Supporting new mothers through difficult times

By Antony Lawes, 6 June 2024
Image: Shutterstock


Before she started getting help through Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth and her life began to turn around, 27-year-old mother Holly* was not coping.

For years she had been living in an abusive relationship that had left her with significant trauma. Her two children from that relationship had been placed into foster care and she was left unable to trust anyone – including herself.

“It was the hardest, saddest time of my life,” she said, reflecting on a period when she was a young, inexperienced mother who was also dealing with the recent death of her own father. “It was just one thing after another, all spiraling down.”

To compound matters, these feelings continued even after she met a new loving and supportive partner, moved into stable accommodation, and had a new baby she was devoted to.

“I was an absolute nervous wreck, always doubting myself, always questioning my partner, everything, all the time,” she said.

But since starting with Project Elizabeth, a program run by Catholic Care for mothers with very young children, things have started to look up for Holly.

Now she believes she has the tools to cope emotionally and practically with the demands of being a mother, as well as dealing with the mental and emotional scars of having to give up her first two children.

“I knew deep down that I was always a good mum, and I knew that I had it in me,” she said. “I just struggled to implement all the things I wanted to, in the environment I was in.

“I’m actually now the mum that I wanted to be with my other two. I’ve achieved that.”

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

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

Jessica Mitchell, Holly’s case worker at Project Elizabeth, said she lets clients dictate what support they need, and then she works to make them more self-sufficient in their decision-making.

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

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

“It just depends on what the client’s needs are and how they feel they’re going.”

She phones Holly once a week and arranges a meeting, sometimes at a park or café, or at Holly’s house, depending on what suits Holly best.

Jessica said no matter where they meet, she employs “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. And I am very mindful about things like homework and the reality of having a little one.”

Holly said having the support of Jessica has been life-changing, and she feels very fortunate to have been connected with Project Elizabeth.

“They are just such an amazing service, what they’ve poured into me and how far I’ve come in the past year, it’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t even recognise myself anymore.

“Because of them I’m able to identify these amazing things in myself, and every woman deserves to feel those things, and love themselves, and to be able to feel safe.”

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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