A sea of faces beam down from the walls at Hannah Place.
The collage of pictures, polaroids and ultrasound images begins in the hallway and wraps around the corner into the kitchen and living room.
Young mums cradle their newborns proudly. Others show off their growing baby bump and blow out candles on their little one’s birthday.
The pictures tell the story of the young women who are aged up to 18 years, and under Guardianship of the Chief Executive, who find a home at Hannah Place.
Still children themselves, they may be pregnant or parenting and require support to bond with and care for their baby.
“If they have been in care for a while, the young women often find it hard to trust as they are used to a high turnover of people in their life and have commonly experienced a lot of grief and loss,’’ says Tania Williams (pictured), Acting Social Worker.
‘’We work on building that rapport and we never give up on them. That’s what makes Hannah Place different. We consider this their home and often it’s the first place the young mums feel like they truly belong.’’
Making a difference
Many of the young women Tania meets have spent their whole life in care due to unresolved family crisis and complex trauma such as sexual abuse, domestic violence and mental distress.
Homelessness, exposure to domestic and family violence, and substance misuse are reoccurring themes.
Under a therapeutic, trauma-informed and culturally safe case management framework, clients are supported to develop their parenting capacity and mother/child attachment and, if their child has been removed from their care, to work towards reunification.
In 2021/2022, Hannah Place supported 11 young women and eight children.
‘’Even clients who haven’t lived here for years will still call us or come back to visit when they have an accomplishment or they are in a crisis, because they have that trust – they remember that we were the ones that cared and the sense of belonging they felt here,’’ Tania says.
‘’It doesn’t matter who answers the door, even if that young person doesn’t recognise the worker, she will still want to come in and share her story: she’s had another baby, she saved for a car or she got a job…
‘’That’s a measure of success because we have made a difference to how someone feels. I focus on that because the outcomes aren’t always a tick box.’’
The young women can stay at Hannah Place until they reach 18 when they are supported to transition to long-term housing. While some clients leave with a set of clear goals, for others the future is less certain.
‘’Some success stories are young mums moving on with their children in their care, parenting, getting employment and a house and a car – all those things that some of us take for granted or assume just happens for everyone,’’ Tania says.
‘’Others may not have their children with them, but their mental health might have improved, or they have a sense of belonging and they have learnt something about themselves.’’
Tania highlights Binny* who was placed in care as a young child and came to Hannah Place aged 16 and four months pregnant.
‘’Things hadn’t always gone well for her,’’ Tania says.
‘’She displayed all the characteristics of a young person in care and gave us plenty of challenges along the way, but as it got closer to birthing, she accepted our support and worked really hard on relationship building.
‘’She went from Hannah Place into a private rental. She took a photo of herself and her son and penned a letter to the real estate agent saying she needed a place that was stable, because she hadn’t had that as kid, and outlined what she had done with her life to get to that point.
‘’It was bittersweet when she left. She’s had another baby since and is going great guns.’’
Tania highlights the strides taken by another young woman whose child was removed and placed on a long-term care order.
‘’She was so resilient and did all the things required to focus on her child and she eventually had the order overturned and she has her child back in her care now.’’
World Care Day
On World Care Day, Tania is encouraging the wider community to look beyond the surface and take a less judgmental view of young people in all types of care who are living away from their family.
‘’I’d like the community to understand that there are feelings under certain behaviours,’’ Tania says.
‘’These girls are resourceful and resilient. Is life perfect for them? No. But considering their trauma and history, they are doing an absolutely remarkable job.’’
*Not her real name
Pictured: Tania Williams is Acting Social Worker at Hannah Place which supports young women in care who are pregnant or parenting.