Leah is a 27-year-old mother who has spent long periods of her life homeless.

She's experienced significant trauma in her life – including growing up with family violence and around drug abuse, and has been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, depression and anxiety. Leah spent much of her childhood in different foster care homes, and later moved between friends’ couches, crisis accommodation, and living in her car.

When we met her, Leah had been in prison for three years.

Her goal on release was to regain custody of her six-year-old daughter, Saskia, and find them a permanent home. 

When we met Leah at her release in July last year, she was withdrawn, disengaged, and disconnected from any kind of support. Despite her mental health diagnoses and history of addiction, she had no regular GP, and chose not to engage with mental health support. She knew no-one in the town she was released to, and initially showed no interest in engaging with the community services that could help. 

But our case manager saw her inner strength.

Our case manager took the time to work slowly, building trust, which allowed Leah to open up. Gradually, after months of regular catch-ups and space when she needed it, Leah was able to tell her case manager what she needed for those first tough months after release. Then, the work of getting Saskia back began. 

Leah was allowed supervised visits with Saskia, which were controlled and monitored by a worker from the Department of Health and Human Services. Leah’s case manager supported her in strategies towards regaining custody: we helped her enrol in parenting classes, which eventually lead her to acknowledge that her anxiety management needed support. We helped Leah connect with a GP and commence a mental health care plan. 

As Leah’s parenting progressed during visits, she was slowly allowed sleepovers – and then in March 2021, Leah was granted full custody of Saskia. 

Today, Leah and Saskia have a loving, engaged and positive relationship. Leah is actively working on strengthening her parenting skills – she has enrolled Saskia in sport and music classes, and reached out to a counsellor at school to support the pair to live together as a family. Leah’s case manager is working to secure them a permanent house, which will provide the stability and security for their relationship to flourish. Leah still works with her case manager – they took Saskia to the playground a couple of months ago, and Leah told us: 

“My experience working with my case manager has been one I’ll never forget. Without her patience and trust I don’t quite know if I would have made it this far. We grew a trust which helped me most of all because within that trust I was able to let her know what the deeper issues were. She let me know it’s ok and here’s how we can get through this hurdle. And she never threw judgement no matter what situation. Without her I’d still be lost. So thank you VACRO for having her to help me when I needed most.” 

More information about VACRO's reintegration support