0800 693 323


Vikki’s Story


Sometimes we have caregiver stories shared with our team that remind us of the vital difference that our support and training can make to caregivers who have been ‘thrown in the deep end.’

Caregivers like Vikki, whose plans for a relaxed retirement in Australia suddenly took a sharp turn when a child in her extended family ended up in desperate need of full-time care.

Vikki understood that taking on a severely traumatised child was never going to be a walk in the park, but little did she realise just how hard the journey ahead of her as a caregiver might become.

After spending her adult life living and working in Australia, Vikki looked forward to her retirement and opportunities to travel.

A trip back home to New Zealand a few years ago resulted in her becoming aware of a terrible situation happening within her wider family – a nephew had got himself involved in drugs and gangs and was living in very bleak conditions in emergency housing.  

He also had a baby son living in those same conditions. Vikki’s heart was moved to take action when she understood the dangerous environment this small boy was being exposed to – domestic violence, drug use, gun violence from visiting gang members, and unsafe, cramped conditions in emergency housing – and like any decent person she notified the authorities.

Various other family members were not in a position to offer care to the wee one, who desperately needed a safe and stable home, so it came to be Vikki herself who was asked to become a full-time caregiver to her terrified and traumatised 4-year-old great-nephew. 

This year Caring Families Aotearoa has extended support, advocacy, and training to over 6000 caregivers like Vikki, who suddenly find themselves caring for deeply traumatised and neglected children.  

By the time he was uplifted from these appalling living conditions, Vikki’s great-nephew was severely malnourished (she was told that his diet was largely Fruit Burst lollies and energy drinks) and he had already had to undergo emergency surgery to have metal caps placed on his baby teeth, which were found to have infections setting in underneath.  He was chronically underweight for his age, as well as being diagnosed as suffering from complex childhood PTSD.  

He was delivered to Vikki at 10 o’clock one night, clothed only in pyjama bottoms and a night nappy. She was handed a small box of ‘possessions’ with which to take care of him – a box that contained three items of spare clothing and a tin of tuna for his breakfast.
After this, Vikki was to take full responsibility for whatever essentials he might need.  

At a time in her life when she thought she would be enjoying her retirement and her grown-up kids and grandchildren in Australia, Vikki found herself now ‘retired’ in New Zealand, with a dependent little boy and very little in the way of support. 

Vikki set about building a life for herself and her great-nephew. After making sure that he had warm clothing and proper food, she realised that he had never really had any toys to speak of – and so she brought him a few small items, and the first bike he’d ever seen, for Christmas that year. 

This wee one had simply never experienced anything like that first Christmas with Vikki. His eyes were like saucers for the entire day!

In fact, he was so taken with the idea of Christmas and all its delights, that when he was left in the lounge for a few moments as a festive lunch was dished up, he opened every single present under the tree, no matter who it was labelled to! 

Can you imagine the delight on this four-year old boy’s face experiencing for the first time a home full of Christmas cheer, plenty of nourishing food and beautifully wrapped gifts under a twinkling tree?  

A little boy who only months earlier had no toys, barely any clothing, and who had to hide when gang members came to his house to threaten his parents.  

While it would be wonderful to think that everything is magically better now that he has a safe and stable home – we know that children who have been raised in these environments often have a long road ahead of them before they can fully enjoy anything close to a ‘normal’ upbringing. 


Vikki decided soon after taking him in that she would simply have to address each of his considerable issues one step at a time. As well as his poor state of physical health, he needed constant reassurance and therapeutic, consistent, loving parenting to overcome his early life of terrible trauma.

She decided that the best place to start was with his physical and developmental delays – doctors had advised that he likely had FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) – so she attended a local training course about FASD run by Caring Families Aotearoa.

That one Caring Families Aotearoa training course proved to be an absolute game changer for Vikki.



Over the next few months, Vikki became one of our members and dived into the array of face-to-face workshops and online learning that were on offer. She has found nuggets of wisdom in each and has been able to add these to her caregiving ‘toolkit.’

Vikki shares this, “Finding Caring Families Aotearoa and everything they have to offer was my sanity saver! Things were getting pretty desperate there for a while but the team at Caring Families Aotearoa have been a godsend for me.”

As the parent of two grown children herself, she knew how to parent instinctively, and understood that her little fella would need some special skills and handling, but it wasn’t until she undertook some of our more specialised training that she was able to put this intuitive knowledge into words – to understand that there were reputable studies and identifiable reasons around why traumatised children behave the way they do.

The services provided by Caring Families Aotearoa became absolutely vital to Vikki – because it was important for her to know that there were trusted, safe, wrap-around learning and support services available to help her when things with her great nephew got tough.

Vikki acknowledges that at the heart of everything is the support she has found by connecting to her local caregiving network – meeting up with other caregivers and parents who are raising their own unique families and who understand more deeply the challenges she is facing.

Vikki says, “You can’t do anything without human connection. Connection really is the most important thing – connecting to the child with loving, consistent normality and connecting with others who are in the same boat.”

Vikki continues to take advantage of as much training as we can possibly offer – as her care of her great nephew continues to see him thrive and enjoy a more settled upbringing. They are both looking forward to another joyful Christmas spent together with all the usual treats and trimmings!

Want to Support Caregivers like Vikki?

All we want for Christmas this year is a safe and loving home for children and young people in care. Can you help us by sharing our Christmas wishes?