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.’’

Families with children at imminent risk of entering care will be supported to stay together and flourish in an innovative early intervention service announced by the Department of Human Services.

RESTORE Intensive Family Services will operate in the north and south of Adelaide, and Mount Gambier, with a focus on strengthening parenting capacity to improve family functioning and child safety.

Centacare will deliver the $20.7 million service over 4.25 years to address complex challenges and reduce incidents of child abuse in families of children aged 0 to 18 years.

Common child safety risk factors include parental mental health, domestic and family violence, drug and or alcohol misuse, homelessness, financial stress and intergenerational trauma.

Under RESTORE, families will receive intensive six-month in-home and community-based supports.

Priority will be given to children of young parents aged 25 years or less, Aboriginal families, adolescents with complex trauma histories, and families of infants at high risk.

Clients will be referred via the DHS Child and Family Support Services Triage Line and DHS Child and Family Safety Pathway Hub, which is currently being established.

Supports include a senior practitioner, case manager, clinical nurse, financial advocate, Aboriginal engagement worker, and a dads and fatherhood worker.

RESTORE is an evidence-informed model that promotes strengthening and restoring parental capacity to improve family functioning. The service will connect family to natural supports and other help to create a holistic support network.

Executive Manager of Children’s Services Leanne Haddad said RESTORE would build on the work of Centacare’s Targeted Intervention and Family Preservation services, which end on March 31.

Collectively, the services supported an average of 550 clients annually over 10 years.

“While the Family Preservation and Targeted Intervention services will end this month, the practice wisdom and voices of the families we worked with inform part of the new service,’’ Leanne said.

“The families we will be working with have often disengaged from primary and secondary services. RESTORE will engage and walk alongside families to bring services to their homes and build resilience in communities.’’

Director Sarah McRae said RESTORE would give Centacare a vital presence in the northern and southern regions.

“The RESTORE service will lead to a new Centacare site opening in the south in the coming months in what is a vital boost for families who need specialist support to address complex challenges,’’ she said.

For more information about RESTORE, please phone Centacare on 8159 1400.

Growing up, Uncle Frank Wangutya Wanganeen yearned to embrace his linguistic heritage.

He could speak bits and pieces of Kaurna and other tribal groups in South Australia, but longed to know more.

“It felt like I was always using other people’s language,” he said at a Kaurna language workshop at Wandana Community Centre last week.

“When I’d get on a bus, I’d hear other people conversing in their own language and I’d think, gee, something is missing.”

In the early 1990s, as a community push to revive Kaurna culture began, Uncle Frank made his own pledge, in part inspired by Lyn Arnold, then Premier of South Australia.

“Lyn got up one day and just rattled off the Acknowledgement in Kaurna,” he said, adding “it blew me out, it was so awesome to see.”

“We had such a big break in knowing our language after colonisation, I knew I had to go and learn too because passing it on was going to be very important.”

Two years ago, after devoting three decades to reclaiming his cultural roots, Uncle Frank says he finally felt fulfilled.

“The proudest part was seeing my grandson get up in front of 2000 people and do the Welcome to Country in Kaurna language at the Reconciliation Breakfast,” he said.

“That’s when I felt I’ve been completed in what I really wanted to achieve – to pass that knowledge to the next generation. That’s my passion.

“To see that happen was a great moment for me and my family.”

About 20 people including Centacare’s Family Dispute Resolution team attended the workshop, led by Uncle Frank.

A joint initiative between Centacare and the Morella Community Centre, the workshop explored the significance of the Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country, and equipped participants with the skills to inspire further learning at their respective workplaces.

The female voice is influential at Centacare where gender and equality sit together.

More than 66 per cent of our leadership positions are held by women who inspire, empower and support those around them.

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, we invited some of our female leaders to share what they cherish most about their roles, and the difference women can make.


Primary school student Chloe* believes her tablet is contaminated with bad luck, so she has stopped taking it to class. She worries that disaster will befall her family and friends if she uses the device. Chloe fell behind with her studies last term and her parents worry how she will cope this year. The 13-year-old is among an increasing number of young people presenting to Centacare’s PACE service for anxiety-related mental health challenges.

Over the past seven months, demand for support has trebled as clients aged up to 16 years, and/or parents of young children seek help.

Mental Health Peer Worker Alex Barr said obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) was the leading concern, and was most likely triggered by COVID-19.

“As soon as COVID-19 restrictions started to ease, we were flooded with calls,’’ said Alex, who has supported clients as young as 8 in the past year.

“Pre-COVID, OCD was there but not to the extent we’re seeing it now.

“It might be some clients had a predisposition to OCD and because it’s been such a strange and stressful time with new school, hygiene and social norms, it’s been brought on sooner.’’

The indicators of OCD are obsessions – unwanted and intrusive ideas, thoughts, images or urges – and compulsions or rituals, which the person feels they must perform repeatedly in response to their obsessions.

Alex said contamination, fear of getting sick, magical thinking and harm were the most prevalent themes experienced by PACE clients.

In most cases, this was putting their schooling at risk.

“Often they are constantly late to school, or they don’t attend at all, due to extensive rituals before leaving the house,’’ she said.

“Some young people are not able to eat at school or in public, which is causing them social and health concerns.

“Others come to us with severe skin conditions caused by contamination OCD symptoms, such as repeatedly washing their hands.’’

In recent months, Alex has supported an older teen who worries he will hit someone in his car and  repeatedly drives laps of the block to check, while a 14-year- old is fearful of using technology.

“He wouldn’t touch the phone to speak to us or use the laptop to send an email, which made it difficult to provide him with support remotely during lockdown,’’ Alex said.

PACE expects demand for support will keep rising, especially from parents, as the new school year, combined with a metropolitan-wide lack of specialist support for OCD, exacerbates students’ stressors.

“OCD doesn’t follow logic so it can be particularly hard for parents to understand it,’’ Alex said.

“Their parenting instinct is to help when their child is hurting, so often they start to enable their behaviours. They might start cleaning things for them, or buying new clothes if their child says their wardrobe is contaminated, or they might be too strict.

“By enabling behaviours, they are prolonging the recovery process. That can be the hardest thing for parents to understand because, emotionally, it’s very difficult to say no to a child in distress.’’

PACE offers one-on-one support for parents and caregivers of children with OCD or who are struggling with repetitive behaviours.

In addition, young people aged 16 or over can attend HOPE, the only peer-led support group in Adelaide, run by PACE each fortnight from Payneham Community Centre.

*For more information about PACE supports and the HOPE group, please phone 8303 6660 or email



Sarah McRae has commenced as Director of Centacare Catholic Family Services following the retirement of Dale West after 32 years in the role.

Formerly Chief Operating Officer of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN), Sarah brings to community services a wealth of experience in clinical roles, management, education and research.

“I am passionate about creating opportunities for individuals and families, and I value the importance of respecting and treating everyone with kindness – all of these values led me to Centacare,’’ she said.

Sarah began her career as a Registered Nurse at the WCHN and worked for many years with children whom sustained burn injuries.

In partnership with the University of Adelaide, she co-wrote the first Post Graduate Diploma in Burns Nursing for Australasia, and established a now-national Aboriginal burns program in South Australia and the Northern Territory after identifying the disproportionate number of Aboriginal children with burn injuries.

A mother-of-two, Sarah held various leadership positions within the WCHN and said she was drawn to Centacare by its breadth of services: “It is a privilege and an honour to be joining Centacare, and I look forwarding to continuing  to uphold the services to make a difference for the South Australian community.’’

Dale retired in January as the longest-serving director of Centacare.

From 1989, he grew the organisation from 14 to 600 staff who now deliver $52.6 million in programs in support of more than 34,000 clients each year.

Leah Howard’s upbringing is a heartening lesson in what compassion and kindness can do for a person.

