app directly connects staff to management and, if needed, emergency support, via real-time monitoring.
Iesha is a Family Worker with Kids in Focus and uses the app to log her home visits to vulnerable families living in the north.
The app’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system enables her to enter information on the go via her mobile phone, including her destination location and estimated time of arrival and departure.
At the end of each appointment, an automated outbound IVR call is made to Iesha, asking her to confirm she has safely completed her home visit.
Staff need just a mobile signal – not a data connection or even a smart phone – to receive this call. If they are out of mobile range, the system automatically re-dials.
If a worker’s safety cannot be confirmed in three phone calls, their status is immediately escalated to management via outbound IVR and email alerts until it is known.
“It’s easy to use and if I forget to sign out, I get a call, so it reminds me to check in and confirm I’m ok,’’ Iesha says.
“If appointments do go longer, I know I have that back-up and that someone will be checking on me.’’
In 2018/19, the WSA logged 16,576 home visits. The app is also used widely by regional staff to log their route when travelling over large distances.
“I always feel reassured when I respond to WSA calls and am able to speak directly with a staff member to ensure they are safe, and to determine what supports they require,’’ says Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager, Children’s Services.
“It makes me think of the numerous high risk home visits I attended over my child protection career with no WSA. There was genuine fear about walking into the unknown with no safety net.
“WSA is a crucial part of ensuring worker wellbeing and safety is at the forefront of quality practice.’’
The app was developed with Microsoft solutions partner, Geomant.
Centacare has procured the intellectual property for the app in the hope of offering the service to other organisations.
“It’s the most important thing we do for our staff because we know where they are, and if they don’t check in, we’ll be able to find them,’’ says Dominic Reppucci, Executive Manager of IT & Infrastructure.
It was the smell that got to Janette Booth-Remmers. The squalid, heartbreaking odour of a family in crisis.
“The smells, they’re overpowering,’’ says Janette, a former Targeted Intervention worker.
“Some of them I can still get back if I let myself imagine I’m there, in that place, again.’’
Now retired, Janette spent more than eight years with Centacare’s Targeted Intervention Service working with families in which early child wellbeing and safety is at risk.
Every week she immersed herself in the challenges of others in order to assist families to address the issues blocking them from making positive choices.
In return, the families rewarded Janette with signs of hope disguised as small, sometimes hardly discernible, shifts in their approach to life and parenting.
But the work took an emotional toll.
Janette didn’t realise how much until a personal crisis of her own exposed the cumulative effect of a career on the frontline of child protection.
“For me it was the death of my mother,’’ she says.
“At the same time I was working with a family with four children who really needed to be removed due to serious abuse and neglect.
“I’d worked with them for a year and built these relationships with the mother and children but I also had to be part of getting their story to DCP.
“It was too much. There were traumatic things in my personal and work life going on at the same time, and it was a moment when you go `I just can’t do it’.’’
A new study, released this week by Centacare and UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, identifies seven key protective factors for workers in traumatic environments.
Understanding Vicarious Trauma, notes vicarious trauma is a `ticking timebomb’ that requires immediate and ongoing attention across the wider community services sector.
At Centacare, the health, wellbeing and safety of staff is safeguarded by a suite of policies, practices, strength-based approaches, training and technology.
“We think we are strong and have it all sorted but it’s a fragile balance,’’ says Janette.
She adds that it all seeps in: The heartbreaking reality of lives lived in chaos, confusion and squalor borne from intergenerational trauma and poverty; the unfathomable back stories; even the unspoken word.
“Some of the stories are horrific – what these parents have gone through as children themselves,” Janette says.
“Some of them can articulate it really well, so you are hearing a lot of detail. Others are more confused and can’t tell you the exact timelines.
“You get flashes of it which makes it even worse in a way because you can’t put it in a package, but then you imagine all sorts of other things to fill in the gaps.
“Sometimes it’s that sense of hopelessness, too, especially when you first meet the families. It’s hard to pull yourself together and `think, no, there is hope, there is a way we can make some change here.
“There is a way of coming through it and being able to work again, but you need that incredible support behind you and that openness to talk about it and feel listened to and heard.’’
Janette is grateful for the immediate support she received from her manager and senior leadership at Centacare.
