I can’t do this. Nobody likes me. Something bad is going to happen.

These are reoccurring themes among clients engaged with Reconnect, an early intervention outreach service for young people with emerging mental health concerns whose housing is at risk.

Mental Health Worker Tasha Palumbo says negative body image, emotional withdrawal, academic anxiety and sleep disturbances are other common challenges.

Then there are the pressures wrought by volatile friendships and complex family trauma including relationship breakdown and domestic violence, key drivers of youth homelessness.

“Young people are often reluctant to burden their friends with their issues so they keep them to themselves,’’ Tasha said.

Reconnect works therapeutically with clients aged 12 to 18 years for up to six months. Interventions include counselling, family work and referral to other services.

On the last day of National Child Protection Week, Tasha is urging families to play their part in nurturing a positive mindset by checking in with young people regularly and connecting with them through their favourite activities.

“Show an interest in what interests them,’’ she said.

“Encourage young people to focus on the things that are in their control and let go of what’s not, such as other people’s opinions and actions.

“Show understanding and compassion, and normalise talking about mental health and daily challenges.’’

Milica Miocinovic (pictured), a Youth Support Worker with Thrive, said anxiety about the future was front of mind for many young people engaged with the service, which is based at headspace Port Adelaide.

“They are uncertain about what they can or should pursue and this is due to a combination of factors, mainly self-esteem and the realisation that many things are out of their control due to the pandemic, and not knowing how to overcome that,’’ Milica said.

Teaching them how to adapt, rationalise, and regulate their emotions are all really useful strategies that will promote better functioning during these times of great uncertainty.’’

Above all, take young people seriously, said Milica, noting the continuing impact of COVID-19.

 “We should appreciate the added layer of complexity that comes with being a young person. That is, the difficulty of forming an identity, being independent, self-assured, and having confidence in oneself,’’ she said.

“These can be challenging for young people even outside of a pandemic let alone now.

“Taking young people seriously is another important one: providing them with a safe, judgment-free space where they can speak for themselves and be heard is integral for promoting good mental health.’’


When financial counsellor Travis Petrovic meets a new family, one question is front of mind: Are they using a pay later service?

Invariably, the answer is yes – and their accumulated debt may be nudging tens of thousands.

As the lure of buy now, pay later products continues to explode, so too does the toll on families engaged with Centacare due to child safety and wellbeing concerns.

Travis joined the multidisciplinary RESTORE Intensive Family Services North team four months ago and works with families to boost financial literacy and “untangle the mess’’ left by the pay later trend.

“In the last 18 months, it has gone gangbusters,’’ he said.

“It’s a really sad cycle because everyone wants everything yesterday and why wait? But suddenly a family could have five, six pay later debts and what they thought was manageable becomes completely out of control.’’

That’s when families start to cut corners and scrimp on the basics of life, says Travis, noting that food and utilities are often among the first necessities to go.  He is currently working with 17 of the 38 families engaged with RESTORE.

“I’ve found many of the same people using pay later services also utilise payment advances from Centrelink which can create a double-whammy to their fortnightly budget,’’ he said.

Recently, he worked with a client with a $40,000 non-secured debt – a mix of credit, from ride sharing services to personal loans.

“The family’s credit rating was poor and I advocated on their behalf to have electricity and gas connected for the safety of their infant daughter,’’ Travis said.

“People’s livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 and subsistence is one of their major problems. They are simply just surviving, so when people offer them these deals, they take them.”

Industry data shows the average purchase made on pay later platforms is about $200.

“This may not read like a huge debt, but when a family has no money remaining at the end of a fortnight, finding enough for repayments can be very hard,’’ Travis said.

Australian Financial Review statistics show that one in five people are missing their scheduled payments, with 25 per cent of all pay later revenue derived from late payment fees and charges. These can cost the borrower up to one quarter of the purchase price every time they skip a payment.

“Some merchants state that once you miss a payment, you can no longer use their service until you catch up with your payments,’’ Travis said.

“The problem is there are no checks in place to prevent debts accruing with multiple pay later merchants after the first upfront payment is made, so, essentially, no one knows how much one person has with each pay later merchant.

“One merchant will lend up to $20,000 for all manner of things from dental work to home repairs. You cannot do the same with a No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) or a StepUP loan – affordable small loans for people living on low incomes.’’

In National Child Protection Week, Travis is urging families to reach out to a financial counsellor for help if they are struggling to manage their money.

“Intergenerational issues such as poor financial literacy increase a family’s risk of winding up in a situation where they’ve got huge amounts of debt through credit, not realizing the ramifications and what it can mean long-term because those things aren’t esplained,” he said.

“That’s where financial advocates and counsellors can come in and teach people about the right ways of doing things.’’

09-09-21 Centacare mental health workers Alex Barr and Caitlyn Woodcock are pushing for a greater emphasis on assertive communication in the national conversation around respectful relationships.

In National Child Protection Week, the voices behind EMPOWERED are urging the wider community to speak up and effect change by standing up for themselves and their rights, while respecting the rights and opinions of others.

“Teaching young people to recognise red flag behaviours is also pivotal because it helps them to set boundaries around what they will and will not accept in a relationship,’’ said Caitlyn, who co-wrote EMPOWERED with Alex.

“I’d like young people to recognise they don’t need a partner to be worthy or ‘whole’, as low self-esteem or self-worth can lead to relationships that are neither healthy nor respectful.’’

EMPOWERED engages female Year 10 students and encourages them to foster critical thinking about gender equity and women’s rights.

The program is delivered in two, one-hour sessions over consecutive weeks at the same time as the girls’ male peers undertake the Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) program. Both initiatives are joint ventures between Centacare and Power Community Ltd.

“We have an opportunity to model respectful relationships when we recognise our own or another’s rights have been violated or disrespected and we communicate that, either through a sincere apology or by stating our needs,’’ Alex said.

“Assertive communication, as opposed to aggressive or passive communication, can empower young people to advocate for themselves and the safety of others.’’

With the support of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, EMPOWERED will this year engage about 250 students at five schools in the region.

“Assertive people communicate honestly and directly which can help to stop unfair expectations around gender norms or roles of individuals from becoming entrenched in a relationship,’’ Caitlyn said.

Involving women and girls in raising awareness of gender-based violence was among five recommendations in a 2018 Flinders University evaluation of PTEVAW.

The research revealed emerging evidence that key messages were being taken seriously by male students who were putting them into practice. For example, challenging low level behaviours by calling out sexist banter, and learning safe ways to step in when they witness inappropriate behaviour.

08-09-21 Centacare Aboriginal Cultural Consultant Les Wanganeen is the metropolitan Kinship Carer of the Year.

Recognised in the inaugural SA Child Protection Awards announced today, Les was applauded for his role as sole carer of his cultural grandson.

Eric Cruz took out the Media Award for his work developing Centacare’s Circle of Care campaign in his role as Foster Care Assessment and Recruitment Officer.

The duo were among a raft of Centacare faces nominated for recognition, with more than 200 entries received across 12 categories.

Dr Jackie Amos and the Reunification team were finalists for Excellence in Child Protection Research while Bindee Davis and Karen Weeks were in contention for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principal Award.

The Awards were presented at a breakfast ceremony at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Les had been planning on retirement when he became a kinship carer five years ago, driven by a determination to keep his then-newborn cultural grandson connected to family, Country, culture and community.

He joined the Children’s Services Unit shortly after and juggles his kinship role with his work within Centacare Foster Care.

This sees him partner with foster families to normalise culture in the everyday life of Aboriginal children in care.

“Cultural connection is about linking children into the bigger picture and establishing their place in the kinship structure,’’ he said.

In raising his cultural grandson, Les has drawn on a long career in child protection and has been able to uphold the ATSI Child Placement Principle.

The Principle recognises and protects the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, and increases their level of self-determination.

One third of the children in foster care with Centacare are Aboriginal, and have a background of trauma, grief and neglect.

“This overrepresentation is the ripple effect of intergenerational trauma’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager, Centacare Foster Care.

Eric was applauded for his work in raising awareness and understanding of the different types of foster care, and the many different reasons children come into care, through the Circle of Care initiative.

Eric partnered with Quisk illustrator Denham Haynes to create the campaign which puts children at the heart of a circle of care and highlights the role of foster families in giving them safe and loving homes.

Carers, children and even a family pet form a ring to symbolise Centacare’s child-focused practice and the care team that wraps around foster carers to train and support them on every step of their journey.

Back stories were developed for each character to put foster care into context for the wider community.

Delivered by the Department for Child Protection in partnership with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations who provide vital support to vulnerable children and young people, and the incredible role of family-based carers and volunteers.

