And grace will lead me home
Read how young mum Jada worked alongside her caseworker Tash to get ready for a new baby and create a safe and loving home for her daughter.
‘I tell Jada that every day she wakes up and cares for Amaya she is writing a new chapter in her family's story.’
If I’m honest, Jada scared me. She was fierce and angry and everything I said would set her off. I would tread gently, but it didn’t seem to matter what I did. It would always end with Jada yelling at me, and me struggling to calm her down. I wanted to understand her feelings and talk it out. I learned pretty quick this wasn’t going to work. So instead my manager and I decided to let Jada scream and yell. If it all got too much I would leave the room for a while and come back later.
Jada taught me that when young people are sitting with deep pain, you can’t always reframe it. Sometimes you just have to let it all come out. Her life in care was tough, no two ways about it. If I was going to be able to help Jada create safety for her new baby, I needed to learn about her life first. Make space for it. Hear her story. It was important that I understood all the times Jada had stood up for herself and fought to be heard. In her own way, Jada was showing me her acts of resistance and strengths. It was shining through underneath all that aggression. Building this relationship was important, but I also needed to find Jada a safe place to live and slowly build stability into her life so she was ready for a newborn.
Jada told me early on that she wanted to keep her baby. Jada’s resolve held me strong in our work together. As an Aboriginal woman, I know all too well the impact that taking babies away from their mothers can have on families for generations. I did not want to bring another Aboriginal child into care unless there was no other option. I had to give this baby every chance to grow up with its mum.
"Picture of Jada holding Amaaya
‘It was important that I understood all the times Jada had stood up for herself and fought to be heard.’
Picture of Jada and Caseworker Tash holding Amaya.
It took a while to get there. In the beginning I felt like Jada’s taxi driver. I drove her to all her antenatal appointments, using the time in the car to try and build a relationship. I struggled to reach Jada or have the conversations I wanted to have. Jada would sit playing with the radio, changing the stations, not looking at me. I felt like a failure.
There was no stopping the arrival of this baby and I wanted everything in place. I felt the pressure of time. Jada wasn’t ready to talk to me and wasn’t ready to take action. I was one of a long list of caseworkers that had been in Jada’s life. Why should she trust me? I tried everything.
'I did not want to bring another Aboriginal child into care unless there was no other option. I had to give this baby every chance to grow up with its mum.'
Pregnancy group conferencing, Family Group Conferencing, consultation with other Aboriginal colleagues. Nothing seemed to cut through. I was working with Jada, but in my mind the whole time was this precious baby. I had no doubts Jada would love her child, but would the risks be too high?
It was after Jada broke down while we were developing the Family Action Plan that I realised I had to work at Jada’s pace, not be driven by my own worries.
Picture of Jada and Amaya at the beach.
'Jada had a lifetime of government intervention so I knew how important it was for her to be in control of her and life and feel true agency around decisions.'
Picture of Caseworker Tash holding Amaya.
Jada got upset and yelled, ‘You are setting me up to fail, it’s too much pressure!’ I realised the long list of things in the plan was not getting Jada ready for this baby, it was weighing her down. So we stripped it back. We worked on three things that would make the biggest impact on the baby’s safety. Jada needed to attend all her medical appointments, develop her parenting skills with an intensive family support worker and start to get help for her mental health.
There were lots of starts and stops in my work with Jada. Jada needed time to sit with things and do it in her own way. I had to walk beside her, not pushing her from behind or running ahead.
She had a lifetime of government intervention so I knew how important it was for Jada to be in control of her life and feel true agency around decisions. Jada often felt judged by some of her family and needed time and autonomy to create a network of people that she trusted. This small group of people supported her at planning meetings, rallied help and came to the birth to celebrate Amaya’s arrival.
Going home with Amaya was a big day for Jada, but there were lots of hard ones still to come. One of those was when I had to have a tough conversation with her about a few worries. Jada cracked it and said ‘Tash, you never give me enough praise for all the good things I am doing!’ And you know what? She was right. I felt incredible pressure when Amaya went home to make sure she was safe. This meant I was paying all of my attention on the things that weren’t perfect. Jada reminded me to see the whole picture, to step back and acknowledge the progress she had made as a mum. I had noticed it, but Jada needed to hear it.
At one point we upped the in-home support to around the clock to help Jada with Amaya’s daily routines. This wasn’t easy for Jada. She was worn down by so many people having their say about her life. Jada showed incredible strength allowing herself to be vulnerable and trust her support workers.
Jada’s confidence with Amaya just shines through now. I love to hear Jada’s insights into Amaya’s routines and development. She is growing as a mum every day. I watched with awe the other day as she took Amaya out for lunch. Jada handled the high chair, the baby wipes, the change of clothes and all the mess that only 10 month olds can make with such gentleness.
We’re still in there for now. We want this family to have the best chance of sticking together. But Jada’s confidence and happiness is growing every day. Amaya’s bond with her mum is so obvious. You should see the way they look at each other! It’s big love.
Jada told me she is scared that one day we’ll be in Amaya’s children’s lives too. She frets that her family will be trapped in our world forever. I tell Jada that every day she wakes up and cares for Amaya she is writing a new chapter in her family’s story. It’s their turn now.
‘Amaya’s bond with her mum is so obvious. You should see the way they look at each other! It’s big love.’