She accessed the Employment Assistance Program, private counselling, took time off and was slowly re-introduced to her role, which was modified to reduce ongoing risk.
“I don’t think anyone can do this work without the ongoing intensive support,’’ she says.
“You would have to emotionally cut yourself off entirely to not be affected by the stories you hear, and the lives of families you become immersed in. I don’t think any of us can do that. By our nature we care.
“That’s why we are in these roles, to sow seeds of hope and show a family there can be a different way.’’
Centacare staff see and hear many heartbreaking stories simply by doing their jobs. But amidst the despair, hope and resilience can be found.
Their commitment and dedication was recognised today at a special event, `Supporting You to Support Them’, held to mark National Child Protection Week (NCPW) and the launch of important new research.
Commissioned by Centacare and undertaken by UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, the study,
Understanding Vicarious Trauma, identifies key strategies to help community service workers minimise the potential impact of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.
“This is a very important day for us as it embodies our focus that our clients, in particular, the children, are at the centre of all that we do, and we strive to find the voice of the child in each interaction we have,’’ said Pauline Connelly, Deputy Director, at the event at Centacare’s city office.
“But for this to happen we need a band of highly skilled and dedicated workers who in turn need our support, so they can deal with the challenges of their roles as well as the rewards it offers.
“It’s also about us, as leaders within Centacare, making ourselves vulnerable in asking you the question ‘are you ok?’, because we then have to do something with you answer.’’
This year NCPW celebrates the theme that children thrive when their parents are supported.
The report recognises the strength workers take from client stories, and how small wins inspire hope, resilience, self-worth and a sense of purpose.
This was highlighted by staff during a panel discussion at the event, attended by more than 100 people.
“Clients teach me on a day-to-day basis because they are so brave,’’ said Toula Stavroupolos, Case Manager, Outer North Youth Homelessness Service.
“I draw a lot of inspiration from how strong they are when they have gone through so much adversity in life.
“The small wins have taught me no act of kindness is too small because they appreciate it so much.’’
Foster Care Manager Amalie Mannik said the research was “incredibly important’’ for the entire community services sector.
“People aren’t necessarily aware vicarious trauma is impacting them,’’ she said. “This research brings it to the forefront, and we can put processes in place to make sure that staff are ok.’’
Elaine Reynolds hopes the research will help break down the stigma surrounding vicarious trauma.
“It can be seen as a weakness when actually it’s a strength; when you have that self- awareness to know that you’re not ok,’’ she said. “Talking about it as a topic makes people aware that it’s there.’’
National Child Protection Week is coordinated by NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and runs from September 1-7.
Small wins and admiration for clients keep Centacare workers going when trauma and fatigue from the frontlines seeps into their everyday lives.
A new study reveals the strength and resilience of Centacare’s dedicated workforce, but warns the constant demand for their empathy and compassion can take a heavy toll.
The research, released today by Centacare Catholic Family Services and UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise (TAASE), identifies key strategies to help community service workers to minimise the potential impact of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.
“Centacare’s response to caring for staff needs to be as important as caring for the client,’’ says Deputy Director Pauline Connelly. “If that diminishes, the human element of our work does as well.’’
Understanding Vicarious Trauma recognises the strength workers take from client stories, and how small wins inspire hope, resilience, self-worth and a sense of purpose.
Centacare’s internal culture, strong peer relationships, and the need for time and space to help workers counter the emotional demands of caring for our most vulnerable, are among other core themes.
“Ensuring `space between’ is a really important consideration, whether that’s time between clients, time for lunch, reflection or just chatting with colleagues,’’ says Dr Jonathon Louth, lead researcher.
“There is also is strong correlation between compassion fatigue and work satisfaction, which suggests appropriate interventions and support encourage healthier, more efficient workplaces.’’
The research shows vicarious trauma is not endemic at Centacare but clearly illustrates the cumulative effects of working in the sector.
For example, absorbing trauma “through osmosis’’ and sensory experiences, through to regular issues with sleeping, or how a television advertisement “will set you off’’ leaving a worker in tears.
“They represent a generation of veterans who are not returning from war, but from working within vulnerable communities and families within our cities, suburbs and regions,’’ says Dr Louth. “This situation cannot and should not be ignored.’’