Adopted by her mum and dad at the age of just seven weeks, Leah is unsure where she would be today if not for their love and belief.

“They have shown me how an environment, and having stability and a supportive structure around you, can completely shape your life and opportunities,’’ the Centacare psychosocial recovery coach said.

“It’s like sliding doors; I am sitting here today and the light is shining, but without Mum and Dad, I could easily be in the dark with a very different life.’’

On World Day of Social Justice, Leah’s wish is that everyone is treated with empathy and respect, regardless of their background or the circumstances they face.

To play her part, the 31-year-old mother-of-two swapped medical radiation science for social work four years ago, and is completing an honours degree while supporting others on their own recovery journeys.

The NDIS recovery coaching role has been introduced to address a gap in services for people with long-term mental health challenges, which can episodically compromise day-to-day life.

“The people that have supported me through challenges I’ve experienced have showed me how it really helps quality of life,’’ Leah said.

“I’ve learnt that sometimes we have to look for support and accept the help because it doesn’t always come straight to you. That’s what I hope to do for others – bridge that gap”

The United Nations celebrated the first World Day of Social Justice on February 20, 2009.

Every year since, the date has been an opportunity to focus on an area of social justice and how it impacts the world. The theme for 2021 is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’’.

“Social justice is important for acknowledging the power and privilege distributions in the community, workplace, home and really anywhere within society,’’ Leah said.

“Power and privilege comes in various and intersecting ways; it may be inherited, acquired during life, and can also be taken away or lost.’’

Leah is encouraging people to consider how they may be powerful in some ways and less in others.

“Being aware of any power and privilege you have can help you to be mindful, preventing any oppressive actions towards the vulnerable,’’ she said.

“Your power and privilege can come in forms of technology accessibility, skills, money, wealth, education, abilities and experiences.

“Social justice should be everyone’s issue. You can serve social justice by being fair and compassionate.’’


Centacare is playing a key role nurturing the mental health of young people living in rural South Australia. Through the Supporting Children & Youth (SCY) program, we work with families to build their resilience and overcome challenges in their lives.   


Every week, Centacare’s Supporting Children & Youth  team travels hundreds of kilometres to bring sunshine to the bush.

An early intervention mental health outreach service operating across the Murray, Mid Murray, Coorong and Mallee regions, SCY supports children and young people who are showing early signs, or are at risk, of mental illness.

For many families, the free Murray Bridge-based service is their only support.

From Morgan to Pinnaroo, Mount Pleasant and Tintinara, SCY engages children aged 0 to 18 years to improve their wellbeing and overcome challenges.

These include family breakdown, grief and loss, bullying, loneliness, peer pressure, low self-esteem and self-labelling.

“Being the voice for a child is very rewarding as quite often their voice will go unheard,” says Morgan, a Family Practitioner who joined SCY in 2019.

“Engaging and supporting young people to reach their full potential by overcoming short-term anxiety, depression or grief and loss is truly powerful.’’

Through one-on-one and group support at schools, and onsite at Centacare in Murray Bridge, SCY provides intensive long-term early intervention, short-term supports, and opportunities for young people to reconnect to community through place-based activities.

Manager Mark Draper says service referrals continue to grow, highlighting the need for other non-clinical services in the region. Typically, referrals come from schools, service providers and SAPOL. Some young people self-refer.

In the wake of COVID-19, the team has increased its digital capacity to provide on-the-spot paperless support to families to help them overcome the challenges of limited online access and resources.

“Parents and schools are so appreciative of SCY’s support because we will come to them,’’ says Naomi, Family Practitioner.

“When you live in a remote location, distance is a huge barrier to accessing supports for your children if that requires taking them out of school to make the four-hour round trip.’’

Research shows social isolation can exacerbate life stressors in vulnerable families, with the rate of suicide in rural Australia about 40 per cent higher than in major cities. Drug and alcohol use and smoking is also more prevalent.

SCY Family Practitioner Alison feels privileged to work with young people as they navigate childhood and adolescence.

