When you’re a young stay-at-home mum who is socially isolated and anxious, opening the front door to a stranger can be the bravest thing you’ve ever done in life. An introduction to the SafeCare program proved a life-changing encounter for Brooke and her family.
In a quiet cul-de-sac in Sydney’s west, Brooke, a mother of two young children, is opening up about the cracks that appeared in her life. “My depression and anxiety were very secret,” she said. “It was like a double life.”
While her husband travelled more than 100 kilometres each day by car to work, Brooke’s home life grew claustrophobic under the demands of parenting. Her eldest girl had special needs and Brooke often felt out of her depth and burdened. When a church friend became concerned for her, a doctor’s appointment was made. She was admitted to hospital, struggling with depression and anxiety. For three days there was no mobile phone or distractions, “just lots of tears”.
Brooke admitted to ‘putting on a front’ and not wanting people to know about her condition and difficulties. “I became really overwhelmed. I was overloading to my husband too much. My husband didn’t really know either. We were two young people raising kids. I struggled.”
After her respite in hospital Brooke was linked with SafeCare, a NSW Government pilot program that is part of Wesley Brighter Futures at Penrith. Designed for vulnerable families with children up to five years of age, SafeCare runs for between 18 and 20 weeks with a trained SafeCare worker visiting families at home. Parents learn skills from three modules: health, safety and parent-child relationships. Parents get ‘homework’ and one-on-one feedback and counsel from the SafeCare worker.
When Louise from Wesley Mission knocked on Brooke’s front door for the first time, Brooke knew she was exposing her deepest insecurities as a mother and a parent. That first door-step chat saw the two women work on building a relationship based on mutual trust, acceptance and grace. Brooke’s children also embraced Louise’s visits and her compassionate and wise company in their home.
“Having Louise in my home was a vulnerable state for me,” Brooke said. “You have that insecurity but it was the best thing ever. Don’t be ever afraid to share your issues. We all make mistakes on days when you are frustrated, tired and angry.”
Through home visits and completing the SafeCare program, Brooke said she has learned “to interact more with her kids” and provide specific positive feedback. “SafeCare refreshed my whole concept
of parenting and understanding my kids a lot more in terms of play and communication.
“Louise came in and said ‘Look we have this time, spend 10 minutes with them, sit with them, play with them, give them good encouragement, and compliment them.’ That just didn’t boost their play but it boosted our relationship. It made them feel confident. That was one thing that I had to learn.”
Louise said positive feedback to their children underlined SafeCare’s value to all parents. “It’s tuning into their emotions rather than just reacting,” Louise said. “And that’s hard to do in the moment. If you are praising them when they are doing well they are still getting mum’s time and attention for positive things.”
“Brooke was open to SafeCare,” said Louise. “Her anguish as a young parent was a response to skills she simply didn’t possess. Brooke wanted to be a better mum and do things differently. As an in-home program, SafeCare gives parents the confidence to step outside again, knowing they can manage their children in public builds confidence and wellbeing.”
Because of SafeCare, Brooke and her girls have benefited in their relationships. “When Louise came the girls were not in a bad environment but I needed that attention and support to get myself healthy.” Today Brooke is a more confident mum. She smiles with unconcealed delight as she announces that she is expecting her third child. “I never knew I could be stable enough to continue and prepare for a third child. If you had asked me a year ago I would have laughed it off or probably cried.”