About the value of participating in the Safe & Together™ Model Advocacy Institute
“This Monday I was so pumped and ready to make a difference, that I purposely walked around the (child protective investigators’) building following up on the referrals I had received…”
“Immediately, I started using the program by focusing on my participant’s strengths and creating a safety plan around their strengths.”
“Since attending the training, my conversations with survivors have changed drastically and have definitely improved my advocacy skills.”
About our CORE Training in Melbourne
“It was like all these millions of little fragments of thoughts I’d had over so many years, all started to come together as I was given structure and language to describe and formalise that which I have always felt. I have come to a place now where I know the journey is only just beginning for me and that never could I ever walk away from this work, for it will be my ‘life’s work’.”
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services partners talking about the value of Safe & Together
Participant in our CORE training in Australia
“As a high school senior, I was delighted when I received early acceptance into a pre-med undergrad pathway. I thought that becoming a doctor was the best way for me to ‘help others’ and have a ‘higher purpose’ in life. But two semesters into my freshman year, I made the decision to switch to social sciences. I found myself way more concerned with the wider environmental and social factors that had an impact on the individual’s life and wellbeing.
I was very fortunate to land a graduate position with the State child protection agency right out of college, and so began my carer in this field. I was given a position in the Investigations unit, a special team that was embedded within the police force to conduct joint investigations into allegations of child abuse.
Only months into my career, things started to trouble me greatly. I became very disillusioned with what appeared to be such a punitive system, but forged ahead anyhow. Three years passed and I found myself in utter despair. The things we were taught to say to adult survivors and their children, it destroyed me. Women would come to us for help, and we’d in turn make things worse, expose them to their perpetrators, remove children from loving mothers, and condemn families to the harrows of dealing with child welfare in perpetuity. I was done.
In absolute grief I resigned and took up a post with an international aid agency abroad. Only to find that the world of international humanitarianism is not at all what it seems. My experience, at least, revealed a world of corruption, status seeking individuals and money hungry firms. The only thing that gave me a sense of peace, was moonlighting as a singer in a band, down in Nashville TN.
Upon returning to Australia a couple of years later, I decided to go to Grad School to change my career. No more social work for me, no way. Except that I begrudgingly gave in and took a senior social work position with a not-for-profit only weeks after arriving back to Australia. I had to support myself through grad school. I couldn’t get away from this kind of work if I tried, it seemed. And once again I was torn up by the helplessness of women and children at the mercy of “the system”.
Upon completing Grad School I tried my very hardest to pursue a career in journalism and wound up receiving an offer with the ABC. Right before I was about to accept the offer, a former colleague contacted me, offering me a position in the national policy team for a large not-for-profit. After much soul seeking, I decided I should give it a go and turned down the ABC. To this day I am still not sure what prompted me to take the policy job and turn down the journalism gig. Whatever the reason, it was meant to be.
It has been 5 and a half years since I took that job, and since then I’ve moved into various senior policy and development roles. My current post is senior manager for program development at Berry Street. The first and only organisation I have ever worked for that I can truly say cares deeply for the women and children it supports. However, the reality is we’re still bound by guidelines set by the government. Guidelines that are, in reality, completely punitive and in my (personal) opinion, do more harm than good, so much of the time.
In the months leading up to undertaking Safe and Together Core training, I had once again been questioning whether or not to stay within this sector. Now, sitting in senior management, I felt more vastly than ever, a helplessness and even a despair around what it is our system inadvertently does to families. Maybe it was becoming a parent myself that allowed me to analyse such notions on a whole new level. We remove children from their mothers to “keep them safe”, only for those children to end up 100 times worse off by their 18th birthdays because the out of home care system is so utterly broken. We accuse and systemically abuse women for the actions of violent men by taking their babies away from them. We exacerbate oppression (which I now know are called intersectionalities) with rigid decision making tools. As mentioned, I was feeling pretty lost.
And then I came to Safe and Together. At first I felt guilt, a deep, intense guilt, in reflecting on the things I have said to survivors (was taught to say), for the actions I undertook, for the court applications I penned. I felt shattered.
As a woman of Aboriginal decent, I even felt shame for the part I ever played in further oppressing my people by serving as the hand of a punitive and destructive system.
But then you (Sarah) said something very powerful, you quoted someone (whose name escapes me), “when I know better, I do better”. That was so very powerful for me. As I reflected on that over the days that followed, I felt the weight of years of guilt, confusion, shame and regret melting off. But not only that, for the first time in my entire career or education, I was taught to see things in a whole new way, I was given tools to make tangible changes and for the first time I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could stop regretting this career choice because there IS a way forward, there IS a better way to do things and it IS possible to help not harm.
It was like all these millions of little fragments of thoughts I’d had over so many years, all started to come together as I was given structure and language to describe and formalise that which I have always felt. I have come to a place now where I know the journey is only just beginning for me and that never could I ever walk away from this work, for it will be my ‘life’s work’.
I have contemplated PhD work since completing my masters several years ago, and have been approached by a few different professors to consider this path. It is something I know I will jump into when the time is right, and having completed Safe and Together has given me even more inspiration and drive to get to that point one day (hopefully not too far down the track). Further, it helps to give me clarity about what area or body of work I can offer to inform policy and support services for the resilient and brave women and children we all work with.
Most of all though, when I think back to that 18 year old high school senior, who just wanted to have purpose and meaning to her life, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the mistakes of steps already taken (and the lives impacted as a result) will not have been in vain. That for each survivor, child or worker who experiences a better outcome as a result of the development work, policy or research I’ve undertaken, that it will for me, be in honour of those who were wronged in years and decades passed, by a sector that didn’t know better.
But now we, or at least I, know better… we shall ever strive to do and be better.”