Stories

5 Day Program 2013 - A Parent's Story

Thank you, thank you. I cannot say it enough for what you all have done for myself, Savanna & Seyesta. From the moment I was greeted at the door, there was a special feeling about this place, its so kind, warm, loving and you are all so supportive. I look back now at my life 2 weeks ago prior to QEC, and all I can say is it was one that I knew I couldn’t keep living, and for the first time after four kids I could feel depression. No sleep, or if I had sleep it was broken, the most sleep I ever had this year was five hours but I was up nearly every hour, with one or the other child. The future wasn’t looking happy. Trying to attend university and a mum to four kids, with very little sleep and behaviour issues, due to the result of no sleep.

 

But now after QEC I have gained more than I ever dreamed of: - understanding sleep and sleep queues - support with my child’s autism - better understanding of my children - amazing music experiences that I will continue at home - behaviour skills - I met the most amazing staff and caring people - the confidence to be firm and set boundaries I know if I had not attended QEC that I would have quit university, and my family would have suffered later on due to that. Again for every staff member who opened their hearts and helped me – THANK YOU.

 

Not only will my children sleep and behave better, but I am now having the time of my life and enjoying them, as prior it was screaming day and night, and I didn’t enjoy my time with them. I can actually say I am looking forward to taking my four children out and enjoying our time out, as prior, the children were just so sleep deprived and I was too tired, short fused, and a simple walk to the park was always a nightmare. To every staff member that was a part of my journey, from day, afternoon and evening staff, thank you again for supporting me, guiding me and being a friend when times were hard.

 

I wish I had called QEC months and months ago but didn’t. At least now I have the confidence when I return home to keep in place these new sleeping positions and also make many new changes to better my children’s sleeping and eating habits. Again QEC, you have all given me the best, priceless gift ……. Sleep and better behaviour. So thanks from Kirsty, Savanna, and Seyesta. Thank you all again from the bottom of our hearts.

 

Bumps to Babes and Beyond Program 2013 - A Client's Story

My name is Michelle and when I was 16 weeks pregnant I became homeless. I was staying with my boyfriend’s family, but they were not happy about the pregnancy. In the end things got so bad that they told me to leave. Around the same time my cousin, who worked at MAC Inc., referred me to ‘Bumps to Babes & Beyond’ and MAC Maternity Services.

 

For about two months, I slept on a friend’s couch, it was a tough time for me, being pregnant and homeless, and this was not the kind of life I had planned for my baby. As a kid, I spent lots of time in foster care, and I wanted my baby to have a safe and secure home, which is not something I can ever remember having myself. Because I do not have much family support, my mum has her own issues and my dad lives 700 km away, I really relied on the support that I got from ‘Bumps to Babes & Beyond’.

 

The ‘Bumps to Babes & Beyond’ coordinator not only helped me to find housing, but she also helped me keep my head straight. There were times that I really thought I was going to lose it, looking for housing was really stressful, but having someone there who could help me figure things out and also to understand what effect getting upset might have on the baby was so great. When I was 35 weeks pregnant I managed to find a unit for rent through the private rental market, it’s not that flash but it means that I can start to get a rental track record and hopefully I can move to something better in the next year or so.

 

It was great to be able to get set up for the baby, which I could not do when I was staying at my friend’s house. When my baby, Richard, was born I relied on the ‘Bumps to Babes & Beyond’ a lot. It was so hard in the first few weeks until I got the hang of things. Richard is now 10 weeks old and things are going well. I’m breastfeeding which I’m really proud of. I’m living in my own house and I have lots of plans for the future. I still need support though, but not so much, so I just check in with ‘Bumps to Babes & Beyond’ when I need to, and go to the group sessions too. I’ve met some other mums and it’s awesome meeting people who understand what it’s like to be young and a mum. I would recommend ‘Bumps to Babes & Beyond’ to anyone who needs a bit of support. I’m, so glad my cousin recommended it; I could not have done without it!

