Luke's Story


Neglect is one of the most common forms of abuse and can be the most damaging. It’s neglecting the physical needs of the child and often their emotional needs as well. The child is let to fend for themselves; they are never comforted, helped or acknowledged.

Unloved, unwanted and alone

At four, Luke was removed from his parents, after being found home alone in a very bad condition. He had experienced severe neglect and witnessed violence at home. Luke did not cry when he hurt himself and rarely asked for help. He hardly spoke and suffered horrible nightmares every night.

Hiding food away

Due to the neglect he had experienced Luke was small for his age and rarely looked adults in the eye. Luke’s foster carers found he was very good at opening cupboards, frequently finding and hiding food away, even though he was assured he wasn’t going to go hungry again.

The talking bear

He would hold the bear close and whisper to it. The bear had been with Luke since he was a baby and was the only possession he had. Luke struggled to communicate with others and found it hard to trust adults, including his foster carers.

How we helped

Six months after being removed from his parents, Luke arrived at Act for Kids with his foster carers and Wally the bear. Walking into the therapy room Luke was immediately drawn to a big brown teddy bear sitting in the corner. He began whispering to the bear. Our therapist asked Luke if he knew how to how to talk to teddy bears. Luke nodded, smiled and made eye contact for the first time. With Wally and the new bear by his side, Luke began to talk and draw pictures. The therapist learned that before being removed, Luke and Wally had taken care of each other, listened to each other, comforted each other when scared and found food when they were hungry.

Working through the nightmares

Luke recruited four more teddy bears into his life and brought them along to the therapy sessions. Luke’s foster carers brought along their own teddy bears as well and this playful team helped Luke work through his relentless nightmares. Each bear came up with different suggestions that might help and Luke decided on the best approach. After 14 therapy sessions, Luke started to be more confident and talkative. His nightmares finally stopped, he hoarded food less as his life became more predictable and the relationship with his foster carers improved. Now when any problems re-emerged, Luke and his carers would invite all the teddy bears to a big meeting and sort it out.

The Bigger Problem


11 minutes

a child suffers abuse or neglect

Last year

1 in 32 kids

accessed child protective services


Under 12 months

are most likely to be abused or neglected

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2019-20.


Abuse and neglect

The majority (54%) experience emotional abuse, followed by neglect (22%). One in five (14%) experience physical abuse and 9% experience sexual abuse.

Abuse and neglect can impact a child’s brain development, how they feel and think about themselves, how successful they are at school, even their physical development and skills. In the long term this can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, difficulty developing and maintaining good relationships, unemployment and all sorts of social disadvantage.


Early intervention makes the world of difference

With early and appropriate support, children and young people can overcome their experiences.

Our team of psychologists and therapists help kids to work through nightmares, aggressive outbursts and social and learning problems through therapy that’s effective for their age.

Luke still has a way to go but he is on the right track. With the support of his caregivers and our therapists Luke is now able to let go of some of his coping mechanisms, and work through his trauma in a way which is non-threatening and meaningful to him.

Thank you for helping us to restore the childhoods for kids like Luke, who deserve a brighter future.

How you can help

We can’t do this important work without your help. We rely heavily on donations to support our intensive therapy programs for abused and neglected kids, and early support for families at risk. Your donation will help us keep our doors open and expand our services.

How you can help