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My name is Dale, and I have participated in parenting and family programs provided by CatholicCare.
Since the age of 15, drugs and alcohol were a large part of my life. After an abusive childhood, I turned to them to numb the pain and the drinking got bad.
But then I met my now partner, Sharen, and things changed.
At the time, Sharen said, “If you’re going to be in my life and my kids’ lives, you’re going to have to think about what you want to do.”
At that point, I realised I had one choice – to push all the alcohol and drugs away; as well as the bad people.
When I moved in with Sharen six years ago, she had a 14-year-old daughter, Shauna, with her other children in care. It was hard to be a stepfather because I was taking over someone else’s position.
I showed them that I was there for both of them, I was going to care for them.
I said, “I’m here because I care for you and want everyone to get back on track.”
After getting a job, I could provide for Sharen and Shauna. I gave them what I could, so they could be happy.
In 2016, Sharen and I approached CatholicCare for help and we did a range of family support courses with Frances Pegrum. The videos, paperwork and everything else that we’ve learnt were very helpful.
Sharen and I decided to try and have a child of our own. After five years of trying, we’d almost given up hope. When Sharen surprisingly fell pregnant, we contacted CatholicCare again and met Natalie Jacobi from the Project Elizabeth pregnancy support service. The way Natalie helped us, she was brilliant. She was very supportive and helped us a lot, including when we were meeting with doctors and Family and Community Services, just to have everything in place.
Nothing could prepare me for the day when Sharen had baby Jackson, though. It was very hard for me, because Sharen almost passed away and we nearly lost our baby.
After Jackson was born, we had a meeting with Family and Community Services, and they told us that they didn’t need to work with us anymore because we were doing everything so well.
I don’t know where I’d be today if Jackson was taken away. It would have been hard for me. I’d like to give Jackson a good life, because my life wasn’t too good. All I want for my son is to be around good people and to point him in a good direction as he gets older.
Jackson is a big part of my life, and Sharen’s changed my life. When I wake up and go to sleep, it just makes me feel happy.
The people at CatholicCare are just beautiful. I’ve never met people like these before. Frances and Natalie are so helpful. If I could have them around for a long time, I would. They’re very helpful and amazing people.
Sharen and I could not have done it without the support of CatholicCare.
You can give help, and hope, to people like Dale and Sharen, and connect them with the support and services they need to live their lives in love and joy.
This Christmas, let us unite in demonstrating God’s unconditional love and keep families together, by giving generously to the Bishop’s Christmas Appeal.
To donate to the Parramatta Catholic Foundation Bishop’s Christmas Appeal, visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/appeal