Mother of anorexic girl: 'I feel like a failure'

Jan Whitton feels like a failure. Her daughter turned 16 last month but there was nothing sweet about it - no presents, no party and no friends to share her special day.

"I am so ashamed to say we did nothing," the Lake Illawarra mum said yesterday.

"I feel like such a failure, trying to live on a pension is a joke as it is, then add the costs of having a life-threatening illness, distance and trying to pay a mortgage."

Her daughter Chloe Swinfield is "borderline" to being readmitted to Westmead Children's Hospital for anorexia.

"What has she got to look forward to? She hasn't had a holiday in over 10 years, all the additional expenses that go with this illness has left my mortgage in arrears," Ms Whitton said.

"I have had no car for eight weeks or more ... I'm on a disability pension, nobody will give finance."

A family member came to the rescue, taking out a loan for Ms Whitton but now she is terrified about how she will make the car repayments.

"If the bank takes my house, how would being homeless affect Chloe?

"I can't even afford to take her bowling, the pictures, or to buy her new clothes.

"Here I sit telling Chloe life is good, it is worth living, yet I can't show her. I can't afford to do the things that would make such a difference to her, perhaps even make her fight harder for life."

Jan Whitton fears for her anorexic daughter Chloe. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Jan Whitton fears for her anorexic daughter Chloe. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Nowra mum Keeli Cambourne, whose daughter Molly has an eating disorder, considers herself one of the lucky ones and hopes the Butterfly Foundation report will shine the light on the struggles of so many Australian families.

"I have the financial means to be able to pay for private counsellors and to get Molly into the private hospital system," Ms Cambourne said yesterday.

Her 16-year-old daughter recently took the "brave step" of admitting herself into a Sydney clinic.

"Molly put herself in because she knew she was really struggling at home. She will be up there for Christmas and all the school holidays but she wants to get better."

Ms Cambourne said private treatment - upwards of $5000 a week - was out of reach for many parents.

"I'm lucky, my partner works, I have family support, I don't know how mums like Jan [Whitton] survive."

Aside from the financial difficulties, Ms Cambourne said parents were drowning in a health system not equipped for the complexities of eating disorders.

"The way legislation is now, kids as young as 14, even when they are as sick as Molly, they can refuse care," she said. "When I put Molly in the first time she had to do it voluntarily. When she discharged herself there was nothing I could do."

Molly had to be medically stable to be admitted.

"I went in the back door, I spoke to a psychiatrist who got her admitted in two days - even then she had been on the waiting list for five weeks."

The public system is equally dire - with extensive waiting lists at Westmead Children's Hospital and only two adult eating-disorder beds in NSW.

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