 

(NB. names changed at authors request)

Cradle to Kinder Program 2013 - A Client's Story

My name is Alycia. I am 24 years old and this is my story. My own childhood was a difficult time. Things happened to me which I don’t want to talk about and I ended up in foster care from the age of 7 or 8. I had a lot of different carers because of my behaviour which they found difficult to manage, but eventually I was placed with a couple who I stayed with until I was 17. From the age of 17 I lived with friends, in temporary accommodation and at one time I lived in a car for a few weeks. I have a learning disability but still managed to find some work in a supermarket. They said I was too slow on the check out and in the deli, but I was good at counting the stock on the shelves.

 

I met my partner Matt two years ago. He has a learning disability and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It was love at first sight but it wasn’t always easy. We became homeless before getting crisis accommodation with Hanover in Dandenong. I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant. Matt cried with happiness when I told him. I had a difficult pregnancy. It was good to start with, but became more difficult as my blood pressure was really high.

 

DHS child protection became involved while I was pregnant and told me about a program called Cradle to Kinder. It sounded OK as it would give me the support I needed to be a good mother and help me to heal with the struggles of being a mother. I met my Cradle to Kinder worker at Monash Medical Centre the day before I had James. I had been put into hospital with high blood pressure and had an emergency caesarean section as the doctors thought it would be safer if he was born, even though he was 7 weeks premature.

 

I got to know my Cradle to Kinder worker better over the next few weeks as she sometimes drove us to visit James in hospital, spent time with us and helped us to move into transitional housing before he came home. We have more than just a professional relationship. It is a bit more personal. We don’t always see eye to eye and it can be hard to hear that I need to make changes in some areas of my parenting. After our time together though, I do think about our conversations and the changes I can make to be a good mum. I am doing the best I can and know that I’m a good mum, even though I doubt it due to my depression.

 

The best part of the Cradle to Kinder program so far is having personalised support, the socialization of the groups, and having involvement with the QEC 5 day program which my worker referred me to. James is doing well. He’s a happy little baby and looks more like me than anything. One of the most gorgeous things about him is when he wakes up and gives me a big smile. I have good days and bad days with James, but I love being his mum. It’s something I could never have imagined happening to me.

 

My long term goal with Cradle to Kinder is to help me to build on my relationship with James.

 

Daystay Program 2013 - A Client's Story

From arriving at QEC for a Day Stay, it was like arriving home. Lovely, welcoming and friendly staff met us to begin our day of sleep and settling fine tuning.

 

Hugh, our bright and bubbly 8 month old, needed some assistance in independent day sleeping, and we needed some confidence to assist him. Becoming a parent is an enormous challenge and the wonderful non-judgemental support and knowledge, sharing of parenting techniques, has given me additional confidence in terms of future parenting, not just the day settling course that I was actually here for.

 

It’s wonderful to connect with “parenting professionals” who understand the challenges – theoretical and practical – and provide workable solutions for the home and family life. Meeting such caring “parent professionals” reminds me of the importance of our little people. Our society does not value these little people enough. Organisations like QEC provide support to parents to produce wonderful adults of the future.

 

Playsteps Program 2013 - A Client's Story

My name is Mary and I attended an 8 week program of PlaySteps with my 10 month old son, Harry. When I came into the program I was extremely distressed as I had separated from my partner in the early stages of pregnancy, and suffered extreme loss from this relationship as I believed it was a harmonious and committed one. My partner did not plan and did not want to have a child, and I was sure I had discussed the possibility of children early in our relationship. I was devastated throughout the pregnancy and had no feelings of a bond with my unborn child and this continued even after he was born.

 

Through the PlaySteps program I have been able to show my love for Harry after feelings of enormous guilt as I felt I could not give Harry any love due to my circumstances. I did not feel an attachment to him at all. The staff within the PlaySteps team have been wonderful throughout, and have greatly helped me with not only my guilt at not bonding with my child, but also with the breakdown in my relationship. They were very caring and looked after Harry while I spoke with them about my failed relationship. There was never any judgement and they let me speak and listened to what I had to say. This was a great comfort to me, as I often left Harry on the mat and sort out staff to talk to. The staff spoke to me about my relationship with Harry, and let me know that they saw a natural attachment to him even though I did not realise this. They discussed family goals with me to help me feel that natural bond with Harry.

