Meet Heidi Barber: Family Support Practitioner

Meet Heidi Barber, she’s one of our Family Support Practitioners who works with families across the Mornington Peninsula.

How long have you been at VSK?

I have been a Family Support Practitioner with Very Special Kids for 14.5 yrs.  I was based at our Malvern office and after two years was lucky to be offered the Peninsula Region role.  I’ve worked in offices co-located with the Peninsula Home Hospice, then Anglicare Disability Support Team Rosebud and am now based at the Hastings Community Hub.

What is your background and what were you doing before VSK?

My academic background is in Psychology. I worked for eight years as a Family Support Worker with Frankston City Council supporting vulnerable families and children experiencing a range of challenges including poverty, domestic violence, traumatic experiences, generational unemployment, child protection involvement, and basic parenting challenges as well.

What’s unique about your role?

Very Special Kids offers support that is flexible and intended to respond to the whole family. This family focus allows FSP’s to work with a family over time to identify and respond to relevant needs as they arise. The ongoing support and connection VSK is able to offer makes this role unique. This has meant I have had the pleasure of watching families grow together as they have dealt with the joys and challenges of their lives. This really is quite a privilege.

What attracted you to working at VSK?

I developed an interest in grief and loss during my studies after completing a placement with a hospice service. I went on to complete bereavement counselling studies and when I learned about Very Special Kids I felt this would be fulfilling work for me.  I have always loved working with families and children in particular so the role seemed a good fit.

What do you love about your role?

I love the connections I make with the families that I support and being able to be of some support when things are really tough.   I have also loved witnessing the community that has formed amongst families in the region that I work.  I see a real sense of shared experiences and a level of  understanding that probably is not possible outside of this community of parents and children.

What does a usual day look like?

It is really varied and  may  include visits to families in their homes, phone calls, counselling appointments in my office, planning for group programs, hosting family activities, communicating with volunteers, exploring additional support options and of course the obligatory administration all roles require in this day and age.

What’s something that other health professionals might not know about your role?

They may not be aware that Very Special Kids can offer ongoing support following the death of a child in a family we support.

What is it that gets you out of bed every morning to come to work? (Ie, motivates you)

The understanding that for the families I support anything is possible on a given day and that I would like to be available if my support is needed.

What’s been a highlight during your time at VSK?

The highlights tend to be those moments when I can see that my contribution has been of real value for someone.   Also bearing witness to the exquisite love shown between family members in their actions, advocacy, tenderness and their grief is a beautiful privilege .

What’s your top tip to those who are having a tough time or day?

To honour your own experience, to share it if you would like and to accept support if this is possible – in the way that  you would like to offer this to others in a similar situation.

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I live on the Mornington Peninsula surrounded by nature.  I’m married with two adult children and three grandsons whom I adore.  I love gardening, bushwalking, camping, snorkeling, boating, travelling, reading, cooking, swimming and birdwatching is a bit of a hobby others may not be aware of.

What is one thing about you that might surprise us?

I’m quite introverted and like to spend  time on my own.  Parties are not something I enjoy!

What’s the most common feedback from families you get about the family support service?

Appreciation for the support and consideration shown by the team for their family – often focused on the opportunities VSK has offered their children in particular.

Learn more about our Family Support Services: