The single parent of two was like any “everyday person”, struggling to balance caring for young children with keeping a roof over their heads. When their rental was sold, the family became homeless, moving into emergency motel accommodation. After a sudden decline in health, Cathy woke up in hospital from a two-month coma. Pneumonia had escalated to organ failure, and a lack of oxygen caused a permanent brain injury. Narrowly surviving, Cathy had to learn to do everything again. Her children were placed in care.
On leaving hospital, Cathy returned to homelessness. When the children were returned it was a joyful reunion, but life remained challenging. Learning to manage her disability, whilst dealing with her daughter’s challenging behaviours relating to undiagnosed ADHD and autism, was overwhelming. Cathy’s mental health declined. She and her children stopped leaving home; withdrawing entirely from the community. Cathy began to think the kids would be better off without her.
Local mental health professionals weren’t accepting her referrals and charities said she wasn’t eligible for help. After pleading with her GP, she was finally connected with Lutheran Care.
A Lutheran Care social worker began visiting Cathy through the Home Visiting Program, which supports parents having difficulties caring for children or experiencing isolation. It is run through our Family Zone parenting hub in Ingle Farm. The hub relies heavily on donations from churches and the public, and volunteer support, to run.
Slowly, our worker earned her trust, helping her re- enrol the children in kindy and school, maintain a clean and safe home environment and work to improve her mental and physical health. Lutheran Care’s Emergency Relief food pantry helped put food on the table, and other programs such as Financial Counselling offered tools to improve the family’s situation longer-term.
Sadly, Cathy’s eldest continued to struggle in the new school environment, receiving amost daily suspensions. Lutheran Care helped secure her a place at a school offering better supports for children with complex needs. She now attends the new school every day and has not been suspended once.
Cathy credits Lutheran Care with helping her enjoy life again. They have reconnected with the community through Family Zone’s Neurodiversity Support Group and Cooking from the Heart class, both run without funding to service growing needs in the community. Cathy loves making the other participants laugh with her stiletto-sharp sense of humour, which the brain injury has not affected.
Cathy has been accepted into an intensive rehabilitation program, and is going to a gym. She would love to study again, and rejoin the workforce. As we lead into Christmas 2023, for the first time in a long time there’s a feeling of hope for this little family.
This Christmas, Lutheran Care will assist families such as Cathy’s with food and gifts to bring some joy and lighten the load. Your gift will also fund and expand important programs to help more vulnerable families have a happier new year ahead.
*Names and images have been de-identified to protect clients’ privacy.