To view information on Coronavirus COVID-19 click here.

YouTube Channel

Support for school selection & after school activities is important. Support for you is key too!


Peter is a permanent carer to his grandson. After 71 court cases and almost 5 years of court appearances Peter knows how onerous the process of caring for a child can be. So what was his biggest learning during that process?

This is where PCA Families has been a key partner in his and his grandsons life. PCA Families has offered support and funding for selecting a school that has strong pastoral support and teachers that take a close personal interest in his grandson. This has been the game changer in his grandsons life. PCA Families have provided support and funding for extracurricular activities where his grandson is mentored, not just in the sport but also on getting the right mindset and keeping fit, or even to get him thinking about what he needs to do to be successful so that he might become a champion. And his grandson has been very successful, both in school amongst his peers and in sporting events beyond school. Peter reminds us its important to look at how you progress your child in relation to you and the larger family. He suggests holding back contentious issues until your child is developmentally ready to hear them and to work with the extended family and the court around disputes with compassion. He reminds us that its the child that will lose out if you don't. Peter also reminds us that the process is long so be sure to find people that can support you.

00:00 - Start 02:25 - Court order variations can take time 03:24 - The legal system is complicated and time consuming 04:23 - DFFH was a big support 05:20 - DFFH supervised family contact and now a close family friend is responsible 06:40 - School selection is so important. It has completely shaped our grandson 07:50 - Extra curricular support has allowed his talents and confidence to shine 09:18 - Being mentored by sports coaches on discipline and mindsets has been the icing on the cake 10:23 - What are some of the wins along the way 11:30 - Travelling to Myanmar and seeing an orphanage and those who are financially disadvantaged has had a positive impact too 12:17 - Funding education and extra curricular activities is key. 13:29 - Other lessons 14:50 - Outcomes arent always what you expect 16:36 - Find people that can support you through the long court processes and beyond


This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings that capture lived experience and best practice evidence based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people.

PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse and follows child safe standards.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay respect to elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Today we are speaking with Peter Simmons about how the support from PCA Families has made a difference to his family, and in particular to his Grandson.

Peter and his wife are now permanent carers of their grandson. Peter’s grandson (GS) is his son’s child. His son has an acquired brain injury (ABI) and after a brief relationship, his GS was born. His GS and the mother remained in hospital for several months after his birth. The mother also had serious mental issues and Peter and his wife were refused access to their GS during that time.  DFFH intervened and after 71 court cases, Peter and his wife now have the role of mother and father in his GSs life. 

Welcome Peter.

01:00 What were some of the challenges along the way and what can we learn about that and from you. I imagine the biggest challenge for you was the 71 court and roundtable appearances in under 5 years. Can you tell us more about that?

Initially we did not know what the process was and had no clarity around what it would look like or indeed that it would take nearly 5 years. That was the biggest challenge. Just after we started DHS said we will make you party to the proceedings so that meant I sat at the table with their barrister, and I was able to have some input.

02:25 What were some of the variations to orders and complexities?

That’s probably the contention above all else. The system allows variations to orders but a lot of them were frivolous. Each time they were made, and the were made mainly by the grandson’s maternal grandmother, we would still have to go to court. They would generally be over in about 5 minutes. About one third were variations to the order and not one of them was successful

03:24 What was the learning

From a legal perspective, how complicated the legal system is. Certainly not a friendly system for people that don’t have a legal background. I have a part legal background in work that I have done. So for me I understood what was happening but the process was onerous. That was the issue that went on and on. I believe the process has been changed in Victoria now and the process has been streamlined. The nearly 5 years wouldn’t happen now due to some legislative changes.

04:23 Who was the biggest support during that process?

DHS were my biggest friend in that process. The contention they had is that the process of reunification with the child and the mother, because of issues with the mother was very difficult. So they were opening the door for us to have him more often than not. The mother eventually made the decision for us to have him more than herself. It was a process of elimination and a timing issue but onerous all the same.

05:20 In terms of family contact there was the mother and her parents and your grandson also. Can you tell us more about that?

DFFH offered supervised access only to the mother. We were not involved. DFFH would pickup our grandson and take him to the DFFH office to meet our grandson. Over a period of years the order changed and the mother in law went out of the picture and his Mum was able to see him under supervision with us. We had a family member that looked after that visit about every 6 months. A good arrangement.

