Janette Booth-Remmers has spent the past eight-and-a-half years sowing seeds of hope in homes across the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.
Every week she has knocked on the same doors looking for signs of growth – small wins that show Janette a family is moving forward.
Today the Family Intervention Worker retires with hope of her own as a long career dedicated to making things better for others comes to a close.
“I hope I’ve always shown them that there can be something different,’’ Janette says.
“Even if that’s just been making sure a child has a bed instead of a mattress on the floor; giving them a new quilt and a pillow to say `this is how it can be’.
“It’s those images that I hope will stay in their mind so they always have a glimpse of another possibility.’’
After a brief stint as an accountant, Janette swapped numbers for people, first teaching in a technical school before studying special education and working overseas.
Upon her return to Australia, Janette took up social work and for many years helped advocate for families of children with disabilities, and for greater inclusivity within organisations and schools.
Janette found Centacare in late 2010. Initially she worked with Aboriginal families before joining the Targeted Intervention Service three months later, in 2011.
The multidisciplinary service supports vulnerable families in which early child wellbeing or safety risk factors have been identified. The aim is to build resilience, parenting capacity and connection to community while addressing risk factors, and the impact on parents of their own childhood experiences.
“Each family is a new story but they are all marginalised,’’ Janette says.
“They’re sitting on the edge for various reasons. The common threads are drug and alcohol issues, unemployment and childhood trauma, but the way that is all operating for each family is different.
“Over time, there are families that stay in your mind, sometimes for no other reason than they just have so much to deal with. How do they even get up in the morning? How do they survive one day with that much on their shoulders?
“Then there are the families you meet who are right at that point to take the help and make a change. ’’
Like the mother she worked with from one Christmas to the next who, with Janette’s help, was able to see past her own sadness and make festive memories for her little girl.
Or the mum-of-two who has faced unfathomable challenges for nearly three decades yet still finds reasons to fight on in the belief things will one day get better.
“She is really good at helping me understand what it feels like for her and the children, and that has been a great lesson,’’ Janette says.
“What I’ve learnt from all the families is that we all have to be respectful of other people’s ways of life.
“Yes, we are trying to keep the children safe and show each family a way of reaching their potential, but at the same time there needs to be respect for the way things are for them.
“It’s difficult because our general society will not make leeway; we will apply the same rules to those families, and the same expectations, and in doing that we are really asking the impossible.’’
Janette says she will miss the relationships she’s forged with families, and the tiny faces who greet her at the door who are “exposed to so much they don’t understand’’.
“I‘ve learnt a lot and experienced a lot and I’ve done my piece. There are other people coming through that will offer things to these families that will be different to what I offer, but I don’t think you can go on forever. Partly that’s because of the stories that you hear.’’