Elena was admitted to Psychiatric Emergency Care with intrusive thoughts of being dirty and unclean caused by her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her emerging mental illness was preventing her from being able to care for her five children.
Elena appeared depressed in hospital and told her Benevolent Society caseworker that she had thoughts of harming herself and no longer wanted to care for her children.
She did not want their father to visit and told the nurse that he had been hitting her since she came to Australia from Iraq 11 years ago.
Elena was actually a very good mother and had cared for her children as best she could, but her circumstances meant she could no longer function normally. FACS decided to refer the family to The Benevolent Society Brighter Futures, whose caseworkers specialise in trying to keep families together.
Tara, a highly skilled caseworker from Brighter Futures, assessed Elena and her family, and found that she was very isolated from her community. She had no social circle and no family of her own in Australia, and was reliant on her abusive husband’s relatives for support. Brighter Futures' first step was to introduce a safety plan to reduce the risk of possible harm to her children. This plan included her husband's family, with whom she lived with after leaving hospital. The next step was to increase Elena’s understanding of the impact of domestic violence on her family and to encourage her to end the relationship with her husband. This proved very difficult as she was still living in her in-laws' house.
But with the help of Brighter Futures, Elena stood her ground. She became clearer in her decision not to return to her husband, which for the time being meant that she had to end the relationship with his family. Her caseworker Tara collaborated with external agencies to secure safe accommodation and support for Elena and her children. It can take time to change a situation but the change did come about.
Over the following months, Tara built a steady and healthy relationship with the family, and Elena now trusts her and is able to call for help when required. She had never felt confident enough to ask anyone for support before. Elena now has a renewed optimism and capability. Consistent with her desire for a fresh start for herself and her children, she has engaged fully with medical professionals to help her maintain her own mental health.
Elena has left the abusive relationship with her husband, and through Brighter Futures advocacy has found a four-bedroom home for her family. In term four this year she had the confidence to move her four children to a new school.
Elena's secure relationship with The Benevolent Society Brighter Futures has been pivotal in creating change for this family. As she said to her caseworker, 'you have helped me make the right choices for me and my children and this has changed my life for the better'.
*Names and images have been changed to protect members of the family.