I am somebody
Be moved by the experience of Jayda, a young girl who has found love, connection and belonging with her grandparents. A story of Aboriginal culture, the power of family love and the importance of listening to the voices of children.
‘Kids need a sense of identity and belonging that can only come from the people that love them most.’
I didn’t know it at the time, but making the call to Jayda’s grandfather Mort was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in this job. I took a chance that day and it paid off.
I’d been so worried about Jayda and her little brother Seth. Things were not great at home. Their parents love them dearly, but were not in a place to keep them safe. I had worked hard to keep the family together but things were getting worse. Their mum and dad had told me there was no family that could help. Foster care was looking likely.
I was at the Family Finding boot camp when I made that call to Mort. I’d been struck by the passionate argument that reaching out to family is the most urgent thing we can do. Kids need a sense of identity and belonging that can only come from the people that love them most, and this is usually their family. It was a powerful message. I found a quiet spot and used the White Pages to start looking for Jayda and Seth’s family.
Picture of Jayda and Mort outside a shed.
Picture of a close up of Jayda and Mort.
I knew their mum had grown up on a remote Tasmanian island and I found someone there with the same surname. It was Mort. He answered straight away. He hadn’t known how to reach his grandkids and he had been worried. I was gently painting him a picture of what life was like for Jayda and Seth when Mort said, ‘Are you telling me the little ones are in trouble?’ I could hear the anguish in his voice.
We got talking and I learned that Jayda had spent some time on the island before. Finding their grandparents was important, but I wanted to find more family for Jayda and Seth. I found other relatives, the most important being their aunt. Mort and his wife Sue needed support too and the more family that can be a part of a child’s life the better.
Tracking down family may seem obvious, but we haven’t always worked this way. When you bring children into care it often happens so quickly – we get focused on who can look after them there and then. Family Finding is not about finding a place for a child to stay. It is about making sure kids stay connected for life to those that love them most. Taking the pressure off looking for a placement means we can find a much richer network of people who are willing to play a role, whatever that may be. For Mort and Sue this meant they wanted Jayda home with them.
It was wonderful to be able to have family ready to surround Jayda and Seth with love and safety at such a hard time. I think about how much more grief Jayda would have felt if I hadn’t made those calls before I brought them into care. Instead, the very moment Jayda came into care, she literally ran into the arms of her grandparents and said, ‘Are you taking me back to my island?’
Picture of Jayda and caseworker Emma Taking a selfie.
Picture of Jayda and Mort smiling.
Jayda’s younger brother Seth has medical needs which mean he can’t live on the island. He is in a group home with support workers who can be there around the clock and keep on top of his many specialist appointments. An important part of Seth’s care plan is to make sure he sees his family — including Jayda, Mort and Sue, and his parents. Jayda is a beautiful, protective sister to Seth and took care of him a lot when they were little. Their special connection is key to their happiness and everyone in their life is committed to keeping this strong. When the family flies up from the island the two kids pick up just where they left off.
We supported Jayda to settle into the island. Jayda is healing thanks to love from her family and some counselling for her trauma. Visiting the island has been an adventure. But I didn’t want the distance to be a barrier to staying connected to Jayda and showing her I truly cared about her.
Jayda is back on country and culture is just an everyday part of her life now. The family has welcomed me so warmly. Even though my time with them is coming to an end, I will always remember the lessons they’ve taught me. That you need to trust in family because they are the best way to create safety and happiness for children. That love and belonging helps guide the way.
‘You need to trust in family because they are the best way to create safety and happiness for children. That love and belonging helps guide the way.'