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I got my boy back

It’s easy for things to spiral out of control when you are young, estranged from your family, not going to school and hanging out with people who are encouraging you to make poor choices and experiment with drugs.

16-year-old Brian* was on the edge when he first came into contact with MacKillop’s Reconnect program. The program, funded by DSS, supports families who may be in the early stages of breakdown or at risk of homelessness and encourages reconciliation where possible to help rebuild supportive relationships.

Brian was living with a friend’s family as he had fallen out with his own. His friend’s Mum saw Brian’s vulnerability and looked for a way to get him help. She reached out to the Reconnect program which supports young people who are at risk of homelessness or who have been out of home for a short time, and the first meeting was at the kitchen table with Brian insisting he didn’t need any help.

Reconnect Senior Case manager, Claudia Mayes, spent a long time getting to know Brian and winning his trust.

We had a lot of meetings to build a rapport. We’d go for a drive, stop off at a café for a hot drink or meet for breakfast. Over the weeks, Brian began to trust me, and we developed a very respectful relationship.

– Claudia Mayes

The support enabled Brian to take a step back and look at what he wanted from life.

“We talked about his goals and why he’d had problems at school. As trust grew, Brian opened up about his history and spoke about the family violence he had witnessed and his issues with anger. He was also very interested to hear that we could get him help to deal with his past,” Claudia added.

Brian’s GP wrote a care plan and Brian started to see a psychologist to help him with trauma from his past and equip him with strategies to manage his own anger.

The Reconnect program supports families and encourages reconciliation wherever possible and Brian started attending mediation with his mother. The family mediation, funded by the Family Reconciliation Mediation Program (FRMP), has greatly improved their relationship allowing Brian to spend more time with his family.

Claudia helped Brian restart his education and facilitated a meeting with Brian, his Mum and the school. Brian started attending school regularly and secured a school-based apprenticeship, working at a local Golf Club, one day a week.

After mediation, Brian and his Mum began to repair their relationship and Brian moved back to live with his family again.

As their relationship improved, Brian and his family talked about going to visit family relatives in the Islands together. Before the trip, Brian spent time with his Mum and her partner and developed a deep understanding of the culture of the Islands, different traditions and the importance of respect for elders.

A few months ago, the family went to the Islands and had a fantastic time. Brian discovered a real passion for fishing and went out on the boat with family and friends every day. He developed a new appreciation of the peace and stillness of nature and deepened the bond with his family.

Brian’s Mum told Claudia, “I feel like I got my boy back”.

The Reconnect program has enabled Brian to achieve his goals; he is back with family, engaging in his education, enjoying his apprenticeship and after finishing school, he hopes to get a job in landscaping. Brian also continues to see his psychologist, is no longer taking drugs and is planning for his future.

In Victoria, MacKillop partners with Barwon Child Youth and Family (BCYF) to deliver the program in Geelong, the Surf Coast and the Bellarine Peninsula. The Reconnect program is also available to young people in Coonabarabran, Coonamble and Walgett in rural NSW.

*Name changed to protect privacy