Dean’s Story

" Burned with cigarettes, bitten and sexually abused by multiple adults, physically abused and neglected by his mum, Dean was taken into care at six years old. "

Some kids experience devastating abuse and neglect, often at the hands of people they should be able to trust, from the moment they are born. They will need ongoing treatment and support, for many years to come. But there is always hope.

A life of pain and neglect

Dean was six years old when he was removed from his mother and placed in foster care. He had cigarette burns and bite marks on his body. He had experienced ongoing sexual abuse from adults who visited the house and physical abuse and neglect from his mother.

When Dean entered foster care he didn’t speak to grown-ups, although he openly communicated with other kids. He hummed most of the time and showed problematic sexual behaviours resulting from his abuse. Although older than most children in year one, he hadn’t been enrolled in school yet.

" Severe abuse and trauma has a lasting effect on children, resulting in complex needs across a range of areas. There's no quick fix. While kids can and do make progress, it is often gradual and ongoing. "

Lasting effect of trauma

Dean has had one stable placement since first entering foster care. While he attends school regularly and has supportive teachers, the anxiety and trauma from the abuse he experienced was preventing Dean from having a happy and normal childhood.

Home wasn't a safe place.

How we helped

When Dean was eight years old he was referred to Act for Kids for help. Developmentally delayed, he was struggling at school. Dean was unable to use words to express himself and was showing worrying sexual behaviours which was putting other children at risk of harm.

Our team worked with Dean continuously over two years to address a range of concerns. Initially he saw a Speech and language therapist, Occupational therapist, and Educational Support Teacher to address his developmental delays. He then worked with our Sexual Abuse Counselling Service Psychologist for 30 individual sessions over a year.

In the time we have been seeing Dean, there have been some significant improvements in his behavioural and emotional wellbeing.

" He talks more, asks questions and can tell people how he's feeling. He shows less problematic sexual behaviours in times of stress, has less frequent nightmares and hums only occasionally. "

Still a long way to go

Although he has come a long way, Dean continues to have difficulties in day to day functioning. He still struggles with social interactions and conversations, is often distracted in class and sometimes finds it hard to control his emotions. This is normal considering what he has been through, and we will continue to support him towards a brighter future.

The bigger problem


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

Abuse and neglect

" Of the more than 49,000 kids who experience substantiated abuse and neglect in Australia, the majority (48%) experience emotional abuse, followed by neglect (24%). "

One in five (16%) experience physical abuse and 12% experience sexual abuse. Some kids like Dean experience all forms of abuse and neglect. While broken bones, burns and bite marks can heal, the emotional scars remain, leading to lifelong problems.

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 a 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.

Due to the severity of abuse and neglect he has experienced, Dean has complex needs across a range of areas which means his progress will be gradual and ongoing. He will need therapy in future when stressful and challenging situations arise.

Dean’s story shows the lasting effect that abuse can have on a child, but also that even in the darkest situations there is still hope and the opportunity to turn a life around.


Thank you for supporting our vision for all kids to have a safe and happy childhood and 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.

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

Read next

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Thomas’ Story

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

Jessica’s Story

When mum got drunk, Jessica, aged three, would hide for hours in a darkened stairwell to try and avoid being beaten.



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 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 or call 07 3850 3200

  • Drop files here or