There’s no doubt most parents experience testing times when raising children.
Many of us don’t think twice turning to our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends for support.
But sometimes, support networks are lacking, which leaves some of us trying to work out what’s best, on our own.
Mum of five Amy McQuilkan approached YFS when life had reached a low point.
At the time, she and her partner were raising eight children, four with special needs.
She had lost her rental home and was left without anywhere to live.
‘At first, I was frantically ringing up the people at YFS who can access the crisis accommodation database, hoping to find emergency accommodation. I was doing that daily until someone put me through to Step by Step,’ Amy said.
‘Renae guided and supported me from the moment I met her. She has been amazing.’
Renae works in our Step by Step team. She and her workmates help families set up prosperous futures.
Prosperous to us means parents are confident and can manage life’s ups and downs, and children are safe, thriving, health and happy.
‘I was going through a lot at the time,’ Amy said. ‘I had lost my grandmother a few months before. Even though I had stopped contact with her 11 years ago, I suppose I had suppressed my emotions because when she passed over, they all came back. They got the better of me.
‘I started to have conflict with my partner. Eventually, I lost the house that we were renting.
‘At the time I was also the carer for my mum, who was diagnosed with cancer and had heart failure. She was really sick so she was living with me. When I lost the house, I had to find alternative accommodation for her as well.
‘I ended up staying with my brother-in-law and his partner. But it became impossible to live there. I never thought my brother-in-law would strangle my eldest son, but he did. So for safety reasons, I had to immediately send my two oldest kids to live with their father.
‘With Renae’s help, I first found crisis accommodation and then more permanent housing.’
Amy always remembers the first thing Renae did for her.
‘She asked me how I was,’ Amy said. ‘Having that personal connection meant so much. It helped build trust and made me feel wonderful. I loved it.
‘I adore the whole Step by Step team. Renae has that warm, caring side.’
Renae backed Amy from day one.
Throughout the past year, she has introduced Amy to options that could help her improve her housing, parenting skills, and legal and financial situations.
‘Amy has been in charge of her own path forward. All we have done is present her with options,’ Renae said. ‘Amy is the one who made the decision to invest in her own parenting. She was quick to get on top of childcare and school enrolments, safety planning and a lot more.
‘She was the one who made applications for short- and then long-term private and social housing. Also, Amy was the one who realised some financial management tips might help her out, so we connected her to our financial counsellors.
‘We also did something similar when a family law matter arose. Yet again it was Amy who worked with our legal team.’
But, Amy does credit Renae and her team mates for helping improve her family’s situation.
‘Step by Step was absolutely fantastic with what they did for me and how they stood by me,’ Amy said. ‘Whenever something came up, I explained what happened to Renae and she guided me, supporting me through every decision that I made.
‘Sometimes you get so set in your own ways so that when something comes up like a financial change or a personal issue, you can’t always see what’s happening to you clearly.
‘Without Renae and the Step by Step team, I wouldn’t be as strong in myself. They seem to make me stronger and see things in ways that I don’t see.
‘They help me realise that if something doesn’t work, maybe it’s better not to try it again and to come up with another approach. I keep growing with their guidance.’
Now that she has built a firmer foundation for her family, Amy would like to invest time becoming a counsellor.
‘Everyone says I would be a good counsellor,’ she said. ‘I never thought I would, but I can now see that it would be a great thing for me.’
Her next aim is to join the Bump, a mentoring program for young pregnant and parenting women aged between 13 and 23 years, as a mentor.
We know she will make it.