After more than a decade of milestones, Centacare’s Targeted Intervention Service (TIS) will end tomorrow to make way for the $20.7 million RESTORE Intensive Family Services, a new direction in early intervention and prevention for at-risk families.

Family Preservation (FP) will also wind up as Centacare prepares to deliver RESTORE in the north and south of Adelaide and Mount Gambier.

RESTORE will build on the work of TIS and FP in addressing child safety risk factors to improve family functioning and keep children out of care.

In looking to the future, Executive Manager of Children’s Services Leanne Haddad today celebrated the past, applauding both programs for progressing innovative, child-focused, and trauma-informed in-home supports for families and children.

“The work that Family Preservation and Targeted Intervention have done over many years has informed our new RESTORE model,” Leanne said.

“The work you have done with the families and the children, the voice that you created for families, the voice that you gave to children that didn’t have a voice, will live on in our new program.

“Thank you for your patience, hope and inspiring commitment to families. You work tirelessly, and you advocate every day.”

Service achievements

Targeted Intervention

Targeted Intervention began in 2009 and for seven years operated within a partnership model with the Department for Child Protection (formerly Families SA).

In 2016, the service expanded referral pathways to target families recognised as requiring earlier intervention.

With ongoing development, TIS was a catalyst for change – adapting flexible service delivery over time and supporting professional growth across Children’s Services.

While some staff have used TIS as a launching pad, others have been part of the service long-term or for its duration.

Over the past 12 years, TIS has supported more than 1000 families and 2300 children across five sites, with more than $30 million in funding from four government departments under five contracts.

Under TIS, families with children aged 0 to 18 years where early child wellbeing and/or safety risk factors have been identified, were supported by a case manager, clinical nurse and a financial advocate.

“The team’s skills have evolved to meet the many changing and complex needs of the children and families we support who have taught us so much in return,’’ Manager Michelle Warner said.

“The flexibility we have had within the service scope, combined with the highly-skilled and passionate team – past and present – I believe, has allowed us to evolve and shape our service delivery to the target group over time.’’


Family Preservation

Family Preservation began as part of the Reunification Service contract in 2013-2014.

As Centacare looked to expand its casework capacity to meet growing need, the team began to build, and in 2015-2016 the opportunity arose to restructure FP as a stand-alone support, separate from Reunification.

The FP model was redeveloped to parallel the successful TIS multi-disciplinary approach, incorporating the role of clinical nurse, and supporting 134 families between 2016 -2019.

FP was granted a one-year extension (2019-2020) after transitioning to the Department of Human Services, with a view to successfully supporting children to remain living safely with their families.

Since 2019-20, the service has supported 114 families and 276 children.

Manager Megan Jones highlighted the strong working relationship between FP and the Department for Child Protection, the program’s sole referral pathway, and its success in addressing complex child safety concerns.

“We have been able to collaborate and partner together to support families with the Department for Child Protection,’’ Megan said.

“Most recently, we’ve been able to expand our referral pathways with DCP’s multicultural team and adoption services, in support of families who have been struggling to manage.’’

“While we are celebrating the longevity and achievements of the Targeted Intervention and Family Preservation services and reflecting on the end of an area, we acknowledge that the innovation of both programs informed the new RESTORE Intensive Family Services program.

“Thankyou Targeted Intervention and Family Preservation for believing in individuals and supporting families to stay together.’’

The five-year-old face of Centacare’s new foster care campaign is one of the lucky ones.

After spending eight months in residential care, `Jamie’ found stability and love with a foster family shortly before his fourth birthday. 

Sadly, he is the exception rather than the rule, as a desperate shortage of carers for primary school aged children in South Australia continues to grow.

More than half of the children waiting for foster homes across the state are aged five to nine years old.

Centacare Foster Care Manager Amalie Mannik said an overwhelming preference for infants among foster carers has made it more difficult for Centacare to place children aged two and up.

“It’s incredibly challenging not being able to place this cohort of children, where the need is and I think this is due to a perception that older children are more challenging to care for than babies,’’ she said.

“But there are so many toddlers and primary school aged children who would be able to thrive and meet their developmental milestones if they had a stable, secure base and a nurturing home that could support them through life.’’

Centacare has launched a new campaign to encourage people to join our circle of care.

The campaign is centred on 18 fictitious characters including Jamie, which also feature in a new logo and program branding. The aim is to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers, and the different types of care that households can provide to help children of all ages.

Amalie said foster carers for children aged five to 12 were especially needed.

“These children are engaged at school, they’re learning to read and write and are at that beautiful age when they can start pursuing activities and experiencing new things, yet it’s very difficult to find them family-based homes,’’ she said.

“Out of all of the children placed within the Centacare Foster Care program, less than half are primary school age, which isn’t reflective of the need.’’

Amalie said foster carers with primary school aged children in their care regularly highlight the benefits of nurturing this age group.

“They support them with their school engagement and have the benefit of being able to gain feedback from the children during meaningful conversations,’’ she said.

“Not having to lift infants is less physically demanding, and they also don’t experience sleep deprivation as they would with an infant if they are waking through the night for feeding.’’

