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Celebrating childhood this Children's Week

Children's Week 2018 takes place from 19 to 28 October across Australia. It’s an annual event which celebrates the right of all children to enjoy their childhood, a theme close to the heart of MacKillop Family Services, which works for the rights of all children to live their lives in a safe and loving home, where they are nurtured and have a sense of belonging and cultural identity.

One such child is Evan who, along with his little brother entered foster care as he was unable to live safely at home. Evan, aged three, had experienced trauma from an early age and this affected his behaviour. He had been described by previous carers as out of control and extremely challenging. Evan had moved through several homes where carers struggled to settle him before he came to MacKillop, and he and his brother were not able to be placed together.

Life was challenging for Evan. He was a vulnerable little boy who felt lost and alone, and did not trust adults. He struggled to regulate his emotions, and a result would often become extremely distressed, lash out at others and try to hurt himself.

Enter Louise Zalevski, a MacKillop foster carer, who met Evan in February 2018 when she provided day time respite care for his previous full-time carer. The previous carer was at the end of her foster care journey and looking to retire. “Louise, her husband Rob and their four children had decided they only wanted to do respite care during the day and not take on a full-time placement”, said Andrea Hehir, Home Based Care Coordinator for MacKillop Family Services in Geelong. “However, Louise felt a lot of empathy for Evan upon meeting him and felt that she wanted to help out while we identified a new ongoing placement for him."

It didn’t take long for Louise and her family to decide to take on the full-time care of Evan and he can now remain with the family for as long as he requires care. They provide him with a lot of love and attention. Louise is a stay at home mother who says Evan responds well to the one on one therapeutic care he receives during the day. He has settled into their large family unit and is accepted and treated as one of their children. The family are supportive of Evan’s relationship and contact with his birth family and they encourage him with his visits to see his parents.

– Andrea, Home Based Care Coordinator

“Evan came to the office the other day with Louise and the change in him is nothing short of remarkable. Rather than wandering around aimlessly appearing confused and frustrated, Evan was shyly hugging Louise’s leg. He had a new haircut and new jeans on and the smile on his face was so good to see. The sad little boy we had known previously was now a happy and settled little boy, who felt safe and secure with his carer.

“Evan used to run off from workers all the time, but with Louise he listens and responds to her warm and loving yet structured approach. Evan is very well loved and adored by Louise, Rob and their children.”

Evan’s story illustrates the importance of providing a safe, stable and supportive environment for every child so they can enjoy their childhood and prepare for a successful life. To help support Evan’s therapeutic recovery, he will also soon start the Take Two program. This is an intensive therapeutic service for infants, children and young people who have experienced trauma, neglect and disrupted attachment. Take Two is a Victoria-wide service funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

*Model image used and name changed to protect privacy.