Ava and Zach

" When authorities removed Ava and Zach from their parents, the siblings left with nothing but the dirty clothes on their backs. "

“Failure to thrive” is a far-too-common result of childhood neglect. Poor nutrition and disturbed social
interactions contribute to inadequate weight gain, delayed development, and abnormal behaviour.
Ava and Zach displayed worrying signs of severe failure to thrive.

Homeless. Hungry. Helpless.

The police report would later document that the children had been living in an abandoned shed with their mother and father, who had both served time in prison for drug offences. There was virtually no food in the makeshift home and both children appeared to be very malnourished. Drug paraphernalia was discovered throughout the shed, within easy reach of the young children.

Traumatised and frustrated

Four-year-old Ava and three-year-old Zach were placed into the care of their grandmother, who had no idea the family had been homeless. Within weeks, Grandma would phone Act for Kids, desperately seeking help for the traumatised siblings. Both children had retreated into a world of virtual silence. Neither would look their grandmother in the eye and they barely uttered a word, aside from outbursts of anger and frustration. But it was the way Zach treated his big sister that troubled Grandma the most.

On multiple occasions, she had seen the boy violently punch, kick and bite his sister. When grandma would try to comfort Ava, she would scream in terror. She couldn’t bear to be touched: even with kindness. Instead, she would retreat to a corner of the room and stay there, rocking back and forth, until she calmed herself.

A world of virtual silence

Helping Ava and Zach learn and grow

After being assessed by the Act for Kids integrated therapy team, Ava and Zach met with Amanda, one of our Speech Language Pathologists for their therapy session.

Almost a year later, Amanda and the team are still working with the family.

The trauma runs deep for these children,” Amanda said.

They had been left in a cot – day and night – and their parents, possibly due to their drug use, didn’t talk to them, hold them, play with them or show them love.

Left all alone – then taken from ‘home’…with nothing but the clothes on their back.

When she first met Ava and Zach, Amanda was struck by how underweight they appeared. “They were, and still are, very small for their age,” she says, describing Ava as looking ‘like a little porcelain doll’.

Our integrated therapy team, comprised of speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and psychologists, use their combined skills to look at different aspects of the development and functioning of each child and their family.

From speech and play therapy to psychological interventions and developing school readiness skills, Act for Kids continues to support this family as the children work their way through the damage caused by their traumatic early years.

Thank you! With the help of generous donations and integrated therapy sessions, Ava and Zach are having a second chance at childhood, free from abuse and neglect. 

Both children are making progress, but there’s a long way to go. While they are still somewhat withdrawn, they have learned new social skills, are now talking, and Zach is having fewer outbursts.

These days, the siblings are helping each other in sessions more and are better able to identify and share their feelings. To Amanda’s shock and delight, Zach said something to his big sister at a recent therapy session she never imagined she would hear: “I love you!” he declared. That’s an incredible emotional breakthrough for a little boy who didn’t utter a single word during his first three therapy sessions.


If you have little ones at home and would like a fun and interactive way of talking to them about feeling safe, please download and print our Friendly Emmy Puppet and our Informative Bookmark!

The bigger problem

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2016-17

Abuse and neglect

" Of the more than 40,000 kids who experience substantiated abuse and neglect in Australia, the majority (40%) experience emotional abuse, followed by neglect (28%). "

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 disadvantages.

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.

Donate Now

Donations over $2 are tax deductible. Every donation, big or small, combines to make a real difference.


Donate Monthly

Your generosity means we can continue providing our integrated therapy programs for abused and neglected kids, and support services for families.

Becoming a Kids’ Crusader and donating monthly is the best way to help us help kids and families – it means we can direct funds where they’re needed most and make the biggest impact over time.

Workplace giving

As an employee, workplace giving enables you to make a regular donation to Act for Kids through your payroll, directly from your pre-tax pay. This means that you receive an immediate tax saving as it reduces your taxable income.

Donate in your will

By leaving a bequest to Act for Kids, you can make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect. By including Act for Kids in your will, you offer a gift of hope to future generations and you will help us give abused and neglected children the chance to lead safe, happy and fulfilling lives.

Dr Neil Carrington

Act for Kids

More stories

Lisa’s Story

17 year old Lisa grew up experiencing severe physical and emotional abuse. She was hit, slapped and forced to perform physical labour...

Lacey-Jane’s Story

Neglected and scared, four-and-a-half year old Lacey-Jane began running away from prep school.

Thomas’ Story

At three years old Thomas could barely walk or speak, and his body was covered in scratches.



If you have any questions or would like to access our free counselling and support, please call us directly to discuss or make an appointment.

Completed referral forms can be accessed from the services section on our website and email to
mail@actforkids.com.au or call 1300 228 000

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Referral Services

If you have any questions or would like to access our free counselling and support, please call us directly to discuss or make an appointment.

Completed referral forms can be accessed from the services section on our website and email to
mail@actforkids.com.au or call 07 3850 3200

  • Drop files here or