Centacare Foster Care provides immediate, short-term, long-term and respite care for children from birth until adulthood.

The process of becoming a foster carer can take between three to five months from application through to approval.

To join our circle of care, please phone Centacare Foster Care on 81591400 or email


Young  women who have experienced removal of a child or children from their care will be supported in an innovative early intervention service announced this week.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has funded Breathing Space, which Centacare will pilot over two years with up to 15 women aged under 25 years.

Part of the DHS Child and Family Service System redesign, the service aims to improve young women’s quality of life, wellbeing and life skills, by addressing the complexities that may have contributed to their children entering the child protection system.

Some young women may have experienced an out-of-home care placement themselves and/or have experienced homelessness.

“These women are the forgotten women, and the only time we hear about them is when they have the next child, which could potentially be removed,” said Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager of Centacare’s Children’s Services Unit.

“The loss of a child into care is significant. There is a lot of shame involved, particularly with Aboriginal women, and this can lead to other significant challenges that may otherwise never be addressed.”

Breathing Space is based on UK program Pause, and is believed to be the first service of its kind in Australia.

Participation is voluntary and each young woman will be allocated a case manager, women’s health nurse, financial counsellor and a senior practitioner providing wrap-around support.

Breathing Space is underpinned by Aboriginal co-design criteria and will privilege the voices of young Aboriginal women who are engaged in the program to empower self-determination, address intergenerational trauma and promote the importance of culture.

Specialist input will be provided by CatholicCare NT on the Aboriginal Family Coping Toolkit.

Referrals will come from, birthing hospitals, Child and Family Assessment and Referral Networks, Local Partnership Groups, Department for Child Protection and other approved services.

The therapeutic model for Breathing Space draws on the doctoral research completed by Child, Adolescent Psychiatrist and Specialist Therapist Dr Jackie Amos in 2017, and other trauma-related research literature, and clinical experience.

“We want to identify the protective factors that mitigate the recognised effects of intergenerational trauma to increase self-identity, but also safeguard potential future children the young women may have,’’ Leanne said.

“Many of the young women may have experienced childhood trauma and have been abused or neglected themselves or may be in a domestic violence relationship. They are facing significant life challenges.”

“Breathing Space is a time for the young women to focus on themselves, share stories with others to learn they are not alone, to identify better ways to live and develop effective coping strategies.  It is a time or the young women to breathe and find out who they are.”

For more information, please visit our Breathing Space service page.

This week we have had the privilege of hosting Colombian-born Australian psychologist Andrés Otero Forero who specialises in transcultural mental health.

Based in Queensland, Andrés has extensive experience working with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including refugees.

For the past three days, he has been training Children’s Services Unit (CSU) staff in Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), an evidence-based, culturally-inclusive intervention that maps an individual’s autobiographical account of major life experiences, including those that are traumatising.

NET was designed for implementation in communities affected by multiple and continuous traumatic experiences, such as organized violence, torture, war, rape, and childhood abuse.

CSU is working with Andrés to apply NET to a child protection context.

Andrés (pictured with Amalie Mannik, Manager, Foster Care) has extensive experience using and teaching NET, across multiple continents with a wide diversity of trauma survivors.

NET combines a narrative approach with cognitive behavioral exposure techniques to address the neuropsychological effects of trauma and memory on a person’s functioning.

Through this approach, clients benefit from contextualizing their trauma experiences in a holistic narrative that allows them to process emotions related to the trauma.

Research has shown that three to six sessions alone can provide considerable relief and support individual functioning, even in cases involving severe and chronic traumatisation.

Ten CSU staff have participated in the training which has involved a combination of theory and activities including demonstrations and role play.


Foster care is a truly family affair for Marianne Langes.

Growing up, the 64-year-old shared her home with four siblings and three much-loved foster children, whom her parents later adopted.

Marianne is now following in her parents’ footsteps, as a Specialist Short Term Reunification Carer at Centacare.

For the past three years, she has played a pivotal role in a care team that has wrapped around a brother and sister, and their birth family.

The primary aim has been to see the children return home.

Marianne has done whatever she can to nurture the relationship between parent and child, and respond to the children’s often complex needs.

“I’m a single carer who’s never had children so it’s been a steep learning curve, but they’ve changed my life,’’ she says.

“They have brought so much laughter and love into the house. There is never a dull moment. Every day they give me some sort of surprise, be it big or small. It’s just a joy.’’

The pull of familial ties is close to home for Marianne who watched her brother search for his identity in his early twenties.

“I just saw in him that real need to be reconnected to birth family and I think that’s why I chose reunification,’’ Marianne says.

Specialist Short Term Reunification Carers support and encourage family connection and contact for children in their care, and help them to frame meaning about their experiences.

In recognition of the outstanding care Marianne has provided, she was recently invited by the Department for Child Protection to a two-day Adelaide workshop with therapist and international speaker, Bonnie Badenoch.

Bonnie’s focus is on helping trauma survivors and individuals with significant attachment challenges to reshape their neural landscape to support a life of meaning and resilience.

Children in care often face complex challenges due to family complexities and part of Marianne’s role is to help children make sense of events.

