50 years ago a teenage girl found herself pregnant, terrified for the future and without much support. Little did she know her baby would thrive and that she would go on to help thousands of other young women in difficult pregnancies.
That young woman was Jeanette Reid, who for the past 13 years has counselled and managed the programs at Project Elizabeth, in the Pregnancy & Parenting Support Service of CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Sometimes Jeanette is giving girls and women a lift to medical appointments. Other times it’s being a warm shoulder for distraught mothers, who may have lost a baby through death or child protection removal.
She really is, as many of her clients say, an angel.
RELATED: Project Elizabeth
Project Elizabeth services are open to all with a child from conception to the age of three. Jeanette facilitates several playgroups with other services, provides court support at Penrith Court House, facilitates parenting courses, counsels face to face, over the phone, in home visits and provides transportation as part of individual case plans.
Jeanette says she has seen “a lot of babies born, removed into care and also children returned.”
When women in crisis pregnancies meet Jeanette, they’re often in shock.
“They don’t know where to turn to and sometimes don’t want to tell their parents. They want someone to listen. You have to wait and it’s about their learning curve,” she said.
“A lot of the time it can be family. Pressures from family, it’s timing. Some of them have had children removed from FACS [NSW Department of Family and Community Services], and they’re just as likely to get this baby removed.”
Many women who are considering aborting their unborn child visit Jeanette. “I have worked with a lot of women who have come in for choice counselling and quite successfully, I might add. We’ve saved a lot of baby’s lives,” she said.
“There’s still a lot of judgment around young mums, people still look down on them and I don’t think anyone has a right to be judgmental.”
If women do have an abortion, Project Elizabeth continues to provide care.
“I know that through my work with Rachel’s Vineyard a lot of girls have been suicidal after abortion,” Jeanette said.
Jeanette worked at Lifeline for several years and has multiple other qualifications in teaching, psychotherapy, among others. She encourages her clients to attend school and further their education to grow together with their children.
Another extremely difficult situation is when a child will be removed for child protection reasons. “The saddest part of my job is when they come to remove a baby. That’s the hardest. You’re not really sure what you’re going to say to the family. You just have to be there to support them,” she said.
One particular case stands out to Jeanette, when a baby about to go home maternity hospital was removed.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, [the Grandmother] was so upset and aggressive towards [FACS workers].”
“The Grandmother was saying ‘please don’t take them, please don’t do this.’ My heart broke for them.”
Jeanette really cares about the people she helps. “They’re very important,” she said.
Her dedication was recognised years ago in a nomination for the ZEST Awards in Greater Western Sydney.
“I love my job, I really do. I was a young Mum too, I know what they’re going through. I’m very blessed. I’m still with my husband and I have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.”
Contact Project Elizabeth for support or to volunteer
CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains
326 High Street, Penrith NSW 2750
PO Box 311, Penrith NSW 2751
Ph: (02) 88432519 | M: 0408 665 171 | www.ccss.org.au