 

Tummies to Toddlers – Promoting Attachment, Engaging with Families and Forming Relationships Before the Baby is Born

The Tummies to Toddlers 2 year pilot program run by The Queen Elizabeth Centre (QEC), commenced in February 2009 with 18 referrals (17 engaged). Twenty-six weeks gestation was seen as the best time to first engage with pregnant women presenting with multiple and complex risk factors. Many of the families involved in Tummies to Toddlers have mental health concerns, drug and alcohol issues, physical and learning disabilities, experience a lack of stable housing and have severe financial hardship. The program uses a relationship and strength based approach. It combines home visiting and fortnightly group sessions and focuses on building the parents’ understanding of child safety, well-being and development; strengthening parent/child relationships and increasing community connections. In particular, it aims to strengthen attachment and provide focused support for the child to remain within the family.

 

Every day offers variety, learning and the chance to make a difference for Rosemary, QEC’s Home Visit and Refugee Program co-ordinator

I see many different people at the beginning and the end of their time with us and you really do see positive steps that, even if small, are real changes. Sometimes mums can’t see it, but I can. Just by the look on their faces or how they’re talking. It might be the smallest thing like having the confidence to walk down to the shops and back and it makes a difference to their lives. It’s a totally different way of working at QEC and one that draws on people’s strengths.

 

We’ve also got time to engage with families. The beauty of that is we can actually sit down together and talk before we start. It’s very special to be let into people’s lives at a time when they’re struggling or most vulnerable. We come in and are with them through their journey. Home visits really tell the story. You see people in their own environment and they’re more themselves. We see many different people facing different challenges in different places. What never changes is that you’ve got to listen. Sometimes that’s all people need. Someone that listens and helps us to believe in ourselves.

 

Spending time with our refugee playgroups is really interesting and so rewarding for me. Our parenting experiences are so different and you can’t imagine the hardships people have faced. Life in Australia is challenging and our playgroups help our refugee families settle in. Getting together to talk with other women has also helped some of our families who were depressed. The kids are wonderful and our music group gets everyone mixing together. The mums love to dance and encourage us to join in too.

 

I’ve learned so much from these women too – seeing their strength and realising you’ve got to relax and can’t always get stuck on procedures. It reminds me that there is always another way of doing things, another way of seeing things.

 

For Lisa, it’s about reassuring and encouraging families so they know they can care for their children in the way that works best for them.

In my work at QEC, I support families and carers with a wide range of parenting concerns such as feeding or settling behaviours. It’s about acknowledging parenting is a difficult, challenging journey but that it’s also exciting and rewarding, and that it’s ok to ask for help.

 

One of the lovely things is seeing mums who come in so flat and talk negatively about life with their families. Then five days later they’re looking bright and bubbly and saying, “I can see there are some great things going on in my life”. It’s great when you boost their confidence, that yes they are a good mum or dad and they can do it. Everyone at QEC is so supportive. We all understand the job, that sometimes you struggle and other times you share the joy of what we achieve. We have that balance of experience and the knack of knowing how to interact with different people at different stages of parenting. It’s a phenomenal team of really great people and that keeps you coming back. There is no formula with our approach. It’s much more individualised and family focused.

 

Sometimes we help a parent get to the right place before we can focus on their child. Other times we will work with their child, set up a reasonable routine and then the parent can tackle their issues. We might have some professional knowledge and experience to share, but ultimately parents choose what they want to do that’s right for their family at that time. We respect what they say because they’re the parent and they’re instincts are often spot on. Parents are empowered and more likely to follow through because they have a say in what they’re going to do.

Rod and Val enjoy getting on the floor and playing with their children, Jonah and Leonie.

Kids don’t come with a manual and we were finding it hard to capture and hold our son’s attention. Jonah would buzz about the place, never sitting still for long. Parenting books we read gave different advice and none of it worked for us. We felt lost and that we’d failed as parents. The QEC PlaySteps program was our lifeline. It showed us how to enjoy playtime and use it to teach our children. Before then we’d never known playtime could have a purpose and could change behaviour. It’s the little things that count. Just to acknowledge our kids are around us and that we’re interested in them says, “yes, we love you and we are here.”

 

Our children are happy because they want to play with us and know we enjoy doing it. Dads normally miss out but when Rod comes home, Jonah and Leonie are excited and say “let’s play.” Dinner can wait a few minutes. With QEC’s support we’re relaxed and we know we can have fun with our kids. There are ways of coping and we don’t have to be perfect parents – whatever that means. QEC made no judgements about us. Staff put their heads together to find a solution for our situation. And we got to test different approaches until we found what worked for us.