“I’ve had to have a flexible brain in trying to sort out what to do with some of the children’s issues,’’ Marianne says.

“The workshop helped me to think how I react to the children and it affirmed some of the things I have done with them and left me with two impact statements – I see you and I am here – and the other is to hold the brain with compassion.

“With the children, I’ve learnt the importance of being present; to just be with them, and that I don’t always need words and to jump on a problem.’’

Marianne is grateful for the support and training she has received at Centacare and highlights the fortnightly home visits made by Foster Care Support Workers.

“That has been really great – the time given to you to listen to you,’’ she says.

“I know it’s about the children but a lot of it is the support of you which makes a real difference.

“I’ve no regrets with anything I’ve done in my life, but this I think has fulfilled me the most and given me more rewards than what I’ve given to the children.’’

A world of colourful creatures greets visitors upon arrival at the new office of the Guardian for Children and Young People in Gawler Place.

From a giant parrot to a castle guarded by a puffer fish with elephant legs, and a dragon-winged pony under a rainbow, the painted murals lining the entrance hall make a bold statement.

On show at the office’s official opening last week, the murals were created by young people in foster care and from the Adelaide Youth Training Centre, in partnership with artist Fran Callen.

Fran has worked as a community artist since 1995 in metropolitan, rural and remote areas of Australia, Kathamandu, New Dehli, Edinburgh, Florence and Singapore.

The artworks showcase the creativity of the young people who painted bits of each mural panel over many months and workshops at the office.

Three children supported by Centacare’s Foster Care program took part in the project.

“The murals are a fabulous, expressive and explicit way for a child’s inner world to shine through for all to see,’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager.

Guardian Penny Wright complimented the young artists on their work before officially opening the office with the help of Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson.

Financial advocacy is helping alter the life course of vulnerable families in a state-first at Centacare.

Financial advocate Jacki Whittington has joined the multidisciplinary Targeted Intervention Service (TIS) on the frontline of child protection.

The unique service model pairs Jacki with families in which financial stress is a major contributing factor to placing child safety and wellbeing at risk.

Working in partnership with a senior practitioner, clinical nurse, and case manager, the financial advocate provides in-home, trauma-informed support to families facing complex challenges, such as intergenerational poverty, financial abuse and rising debt.

A large part of Jacki’s role is to help caregivers to understand their psychological relationship with money – and why they make certain choices that contribute to their financial hardship.

For example, overspending on and hoarding food because of their own experience of childhood neglect.

“You cannot underestimate how much people who have walked a life of trauma, abandonment and deprivation, are at the mercy of government departments and the incomes they receive,’’ Jacki said.

“The over-compensating for children’s birthdays as part of their own sadness; The binging when they get paid because they just want to feel normal; The self-harm that follows when they’re left with nothing.

“The choices they make around finances are just another reactive behaviour, except, with money, it’s make or break.’’

Jacki has been awarded an Energy Australia scholarship to undertake a Diploma of Financial Counselling which will allow her to increase the level of support available to families.

“You can’t make someone change just by saying `this is what you need to do’ because their relationship with money is not the same; you need the context behind their decisions,’’ she said. “This is their walk.’’

Through TIS, familes are empowered to identify and `awaken’ their strengths in order to build financial literacy and competency. In addition, they are supported to develop tools to track and achieve financial goals.

Currently, Jacki is working with 12 families within TIS which supported 150 clients in 2017/18.

Recently she started a weekly financial support group for young women engaged with Centacare’s Young Family Support Program at Malvern Place. The service provides support and accommodation for young pregnant or parenting women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

TIS Manager Michelle Warner said the introduction of financial advocacy had closed a gap in accessible financial counselling for vulnerable and socially isolated families.

“I remember one family where there were six attempts to support them to a community-based financial counsellor,’’ Michelle said.

“Even if they do get to there, it’s an hour-long appointment talking about what’s in front of them – not why they got here or how this has happened.

“We are learning that, just like with families who will share with nurses things that they might not share with case managers, the permission of this role has enabled families to really focus on income and expenditure and explore the why.’’

Centacare will soon replicate the model across Reunification Services.

Case Study

A young family is evicted from their home due to unpaid rent.

They move into a relative’s house but continue to overspend which places significant stress on their relationship.

The children display challenging behaviours at school and appear to have no food.

The mother feels shame.

Jacki begins working in partnership with the family.

She recognises that the mother is spending her entire fortnightly income on groceries.

Jacki supports the mother to understand why she is hoarding food.

This is traced to the mother’s own experience of neglect as a child.

Her way of feeling safe as an adult is to buy more food than the family needs.

Jacki works with the mother to identify her strengths.

Together they develop some simple tools to shift the mother’s relationship from hoarding food to buying less and saving more.

Gradually the mother begins to achieve small financial goals.

She experiences the pride of being able to pay outstanding debts.

This encourages her to keep saving and, in less than two months, she is able to reduce her food bill by more than half.

By understanding her relationship with money, the mother is empowered to make positive change.



Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700

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Wednesday – Thursday | 9am – 9pm
Friday | 9am – 5pm

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