06:40 It sounds like you have a very compassionate young grandson and you have also been selective about school selection.

This is where PCA Families come very much into the picture.

We were able to fund the first few years of his schooling at a private school with about an 80% discount from the school. The school were struggling to cover what we couldn’t and then we got introduced to PCA Families. Its PCA Families that has allowed him to continue at that school, now in Year 7. It’s the school that has shaped him. Strong pastoral care around the kids. The teachers took a close personal interest in him. It is wonderful.

07:50 You also have a number of extra curricular activities along the way also. Can you tell us about them.

He is just a really talented young boy in a number of different areas. Mainly sport where we had extra funding but also funding around tuition in mathematics. In his sporting space he excelled in swimming funded by PCA Families. He won a significant event in swimming last year. More recently he clearly has some extraordinary talent in clay shooting. Recently he won the first competition he ever went in against A grade clay shooters. At 12yo they are earmarking him saying he has the potential to be something really significant in that space. Its early days though but he is extraordinary. Again funded by PCA Families.

09:18 Is the unexpected outcomes of being mentored the secret ingredient?

He does circuit training and running again funded by PCA Families.

The mentoring side and who is having influence in his life and indeed all young people is relevant. His running coach was a Commonwealth games runner. His clay shooting coach was third in the World a few years ago. They spend time with him about discipline and getting your mind right and keeping fit. It’s not just showing up and doing the session and they go. They have taken quite a bit of time mentoring him, especially where he is excelling in something like clay shooting. Building relationships.

10:23 What are some of the other wins you have had along the way?

His other wins are really around sport as the catalyst as his school is with peers.

It’s the confidence that he has gained by having people around him through these funded activities that have encouraged him and have gone beyond just the learning of school and life and identified what he needs to do to be successful. They have talked to him a lot about how to become a champion.

He was in a speech competition where they had to get up and do a talk. For his whole year level, he won first prize, sponsored by the Lions Club in our area. That was very significant.

11:30 You have also travelled and exposed him to other environments?

I founded an organisation that works in the humanitarian space in Myanmar. He has been over there with us and has spent time over there in an orphanage and with people in the poor areas if you like. That impacted him in a really positive way.

Then we were able to take him to Europe last year so he has been to Paris, Germany and Italy and is quite well rounded.

12:17 If PCA Families were going to help others, what would you say is important?

Funding of his education is key. If PCA Families were not able to do that I’m not sure where he would be right now. He would probably be at another school and not receive what he has had and not be able to be who he is now.

Other points of success are the sporting ones. That looks like now that if he keeps going on the trajectory he is, the funding has been absolutely critical for him to get where he is, but its another to get to a level now where other people now look like they will sponsor him. So that’s fantastic.

13:29 Any other lessons today?

It is important for people who are in the process, who may or may not be supported by PCA Families. It is the issue of how you then progress our grandsons development in relation to who he is. In relation to who his Mum and Dad were or are. We have encouraged him that while his Mum and Dad can’t be who they should be as far as being his Mum and Dad go, he has access to them and he understands what the process is that has caused him to be with us. He has open access to everyone to ask questions.

14:50 The outcomes are not always what you expect so don’t carry expectations with you.

In the court processes. Ours went on and on and on. Its very important to realise that while you may think that your case has every merit, and you have expectations as to outcomes, it’s the magistrate that will make that decision and it may not go the way you think it would or should. People need support around that when you get to those points. Particularly where there are disputes around custodial issues between the parties. If that’s not dealt with effectively and with compassion, it is the children that will be affected by it. We have been able to keep our grandson away from that contention. He has grown up not knowing about that and we haven’t talked to him about that as it’s not necessary at this point in time. Maybe when he is older at 18 we can discuss that. Protecting him until he is developmentally ready for the information.

16:36 Any last comments to share today?

The key issue is not to give up because the process that they will go through in children’s court doesn’t always bring an atmosphere of encouragement that you are actually going to get a good result. Road blocks as we used to call them come up. Work out how to get around it and who can support you. That might be a suggestion where people like myself and others can support others going through the process. 


Humanitarian Learnings