Emma* came to the Salvation Army Bridge Centre with a complex set of problems.
‘My three-year-old daughter, *Molly, is living in New South Wales with my morphine-addicted father,’ she told us. ‘I need help to stay clear of alcohol and other drugs while I get my own mental health and court issues on track. If I can succeed in beating my addictions, I could reunite with Molly.’
Emma was worried that her own harm reduction strategies had not worked in the past. But she had several positive goals, including secure housing, debt management and vocational training, all of which hinged on resolving her outstanding legal issues and missed court dates.
Our Court Chaplain, Leigh, offered his assistance, and actively supported Emma through the court process until her legal issues were finalised, giving her the opportunity to concentrate on her desperate family situation.
‘Molly’s safety and welfare worries me enormously’ Emma said. ‘This has been a huge trigger for my drinking and drug use.’
Bridge Centre staff encouraged Emma to take care of herself first, so that she could be in a better position to ensure Molly’s wellbeing. This involved creating a care plan for Emma, which included an intensive therapeutic residential program, and medical and mental health supports through the Bridge Centre psychologist and visiting nursing team – all designed to meet Emma’s individual needs. Emma’s grandfather engaged with the Centre’s family support program and was able to learn about addiction, reconnect with Emma, and understand her experiences more clearly.
We contacted Family and Community Services (FACS) in NSW and Emma learned that she was able to collect her daughter from NSW, as there were no parenting or family law court orders in place. Because of their concerns about Emma’s father’s ability to provide a safe environment for Molly, FACS agreed to support Emma and Molly’s reunification.
Frustrated by the difficulty of long-distance contact with FACS, stalled child protection arrangements, housing availability, and approvals for parenting payments until Molly was in Emma’s care, the Bridge Centre team contacted The Salvation Army Supported Housing (SASH) office and the Doorways to Parenting program. The SASH team was able to arrange a furnished two-bedroom apartment in Hobart for Emma and Molly.
Kirby, a Doorways to Parenting practitioner, provided support and further liaison with FACS NSW to develop a reunification plan for Emma and Molly. Kirby contacted the Salvation Army’s Shoalhaven (NSW) Corps, where Lt Sutcliffe agreed to collect Emma when she travels to NSW and to take her to the FACS office. Emergency Relief Services arranged financial support for Emma’s accommodation while she is in NSW, and the Clarence Corps Doorways to Parenting Centre provided funding for her air travel. Clarence Corps Doorways also made sure that Emma had vouchers to purchase clothing, toys and additional furniture to prepare for Molly’s arrival.
SalvoLegal in Sydney provided legal advice regarding Emma’s rights around collecting her daughter in NSW, as well as a referral to Hobart lawyers, Murdoch Clarke.
Emma completed her therapeutic program, graduated successfully from the Bridge program, and moved into her apartment. She is committed to participating in the Bridge Program’s after-care support service, and continues to attend Hobart Corps Recovery Church each week. Emma starts the Doorways to Parenting SPARK program soon, and has ongoing support from Kirby, who confirmed that Emma will be travelling to NSW to collect Molly, well-supported by her grandparents, FACS NSW, and Nowra Police.
With Centrelink assisting in a debt repayment plan, parenting course participation, secure housing, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and good health, Emma is now able to manage the anxieties of her life and is really is looking forward to being reunited with Molly.
‘This is wonderful for Molly and me,’ she says. ‘I am blown away by the efforts people have made on my behalf.’
Bridge Centre Manager, Danielle Cooper, admires Emma’s achievements.
‘Emma had clear goals, and we are really pleased that we have been able to make the necessary connections and give the best possible care to a determined young lady. Molly’s mum is a real star!’
*Emma and Molly’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.