Stacy’s story

"My kids now know I love them"

Stacy, in her early 30s, is mum to five children. She has overcome a lot to have them back in her life, after a period when four of them were in foster care. She shares about her journey towards becoming a safe parent and reuniting her family.

Stacy grew up with an alcoholic father in New Zealand when the rest of her family moved to Australia. She had her first child when she was just 13 years old. There wasn’t the support for teenage mums that there is now, so she dropped out of school.

Other children followed, but, as a young mum without a good role model, she didn’t know a lot about parenting.

“All I wanted was for them to leave me alone and I didn’t care what they did,” says Stacy. “There was no routine – they slept when they were tired and they ate when food was offered. They didn’t go to school. They just did what they wanted. I didn’t even know how to speak to my children – I swore at them and didn’t know there was another way.”

Another way a better way

By the time Stacy moved into Merivale with her three-month-old son, her four older children, aged from five to 18 years, were in foster care. She was hooked on meth, which she started taking when her violent partner was sent to prison for assault. The six months Stacy and her son spent at Merivale changed everything.

Merivale is a residential parenting programme for mothers with a background of abuse, addiction, or domestic violence – and who are struggling with the challenges of parenting. Mothers receive counselling and attend a range of life skill, self-development and parenting classes.

Stacy says that the addiction, non-violent communication, and ‘Women Supporting Safety’ programmes all had a huge impact on her. But in particular, learning about the ‘circle of security’ and what that means for her children was really important.

“I was a ‘jellyfish mum’ and let them do what they wanted. My five-year-old recently had most of her teeth removed because I let her eat lollies whenever she wanted. I have seen how important a constant routine is, and that they like it.”

No judgements. Just support

“To go to a place which is non-judgemental and where they say to leave your past at the door and concentrate on what’s ahead … it’s life-changing. That’s not to say the programme wasn’t challenging. I had to make so many changes and learn new ways of doing things.”

Stacy now has a sponsor to call on should she start to feel vulnerable.

“Merivale taught me that I have a voice. That I don’t need a partner – I can do it on my own.”

Stacy’s children who are still in care are coming back to live with her shortly.

“We are all so excited,” says Stacy. “I love being a mum and while I know that it will be an adjustment for them, I am ready and can’t wait to have them home again. It has been incredible to see how the children respond to me now that I communicate with them differently.”

Stacy encourages other women in similar situations to make the most of programmes like Merivale.

“My kids now know I love them and am able to care for them. What could be better?”

* Stock image used to protect identities