How Jessica from Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth helps struggling mothers get back on their feet

By Antony Lawes, 22 June 2024
Jessica Mitchell, case worker at Catholic Care's Project Elizabeth. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


A year after joining Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth, a parenting program for mothers-to-be and families with young children, client Holly* is now a more confident mum, comfortable in her ability to be the best parent that she can be.

Over the past 12 months, Holly has participated in regular one-on-one sessions with her case worker at Project Elizabeth, Jessica Mitchell, who has helped Holly cope with the demands of being a mother to a young baby, at the same time as she is dealing with the mental scars of her earlier life in an abusive relationship.

For Holly, the best thing about the program is being able to tell Jessica what support she needs and how she feels comfortable receiving it.

“One of the main things that I find really, really helpful is she just listens,” says Holly, who meets up with Jessica most weeks at a venue that suits her. Sometimes it’s a café, a park, or at her home.

“It’s helped me gain confidence and belief in myself. Eventually, I know I won’t need Jess anymore.”

At the heart of these sessions together is what Jessica calls “active listening, and not so much advice-giving”.

“I’ll always offer strategies that could be helpful, but there’s no pressure to take them on,” Jessica says. “And I am very mindful about things like homework and the reality of having a little one.

“With clients, I work towards a closure date and empower them to realise that they are their own expert.”

Jessica’s sessions with Holly include support with anything from parenting skills and breathing exercises to help organising legal advice or food vouchers when they’re struggling financially.

She says a client’s journey is never a “linear process”, where they keep improving all the time.

“The reality is people do have their ups and downs, that’s just human nature,” Jessica says, adding that her role is to help clients manage life’s highs and lows.

“That’s what comes naturally to me, planting little seeds for them to realise that they do have what it takes to achieve what they want to achieve.”

Even when clients are coping independently and don’t need to see her anymore, Jessica tells them that they can always see her in the future if the need arises.

Jessica Mitchell (left), a case worker at Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth. Image: Supplied

Jessica has been a case worker at Project Elizabeth for several years and Holly is one of a dozen or so clients she sees regularly. This rapport with clients is something Jessica says sets Project Elizabeth apart from other services.

“Clients intuitively know when someone they’re working with is present or not and remembers details about what their experience is, and doesn’t feel the need to ask them what their story is over again,” she says.

Holly agrees that her ongoing relationship with Jessica has been important in her progress.

“Sometimes you have support services you are working with and then quite often, they’ll change staff and you struggle. Then you’ve got to re-explain everything, or you’ve got to rebuild the relationship with that person and that’s not always easy.”

As well as providing help to new mothers, Project Elizabeth supports those who are expecting a baby or who have lost a baby. It also helps families facing economic hardship, domestic violence, addiction, involvement in the justice system, trauma and mental health issues.

The way they provide this help varies depending on need, but can include counselling, therapeutic support, referral to other services and family and group sessions.

Jessica says Catholic Care’s array of services, provided free of charge, is vital at a time when many other providers have long waiting lists or are not taking new clients.

“There’s not a lot of free counselling available to people and especially for that specific group of people,” she says.

“Because I can do the case management side of things as well as the counselling, I think that opens up even more support for people.”

You can support Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth and empower women to navigate the challenges of being a mother in difficult circumstances.

To make your donation please call (02) 8838 3482, or visit


*Holly’s image has been changed to protect her privacy.


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