My name is Tonelle Lewis and I have been at Barnardos Southern NSW (Queanbeyan) since November 2020. My current role is now Team Leader, where I oversee the Family Preservation, Intensive Family Preservation teams and the Youth and Family Support team.
I love seeing the look on the parents’ faces when they share with me their stories of the good parenting choices they’ve made after being influenced by the conversations we have. Seeing parents being proud of what they’re able to achieve by providing their children with better outcomes and lives. Seeing them believe in themselves and develop the capacity to see the world from their child’s perspective. Their faces light up and their voices say it all.
My career has done a full circle – I started out in early childhood education. I studied teaching and worked my way up into a leadership role within the early childhood sector. I was in this field for 13 years. It was while I was in the early childhood field, I got a taste of working with children experiencing difficulties in learning and moved over into the disability sector. I then worked more closely with the families of children with disabilities and supported them to better support their children in everyday living activities. I was in this role for 9 years. I grew a strong urge to want to do more for families so I came across to Barnardos.
Funnily enough, as a child I had always dreamed of being a preschool teacher – I loved watching Playschool and always wanted to be like the Playschool presenters. As I grew, I then wanted to become a counsellor/psychologist. The closest I got to my other dream was becoming a Circle of Security Parenting Facilitator.
The most common issue I come across with the families that I work with is the mental health of the parents and the impact this has on their children and their relationships both with their partners and children. The parents’ mental health can affect the style and capacity of parenting, some cases are worse than others, it really depends on the severity of the mental health condition. The other common thing I see is undiagnosed disabilities both in children and parents. This also impacts the parents’ capacity to parent in child-safe ways and approaches.
My hope for the children and their families that I work with is that they have an opportunity to live a life that they can be proud of and that they feel safe, loved, and supported in all that they do. That they can live a life without fear and judgment from others.
My proudest achievement to date is when a mother reached out to me two months after she relocated to tell me how happy she was that I was able to help her. She felt good about the choices she had made to keep her and her family safe. At Barnardos, I hope to continue to help as many children and families to reach their full potential and parents to see their value and worth.