Luke’s Story

" Luke, aged four, was found alone in an empty room at home. He had been horrendously neglected and could barely speak. "

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 left 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.

" Hoarding food or possessions is not uncommon in abused and neglected kids. It's a survival technique which many continue to use even when they are safe. They may also be very withdrawn, finding it hard to communicate with adults or other children. "

His teddy went with him everywhere

The talking bear

" Luke carried a tattered teddy bear called Wally with him everywhere he went. "

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.

" Luke's foster carers began to understand and learn more about his complex needs, his survival skills and how important it was to include Wally in therapy sessions because of Luke's strong attachment to the teddy bear and limited ability to trust adults. "

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



Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2014-15

Abuse and neglect

" Many children experience multiple forms of abuse and neglect. "

The majority (40%) experience emotional abuse, followed by neglect (28%). Most people don’t consider these as damaging or alarming as physical abuse but it is proven in severe cases to stunt brain growth in small children and infants, and cause life-long development issues.

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.

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.

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

At eight years old, Ethan’s family had already been the subject of over 30 domestic violence reports.

More stories

Aiden’s Story

Five-year-old Maddie was physically, emotionally and verbally abused by her parents from birth, witnessing severe domestic violence and substance abuse, including Ice.

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 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