Offering children a way out of trauma

By Jason Oldridge, 19 September 2020
Jason Oldridge, Chief Executive Officer at Family Spirit. Image: The Catholic Weekly/Supplied.


Working with vulnerable children and families is challenging but a task that is completed by Family Spirit staff and our sector colleagues every single day.

Some days it can be easy to get lost in the stories of neglect, abuse and despair and they do prompt the sleepless nights and watery eyes as you get a sense of their experience and the pain they have experienced.

Every single day, I am determined to look for hope and make a positive difference in someone’s day.

I am proud to lead the team at Family Spirit who without judgement stands side by side with the vulnerable children and families to let them know that they matter (Mathew 7:12, “so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”). I would like to think that if I was ever in the same situation somebody would stand beside me.

I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney in what I would call a middle-class family surrounded by other middle-class families and families experiencing considerable poverty, violence and crime.

These families included my friends and classmates so I feel like I grew up with a real-world perspective of what some families experienced daily.

My parents were good people and always encouraged my brothers and me to help others. As a result, the foster care system was attractive to them as they could help others in their local community.

My real-world perspective was further developed when my two eldest brothers decided to move out of home and as a 10-year-old I found myself with a foster brother and very soon after a foster sister.

I quickly took on the role of protector and counsellor as I was regularly called out of class to talk my foster brother off the roof or step in front of the school bully who was just about to punch my brother for some sort of unexplained outburst.

I’m sure my words were not the same then as they are now but this early learning allowed me to develop patience, empathy and understanding for things you sometimes cannot explain, fix or control.

I am always excited when I hear about the great work that Family Spirit staff has delivered to our children and families and the positive outcomes they achieve.

I am forever inspired by the resilience that our children and families demonstrate and often reflect on where I would be if I was in their shoes.

The majority of the children and families we work with have experienced some sort of childhood trauma or abuse. Our carers understand that despite their trauma, the children are not broken and don’t need fixing, but instead need us to display empathy and understanding.

The brilliant child psychiatrist Bruce Perry says “the most therapeutic experiences do not take place in ‘therapy,’ but in naturally occurring healthy relationships….what works best is anything that increases the quality and number of relationships in the child’s life”.

Our aim is to develop Family Spirit into an agency that promotes naturally occurring healthy relationships with staff, children, families, carers and our sector colleagues.

Jason Oldridge is the Chief Executive Officer at Family Spirit. He has more than 20 years of experience leading high performing teams across the Community and Financial Service sectors.

This article was originally published in the 30 August 2020 edition of The Catholic Weekly, the news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. Reproduced with permission.


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