The study commends Centacare as a leader in working to ensure the wellbeing of staff but notes vicarious traumatisation is a `ticking timebomb’ and requires immediate and ongoing attention across the wider community services sector.
Key protective factors
The report, Understanding Vicarious Trauma, identifies seven key protective factors for workers in traumatic environments. They are:
Work satisfaction: There is a very strong correlation between compassion fatigue and work satisfaction. The drivers that inspire work satisfaction can be a protective factor in minimising compassion fatigue when appropriate supports are in place. Unchecked, these very drivers can be a root cause of compassion fatigue as workers’ empathetic reserves are at risk of depletion. The takeaway from this is that appropriate interventions and supports will encourage healthier workplaces.
Informal support networks: Peer relationships are vital and are a keystone within this study. However, care must be taken to ensure that traumatic experiences are simply not offloaded onto other staff.
The ‘space between’ matters: Time between clients, time for lunch, reflection or chatting with colleagues all matter. The cult of busy, whether self or sector-imposed diminishes the effectiveness and likelihood of meaningful support practices. Key considerations around support needs to be around the availability of clinical supervision, an authentic organisational voice around self-care, and a policy approach to managing informal support, without necessarily ‘formalising’ it in the process
Boundary setting: The boundaries between work and home need to be protected. Workers need to be able to and be supported to better distinguish between their personal and professional lives. Identifying boundaries lessens the burden of carrying traumatic material outside of the workplace.
Small wins and the client voice: It is imperative that a culture of celebrating wins and the elevation of clients’ voices feature prominently in everyday workday practices. Strength-based narratives can contribute to enhancing and developing resilience in staff and directly contribute to a vicarious resilience informed approach.
Organisational relationships: While organisations require managerial relations, the enabling of a structure that encourages ‘power with’ as opposed to ‘power over’ allows for an emancipatory approach to dealing with vicarious trauma. Freedom to discuss and work through solutions lessens the impact of trauma-based work.
Recognition by funding bodies: In order to protect against the economic and health consequences of vicarious traumatisation, funding bodies must factor protective and predictive strategies into funding arrangements.
A group of northern dads have used their children’s initials to send a strong message about keeping families safe.
Thirty dads and the 78 children they hold in their hearts are represented on the banner, made to mark National Child Protection Week, which begins today.
The banner was crafted at Dad’s Business HQ at Elizabeth Rise Shopping Centre.
Social Worker Darren Clarke says the dads chose simple hearts to symbolise their love for their children, and the need to nurture them and keep them safe – at home, at school, and in the community.
The banner is tied to the balcony of Centacare’s city office to remind everyone that children do well when parents are supported but that parents, too, need support to navigate life’s challenges.
The first space of its kind in the north, Dad’s Business HQ provides dads with a safe space to seek parenting and other supports.
Activities come from a place of hope and focus on building self-esteem and addressing shame through honesty and acceptance so that the dads recognise the value of fathers in family and children’s lives.
“These men face many challenges alone, as they connect with their children, and through the support they receive at Dad’s Business, fully engage in being a dad from the bottom of their hearts,’’ says Pauline Connelly, Deputy Director.
Commissioned by Centacare and undertaken by The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, the study Understanding Vicarious Trauma, reveals the strength and resilience social workers draw from their roles, and explores the cumulative effect of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.
When you’re doing it tough, a bit of help can mean a lot. If you have time on your hands and would like to pitch in to support young people living homeless, consider becoming a volunteer. Our Outer North Youth Homelessness Service would love to hear from you.
“The common reason people choose to volunteer is for a sense of purpose and to make a difference.’’
– Vicki Giacomin, Volunteer Coordinator
Centacare is supported by 80 volunteers who go above and beyond in roles across our organisation.
For the first time, the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service (ONYHS) is looking for volunteers to assist with small administration tasks.
Giving just a little bit of your time could make a big difference to young people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness.
Often they just need help to complete an online form or rental application. Perhaps they lack the confidence to ring a community service provider, or they don’t know how to read a bus timetable.
If you enjoy working with people and are interested in volunteering your time, we would love to hear from you. Every little bit helps! Find out more about the role here: https://www.volunteer.com.au/volunteering/opportunity/137703/admin-volunteer