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The missing piece of the puzzle

Father’s Day, a day in each September that we celebrate the heroes who raised us with love and care. A day that tugs at our heartstrings as we acknowledge those who play the role of protector, guide and mentor.

But for some, Father’s Day is a reminder of absent relationships and a yearning to connect.

When 16-year-old Patrick* came into the care of MacKillop Family Services and began Therapeutic Life Story Work he didn’t know his father. When he asked, his mother always said she didn’t know who he was or anything about him. He had so many questions about his father. He felt that a piece of him was missing, and there were parts of him that couldn’t be explained by his mother alone.

Patrick who had spent many years in and out of foster care was led by his mum’s narrative and what she wanted him to know about his past. Therapeutic Life Story Work, a creative process to help young people in care express in pictures, words or colours their feelings about how the loss of family and home has impacted their life, was a safe space for Patrick to look for answers.

Therapeutic Life Story Work is a really powerful way to understand the back story of a child in care. It helped us to identify what happened in Patrick’s past and why it is impacting on his present.

– Patrick’s case worker, Shelby Leech

Through Therapeutic Life Story Work he examined what his early life had been like with his mum and identified what he wanted his future to look like. He was clear that he wanted a future that would include his father. This process - a rare opportunity for a teenager in foster care - gave him the opportunity to truly heal.

Patrick’s Therapeutic Life Story Work practitioner undertook a substantial file review, tracked down letters and baby books and after much background research, identified his dad. The practitioner, together with Patrick’s case manager and child protection worker helped him make the connection and to meet his dad for the first time.

Patrick said, “I immediately knew this was my dad. We had so much in common. I realised he was the missing piece of my puzzle. Through meeting my dad I had answers to the ‘normal’ questions people ask. I found out I have siblings and grandparents”.

Together with his practitioner Patrick began to compile a Life Story book - a record of his life before he met his dad - a record of his journey, a storytelling without the pain.

Therapeutic Life Story Work helped him understand positive relationships and what a healthy relationship looks like. It helped him identify what makes him happy and feel safe. Patrick is now living full time with his father. This year Father’s Day had a whole new meaning for Patrick.

*Name changed and stock image used to protect privacy