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Salvos give mother and son second chance in life

3 March 2016

Salvos give mother and son second chance in life

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In the aftermath of an ice addition and an abusive relationship, Sarah turned to the Salvos for help, and found confidence and hope.

It was an unforgettable moment, a number of years ago, that Sarah* says “broke her heart”.

As she cowered under her kitchen table, hands shaking as she tried to call the police while her ex-partner and father of her son attempted a violent break-in – a small hand reached out to pat her head, and a tiny voice said: “Don’t worry, mummy”.

Gutted by the terrible realisation of the violence and pain her son Jake* had experienced in his short life, and the fact that he was actually trying to protect her, Sarah knew their life had to change.

Sarah had been a 17-year-old runaway, who soon spiralled into a controlling and violent relationship with an older man who was addicted to ice. Before long she was also addicted.

When Jake was only a few months old, and after Sarah had her jaw broken in a domestic violence incident, she had moved them away into their own small unit. But, after years of addiction and domestic violence, she says she was lost – struggling with agoraphobia, the alcohol addiction that began when she finally beat her ice addiction, and paralysing fear.

Despite her desperate fear of leaving her home, Sarah, who today is a confident mature-age university student, says: “I had actually come with my son’s father to FYRST (The Salvation Army’s Follow-On Youth Recovery Support Team based in Sydney’s West) once before, much earlier.

"So, in a fit of desperation one day, I packed up the pram, walked in, burst into tears and said ‘I just can’t do this anymore’.” She says: “The (Salvos) manager understood. I had gone through a lot of counselling in my life and to have her understand the situation, not just from a textbook, was huge! The first thing she did was hook me up with a young parents group, and we started going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous). It was quite intense for a while and I had weekly FYRST appointments where we worked on confidence, self-esteem."

Sarah was also referred to Salvation Army Emergency Relief at times for food, Christmas hampers and utility bills. “I also did a lot of parenting courses FYRST set up for me, to get my confidence as a parent and because of all the violence my son had witnessed, he needed a lot of help with his behaviour and to get into a more consistent routine.”

Sarah is convinced that without the support, Jake would by now be a highly traumatised child, lost to her, in the foster care system. “He’d have nightmares and real separation anxiety, but now he is just the most confident little boy! He’s come so far. I can’t speak highly enough of the commitment from the Salvos,” Sarah says.

“Jake now has every chance at succeeding at life – he’s like any kid; he can interact with other kids now he has mates and he goes and plays AFL and soccer. Our life is so much different than I thought would be possible!"

In under three years Sarah has completely stopped drinking, she has completed two diplomas in the field of welfare and child and youth crisis care and has started studying for a bachelor of social work. She has also recently undertaken work placement back at The Salvation Army’s FYRST to help others – “a full-circle’ moment”, Sarah says with a smile.

By Naomi Singelhurst

*Names changed

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