'3 years ago, my kids were removed from my care. It was the wake up call I needed.'

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence that may be distressing to some readers.

More than 46,000 kids are in 'out-of-home care' across Australia.

Out of these thousands of children, only a very small percentage are reunified with their birth parents.

For the past year, Marie has been relishing having her two sons with her again, after having them restored to her care in May 2022.

But it certainly wasn't an easy journey for the family. 

Watch: the reality for kids living in foster care. Post continues below. 

Video via YouTube. 

In 2014 and 2017, Marie welcomed her two boys Mark and Jason with her then-partner. 

Life had been tough during that time though. 

"My relationship with their father was very on-and-off and there had been quite a lot of domestic violence. And when the boys came along, I felt very alone with little support, and my depression got bad," she tells Mamamia

"I was also struggling with drug addiction at the same time. I felt so little control over my life."

In August 2020, when the boys were each just a few years old, they were removed from their parents' care. 


Before the removal of the boys, both parents refused to engage with the department, the state reasoning that the boys were put into foster care due to domestic violence in the home environment, suspected parental drug use, educational neglect and parental mental health. 

Marie vividly remembers the moment she was told her boys would no longer be in her care.

"It was devastating, and undoubtedly the worst moment of my life. I remember going into court and thinking they would come home with me that night. I must have been pretty naïve," says Marie.

"After the children were taken, I was still with him, I still didn't quite understand exactly what I needed to get the kids back. It wasn't until December that same year when we lost one of our [supervised] visits [to see the boys] that it was a real wake-up call."

Speaking with a caseworker, Marie was informed that there was a possibility she could have her kids restored to her care if she did the work on herself.

"I got up one morning, I left their father and I drove to my dad's house. It was from that point where I really started doing everything I could to get the kids back."

Marie managed to leave the relationship with the boy's father for good, worked hard to become drug free and took the necessary steps to address her mental health. There were visits to a drug and alcohol counsellor, relapse prevention meetings, seeing a psychologist, parenting classes and more. 

Now she feels significantly better in herself and her wellbeing, having maintained a drug-free lifestyle for a long time, as well as handling her depression with medication and support.


Another aspect that led to Marie regaining care of her kids was her involvement in the Uniting Newpin Program.

It's Australia's first Social Benefit Bond and aims to restore children in out-of-home care to the care of their parents by creating a safe and supportive family environment. 

It's a program that is led by specially trained staff, and in the past 25 years hundreds of Aussie kids have safely been reunited with their parents. 

Marie began the Newpin Program in January 2022. It involved supervised play sessions at the Newpin centre, weekly therapeutic support groups and weekly parent education programs. 

Four months into the program, Mark and Jason were able to move back home with Marie. It's been a healing time for them as a family unit, her boys now aged nine and six. 

"That was the best day of my life when they came home. I still get choked up every time I think about it. I remember when my eldest first came home, that first night we had together was so special. He was sleeping next to me and I took a photo of us holding hands as he slept and it's hard to describe the level of happiness and relief I felt. It was just a big feeling of peace."

Of course, there are still parenting challenges for Marie to navigate.

Recently, her eldest son was diagnosed with a global development delay and additional needs. 

During out-of-home care, Mark had been getting a number of therapies and supports. When he was reunified with Marie, she made the decision to relocate their family to the area where Mark was receiving these therapies. 


"It has been a little bit stressful and it can be a little bit mentally exhausting when the end of the week comes around. But things are much easier now that we have the services and a medication that works for him," she explains.

Overall though, life feels manageable for Marie. And that's a feeling she's yearned to have for quite some time.

Any parent who has had a child removed from their care will tell you it is one of the most painful circumstances they have ever dealt with.

Marie just hopes other mums out there who are trying to reunify with their kids will be offered the same support and pathway towards restoration. 

"I feel much better. I feel more confident, I feel much happier having my boys with me," she tells Mamamia

"I've learned that support is there if I need it, and me not reaching out for help in the very beginning was the biggest mistake I made. For so long, I felt my life was out of control. Now I know I'm where I'm supposed to be, with my boys, my family and our life together."

*Marie's name and details has been changed for privacy reasons. Her identity is known to Mamamia. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Feature Image: Getty.