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.’’