Photo by Tom Sodoge on Unsplash
Growing up in child protection: Sam’s story
Monday 29 April 2019
Sam was removed from his family when he was 1½ years old and put into a long-term placement with a male carer. Even though he knew he was Aboriginal, he grew up with little cultural awareness. “Being Aboriginal, I didn’t see it as a big thing at first,” Sam said.
There was no support from Government or social services to maintain his cultural identity and connections. “I know that my cultural plan only has my name on it.”
During this time, Sam did initially have contact with his parents, but there was no effort to include his broader family network.
“An NGO worker would come, pick me up, take me to my parents and we’d go out or do something fun, or something like that. But there was this one time where it went really bad and it really affected my mental state.”
This led to a difficult period for Sam. “I went to see a counsellor but I never told anyone about suicide or stuff like that. I kept everyone in the dark and I don’t really get along with counsellors, so I’d go to one or two sessions and that would be that”.
“One of my troubles was that I’d get too attached to my caseworker, and then that worker would just leave. I started lashing out and I take full responsibility for that to this day. I guess it was sad to see the way that it ended up”.
Neither Sam nor his carer received the support they needed to work through the unresolved trauma Sam was facing, and the pressure on the placement grew. Eventually, after 12 years of living with his carer, Sam’s placement broke down.
After a short unsuccessful placement with a family that was verbally and physically abusive, Sam ended up in residential care.
“They told me that residential care was now my new home. It wasn’t. Anyone who has been to residential care would tell you that it’s a very scary, vulnerable environment for a sheltered child. You’re living in a house with many other young people who have some terrible behaviours and lash out at staff, the property and other clients.”
Sam stayed in residential care for just under three years. During this time he started to heal by engaging more with his family and his Aboriginal culture.
“I slowly started picking it up. For most of my life I didn’t make an effort with any of my family, but I’ve been trying.”
Sam finally decided to live with his relatives, who he had grown close to in Sydney. But again, there was not sufficient support provided for Sam and his family to settle and heal.
“They [caseworkers] had just come up and looked at the property, spoke to me, spoke to them and that was it. They were still connected, but not as much. When I started to have these problems, I spoke to my Case Manager, “Jack, I don’t think the placement is working.”
Even though the placement didn’t work out and Sam ended up having to return to Melbourne, he is doing well and the future’s looking pretty bright. “My education is very important and I want to be part of that very small statistics that completes Year 12.”
He has also become an advocate for Aboriginal children and young people, speaking about the issues they face and what needs to change. He also remains committed to building relationships with his family.
“Because at the end of the day, when people weren’t there to look after me, they were the ones that stood by me and still stand by me to this day, and family’s a lot. Whether it’s blood or people that you call your family. Family is family, and if you put them through hell and they stand by you, shows that they’re actually there for you. Do you know what I’m saying?"
Please sign AbSec’s petition to keep Aboriginal kids safe in their own community and culture: https://absec.org.au/sign.