Les Wanganeen’s greatest hope for children in care is that they grow up proud in culture and strong in spirit.

An Aboriginal Cultural Consultant at Centacare, Les cherishes his Narungga and Kaurna heritage and is committed to supporting children and young people to feel the same about their cultural roots.

“When I support children to return to Country,  I see connection, excitement and familiarity,’’ he said.

Working in Centacare’s Children’s Services Unit, Les partners with foster families to normalise culture in everyday life.

This can include researching a child’s background and providing lingual support and other advice such as how to introduce cultural practices and beliefs in the foster home.

“Cultural connection is about linking children into the bigger picture and establishing their place in the kinship structure,’’ he said.

One third of the children in foster care with Centacare are Aboriginal, and many have a background of trauma and neglect.

Les said more Aboriginal foster carers are needed as the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care continues to grow, at almost 33 times that of non-Indigenous children.

“My hope for the future is that there are less Aboriginal children in care, and that those who are have a strong connection to culture and sense of identity,’’ he said.

Cultural pride supports a child’s wellbeing and safety, adds Amalie Mannik, Manager, Centacare Foster Care.

“They are better placed to develop a sense of pride within themselves,’’ she said.

“You need to be able to put your roots down to be able to grow.’’

Centacare foster carers receive cultural awareness training and ongoing professional development, and are supported to develop all areas of a child’s life including family access, social relationships and cultural supports.

Prior to COVID-19, Les ran cultural connection mornings, with Aboriginal organisations and sector partners invited to speak and share their cultural practices with foster carers.

When parents and caregivers misuse alcohol and/or other drugs, children are often denied basic necessities such as food, water and shelter, and may lack adequate supervision and medical care.

Centacare’s Kids in Focus service works in partnership with families to increase parenting capacity, minimise harm caused by substance misuse, and create safe home environments.

Many parents have never known a nurturing, stable environment and often do not allow themselves to see the impact of their drug use on their children.

This can include a lack of play and educational opportunities, unrealistic expectations of the child – including the responsibility for caring for other siblings – developmental delays and mental health.

Parents and caregivers may be more susceptible to substance misuse if they have experienced intergenerational and complex trauma including mental health, family violence and homelessness.

“ It’s tough out there; some people have a really rough ride and their parenting capacity is challenged through their own experiences,’’ said Jan (pictured), a Family Worker with KIF.

“We look at the complexities that sit under the substance misuse to change their children’s inheritance map.

“Regardless of where a parent is at, my experience is parents want to be the best they can be. They love their kids but unfortunately life is such that things get in the way and drugs are one of them.’’

In 2020/2021, KIF supported 101 clients in 32 families. Statistics show:

  • More than 90 per cent of clients reduced their level of AOD misuse
  • 82 per cent of parents demonstrated an increased awareness of the impact of their substance use and the risk this poses to children
  • 90 per cent of children engaged with KIF experienced increased opportunities which have provided them with support to reach their life domains
  • 82 per cent of households improved family functioning

“KIF is unique in that it’s a parenting program with an AOD focus but without the stigma families often feel accessing an AOD service,’’ said Jenny Boyle, Acting Manager, Northern Family Support Programs.

“We can work with families for 18 to 24 months which gives us a real opportunity to forge strong relationships with parents.

“We role model what a good, positive relationship can look like for the families which they can take with them into future relationships.’’

Get involved – National Child Protection Week | #ncpw #ncpw21 #playyourpart

This year’s National Child Protection Week (5-11 September) supports the theme ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go’.

In doing this, NAPCAN is hosting a range of webinars to highlight some of the big picture issues around child protection.

In the coming days, we will contribute to these discussions across our social platforms by sharing the thoughts of Centacare staff who support children and young people.

The discussions kicked off on Father’s Day yesterday with volunteer Andrew Day’s plea to dads to “be a bother”.

The phrase has become a catchcry at Dad’s Business HQ at Elizabeth Downs, where Andrew volunteers every Tuesday.

The father-of-four turned to Dad’s Business six years ago as he sought to rebuild his familial relationships.

Such is Andrew’s belief in the program, he joined Centacare as a volunteer earlier this year in a bid to play a part in helping fellow dads in the north overcome personal and parenting challenges. Meet Andrew HERE.

Collective thinking about how we keep children and safe well is critical. Providing every family and community with the robust system of supports they need, has tremendous power to build critical relationships between children and caring adults.

​​​​​​​#ncpw #ncpw21 #PlayYourPart

Dad’s Business volunteer Andrew Day has a simple message for fathers today: Be a bother!

The father-of-four is urging dads to reach out for help if they are grappling with challenges and falling short of their own expectations as a parent.

“Don’t let things get worse just because you don’t want to be a bother,’’ Andrew said.

“There is strength in leaning on one another for support so you can be there for your kids.

“For dads learning to parent without a father figure, sharing the load is even more important.’’

Andrew was just 12 when he lost his father, a watermaster in the Riverland, to illness.

“Dad worked nine to five but then he’d be on call, so quite often he’d be out flooding paddocks all night before leaving for work again at six in the morning,’’ he said.

“It was rare to spend time with him.’’

When Andrew became a father at 18, his vision was clear: “I didn’t want to become the dad who doesn’t know his kids.

“But low and behold, years later, I realised I was that dad, working 50 to 60-hour weeks in retail and not seeing my family much.’’

The toll of Andrew’s absence at home emerged during an argument with his youngest daughter.

“She turned around and said, Dad, you have no right to comment on my life because you’re not part of it. She was 12 – the same age I lost Dad.’’

It was the push Andrew needed to reach out to Dad’s Business for support.

“I wanted to be a better partner and father; I wanted to take down all the walls I’d put up in the belief that, as a man, I couldn’t show emotion because I needed to be the rock for my family,’’ he said.

At Dad’s Business, Andrew found understanding, new confidence and self-belief.

Based at Elizabeth Downs, Dad’s Business provides parenting and other supports to empower men of all ages.

Activities come from a place of hope and focus on building self-esteem and addressing shame through acceptance and honesty so that dads recognise the value of fathers in family and children’s lives.

“I have learned how to own my successes and failures but also how to be more tolerant of who my children are, to support them in what they want to do, and teach them lessons that embrace who they are,’’ Andrew said.

“The impact I’ve been able to have on their lives by being a better father has had a ripple effect. I can see it in my daughter and the attachment she has with her children.’’

Three months ago, driven by a determination to support other dads on their journey through fatherhood, Andrew joined Dad’s Business in a formal capacity as a volunteer.

“I’d love to think Dad would be proud of the father I am now,’’ he said.


We’ve all been stumped by heavy homework loads at some point.

From tricky math equations to ambiguous essay questions and frustrated exchanges with parents who try in vain to help.

A new homework club at Wandana Community Centre aims to minimise schoolwork stressors through fun and informal extra-curricular support.

The club meets weekly on Tuesday evening, with two experienced volunteers on hand to tackle whatever task or topic secondary students bring.

Up to 15 young people can attend each week.

In addition to homework, students can seek help for emotional and social challenges, and with tasks such as resume writing and job applications.

Supported by Morialta Trust Inc, the group is aimed at students in Years 7 to 12.

*The club meets every Tuesday from 4pm to 5.30pm at 14 Blacks Rd, Gilles Plains. For more information, phone Wandana Community Centre on 8215 6330 or email wandanacc@centacare.org.au

Centacare foster carers Bindee Davis and Karen Weeks have been named finalists in the inaugural SA Child Protection Awards in recognition of their commitment to connecting Aboriginal siblings to culture and Country.

The duo join a raft of Centacare faces in contention for accolades, with the winners of 12 categories to be announced at a breakfast in Adelaide on September 8.

Nominated for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principal Award, Bindee and Karen (pictured) became foster carers in 2019 after a life-changing trip to South Africa strengthened their resolve to help children in need.

Together, they draw on Bindee’s Kuku Yalanji and Nauiyu heritage to nurture the cultural identity of two brothers in their long-term care.

Other Centacare finalists include:

  • Child, Adolescent Psychiatrist and Specialist Therapist, Dr Jackie Amos, and the Reunification team – Excellence in Child Protection Research. In recognition of their therapeutic model of casework that integrates research into practice to assist children and young people at risk to return to their families.
  • Aboriginal Cultural Consultant, Les Wanganeen – Kinship Carer of the Year (metropolitan), for providing a safe, loving and enriching home for the children and young people in his care.
  • Eric Cruz – Media, for his work promoting and developing innovative media opportunities to showcase and raise community awareness about the role of foster carers.

Hosted by the Department for Child Protection in partnership with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), the Awards will celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations who provide vital support to vulnerable children and young people.


Meeting the Challenge

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

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E enquiries@centacare.org.au

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