Bridget Chambers is a Children’s Worker at Coolock House, a support accommodation service for young pregnant or parenting women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Through Centacare’s Young Family Support Program (YFSP), Bridget (pictured) works with children, and women and girls aged 25 or under who have experienced domestic or sexual violence. Often the children have witnessed their mother’s abuse.
The YFSP operates across four metropolitan sites. Attendance data shows that while 40 per cent of girls were referred to the YFSP in 2015/16 because of domestic violence, more than 80 per cent later disclosed they had experienced abuse.
Bridget’s role is being highlighted as part of the UN #16daysofactivism and #orangetheworld campaign.
My professional background is early childhood education and I have post graduate qualifications in special education and counselling.
After many years working in the education system, I moved towards community development in challenging environments. I was driven by a passion for supporting parents and families to journey through ordinary and extraordinary difficulties.
I believe that we all do better – and are better – when we know we are connected and cared about, and have a valued part to play in a healthy community. It is my hope that the families I work with will, in time, come to experience this.
I have been in this role for the past nine years. Each day, each situation and each client is unique.
The families I work with have a range of strengths and challenges and their children manage difficult experiences in various ways. Some children may be withdrawn or have developmental delay, or they may show great resilience. Some will quickly engage and others will take longer.
Most of our families have long histories of a wide range of challenges. Many of the children have experienced significant trauma and or neglect. When they come to our service they may be at varying stages of readiness to work at moving forward.
Some families are connected to us for only a few days or weeks and others remain connected for several years.
I attempt to give the families safe time and spaces to be together and play and experience more and more moments of delight in each other.
I encourage mums to reflect on areas of parenting they find challenging, and attempt to enrich their parenting knowledge, confidence and resources in various ways.
I start each day or night shift being as prepared as I can for whatever may come my way.
There are a lot of incidental interactions, one-on-one play sessions, as well as group activities.
Sometimes I plan for things to happen and other times I endeavour to make the most of whatever opportunities arise.
Often work is very busy with various competing demands. On more quiet days, I try and take a moment to reflect and debrief, and ready myself for the next opportunity or challenge.
Sometimes it is easy to see the significant difference Centacare’s support has made to children and their mums.
When this is not so clear, I plod on in hope, seeking wisdom for whatever will come next.