“Just saying to a child ‘buddy, I believe in you’ can be powerful for them and for their parents,’’ she says.

“Some young people have challenging behaviours but every young person we work with is awesome. If they can see this and believe in themselves, and understand how to react in certain situations, a lot of positive change can happen.

“When you support a young person around their unmet needs or goals, they look at you with this beam – it’s very rewarding.’’

For more information about SCY, please phone Centacare Murray Bridge 8215 6320 or email







Sophia Poppe has the world at her feet.

Every day, the Tanzanian Australian connects to different cultures within her role, assessing, training and supporting the many faces she meets through Centacare Foster Care.

More than 15 countries are represented in the program, with many foster children, families, staff, and prospective carers hailing from diverse backgrounds.

Drawing on her experience as a migrant in Adelaide, and as a kinship carer in her native east Africa, Sophia is an understanding voice for all.

“It makes me very proud to see such cultural diversity amongst us because that’s really what Australia is all about,’’ said the Cultural Assessment & Support Worker.

“You don’t have to know about every single culture, but it’s important to feel, and have empathy for, somebody who’s from a culture that’s different to yours.’’

Malta, South America, Fiji, India, Italy and the United Kingdom are among the birthplaces of Centacare foster carers.

Sophia’s role is to ensure that applicants’ screening, assessment and training reflect cultural and ethnic considerations and factors related to cultural competence.

This continues throughout their foster care journey, when Sophia is on hand to work through challenges that may arise due to differences in cultural beliefs and practices or just simple nuances in communication.

“In return, we see in the foster carers a feeling of relief that they are accepted and understood,’’ she said.

“They feel part of the Centacare family – respected and safe.’’

When a child is placed with a foster family, Sophia assists their support worker to nurture the child’s identity and connection to their heritage.

Recently, she advised a family with a young Nepalese girl in their care. She also advised the Centacare support worker on how they could best support the carer.

“Birth parents take comfort in knowing that, culturally, they will not be disconnected from their child because Centacare is providing the foster family with the cultural support they need,’’ Sophia said.

She is currently developing a cultural competence training program which will be compulsory learning for Centacare foster carers, in addition to Aboriginal cultural awareness, which is led by Les Wanganeen, Aboriginal Cultural Consultant.

“Culture is like a tree and we are the leaves and seeds. Though we may flutter across the ocean and land in another country and grow there, our original roots will always remain with the tree; they will never be uprooted,’’ Sophia said.

Magpies captain Cam Sutcliffe is going back to school this week to shape the attitudes and values of young men.

The 28-year-old will spearhead the Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) program when it resumes in classrooms on Thursday to teach Year 10 boys about respectful relationships.

Blackfriars Priory School at Prospect is Sutcliffe’s first stop, with PTEVAW set to visit 13 schools this year.

Six schools will take part in the primary prevention program for the first time.

A joint partnership between Power Community Ltd (PCL), Centacare and the Department for Education, PTEVAW has engaged nearly 7000 15-year-old boys in schools across the state since it began in 2016.

The program is delivered over two weeks, with two by two-hour sessions. Students learn how to recognise and safely stand up to gendered drivers of abuse, and what constitutes a healthy relationship.

In August last year, PTEVAW celebrated its 100th school visit. At the same time, Centacare and PCL launched the EMPOWERED program, which works with girls to foster critical thinking about gender equity and women’s rights.

Sutcliffe will juggle his role as PTEVAW Program Coordinator with his onfield responsibilities leading Port Adelaide Football Club in the SANFL this season.

“To be able to drive the development of young people, not only on the playing list but also in schools, has become a passion for me and I am grateful that the club has given me the opportunity to do both,” he said.

Deputy Director Pauline Connelly is passionate about the program, begun in response to the shocking prevalence of violence against women.

“We are not just introducing students to role models and footballers, we are introducing them to a way of life in establishing and growing safe relationships with one another,” she said.


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 | F 08 8232 8920

Opening Hours

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

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