 

We learned to use running commentary which means we describe what we’re doing as we do it. We might say, “Jonah’s picking up the blue block and pushing the yellow car.” Kids match the words with the action and it quickly sinks in. We found praising our children for what they do makes a difference. They’re listening to us more and are confident to try new things. You don’t need a Nintendo to play. It’s our imagination that gives us the enjoyment — even a cardboard box makes a great toy.

Elena and Josiah are all smiles when they get up for breakfast these days

We came to QEC for help with Josiah’s feeding and sleeping problems. For thirteen months our little boy suffered from reflux. He was constantly vomiting, underweight and often very tired. Feeding time was a real struggle. So never in my imagination did I think we’d get sleep and that he’d be feeding and into a routine,” says Elena. Josiah’s now happy about eating. He comes to the table, takes in solids and finishes his milk bottles. Our progress has been so sharp and so positive. I’ve now got real expectations, I know what I can do and how my boy will respond. I’m leaving here with a truckload of information and ideas that add up to have a really big impact on making our lives better.” We lived at the centre for five days where staff provided individual support and coaching to help work through our issues. By working together with staff we got Josiah into an eating and sleeping routine. Staff just care so much. They’ve been very supportive and gentle, yet instructive on how to do things. They’ll sit there with you and not look at their watches. It’s genuine. They want to be there and help you.

In QEC’s playroom, Bianca helps parents reconnect with their child and the community.

In QEC’s playroom, Bianca helps parents reconnect with their child and the community. Everyone learns by watching what others do. So in the playroom, parents see how we use different play activities to understand our children and how to talk and interact with them in positive ways. Parents come to me frustrated with their children and tell me nothing is working. Play helps parents move away from focusing on what’s not been working. It’s then we can see the opportunities we have and enjoy getting creative with our child. To see this I only have to bring out the play dough or get everyone drawing. Mum or dad’s hands soon get busy, and they start enjoying it too.

 

It’s challenging to be a parent. You might be adapting to a new country, or as a couple you have different ideas on setting limits for your children. Other times you just don’t know what your child is trying to tell you. We practice together, watching the child’s actions and responding. Every day I see the improvement in each family and child. Families leave the program well equipped and confident to continue their parenting journey. Many families make changes and start to get life back on track. The connections with each other are growing. For our migrant parents, coming to the playroom for the first time is a huge achievement.

 

I can picture their journey because I faced similar struggles when I moved to Australia. You want to make changes but don’t know where to go for help. We help with ideas and coaching while respecting other cultures. In the playroom parents meet other parents and soon their social support networks start to grow. They also learn about support services available close to home. It’s really the same for many other families. Parents are often alone at home and it’s not until they’re with other parents in the playroom that they start building a community of support around them.

Farewell to Robyn

In 2011 we said goodbye to one of our long standing staff members Maternal and Child Health Nurse Robyn Fairweather. Robyn commenced her MCHN certificate in 1976 at QEC, and she loved it so much that she stayed. In fact, apart from Maternity Leave, she stayed for almost 35 years, mostly on night duty. Robyn was the perfect night nurse, performing her duties in a calm quiet manner, making her a true ‘lady with the lamp”.

 

During those early years there was no Worksafe or Occupational Health and Safety, so when she was required to descent the rickety steep old steps to the old boiler she literally ‘took her life in her own hands’. She remembers the time when her nurse’s intuition was working over time, having the feeling that someone was watching the staff going about their duties. Furthermore the cleaners were finding unexplained cigarette butts. Management felt the staff were being paranoid, but sure enough Robyn saw a man one night on the roof, looking in the Mother’s Room window while the Mother’s were Breastfeeding. I can imagine Robyn saying “I told you so”.

 

Robyn continued on night duty when QEC moved to Noble Park, even though she had to stop at every MacDonald’s she passed, for a coffee to make it home. She enjoyed her work with the families so much, that she wanted it to go on forever, however ill health bought an early retirement. Robyn left QEC, after all those years, in the same way as she had performed her duties, in a calm quiet dignified manner. She is sadly missed by all her colleagues who love her, and we wish her all the best in her well earned retirement.