A group of our international colleagues recently came from Norway to spend time with Berry Street’s Take Two service.
The RVTS Sør (South) service is a Norwegian government-funded domestic violence, sexual abuse, traumatic stress, migrant/refugee health and suicide prevention resource centre and training service. They have a special focus on working with children and families.
Not much is known about Elle’s* first year. Her Mum has severe mental health problems and has lots of problems with drugs and drinking.
Elle was removed by Child Protection services from her mother around the time she turned one.
Her father immigrated from Asia. Growing up we suspect he experienced significant trauma during the long civil war in his country. Elle’s father didn’t know about Elle until after she was removed and placed into foster care. When he found out, she went to live with him together with his new partner Trisha.
By Dr Nicole Milburn, Infant Mental Health Consultant & Jen Willis, Communications Consultant, Berry Street – Take Two
As a community we often discuss the poor mental health of adults and young people, but rarely do we really look at the mental health of babies. This is unfortunate because it is the relationships and environment a baby experiences during infancy that often set the conditions for that baby’s mental health during later adolescence and adulthood.
The first Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) in Australia launched in Melbourne earlierthis year.
The FDTC is a non-adversarial or problem-solving court model and its aim is to promote family reunification or earlier permanent care decisions for families where parental substance misuse is a major contributing factor of children being placed in out-of-home care.
Whilst participants are engaged in the FDTC, they are supported to address and own their substance misuse and recovery. Intensive clinical case management and wrap-around support is provided by a multi-disciplinary team to address any number of overlapping and complex issues including substance misuse, mental health, housing, family violence, financial and parenting issues.
Conference delegates will have the opportunity to hear prominent international speakers Justice Peggy Hora and Megan Wheeler, who have years of operational experience in the FDTC sector in the US, discuss why the FDTC works and what intensive case management is all about in this particular practice setting.
There is also the opportunity to sign up for Master Classes to engage even more in depth with specific topics such as development and implementation of FDTC, evaluating success of FDTC, and the intersection between child protection and the FDTC.
Kate Cordukes, a Family Therapist and Arts Therapist, and Meisha Clark, a Social Worker and Family Therapist, led a session on the TARA program and the ways they work with parents experiencing violence from their child.
TARA stands for Teenage Aggression Responding Assertively and is an 8 week program for parents with the recent addition of a 1 day workshop. TARA aims to reduce violence, teach anger management strategies and enhance the relationship between parents and their adolescent.
70% of violent adolescents tend to be young men whom target their mothers. And so, anger management and other strategies are discussed in sessions. However, young people in attendance often feel blamed and don’t want to talk.
Themes/Factors of adolescent violence: 1) Family origin 2) Trauma history 3) Parenting style & attachment #GCConf#adolescentviolence
An aspect of the TARA session geared at parents is ‘family origin’. That is, parents think about the way they were parented and how it has impacted upon their parenting style. Some families are not ready to talk through the issues stemming from family origin issues.
The notion of self-care is vital to the ability of parents and caretakers to look after their family. Parents need the strength and energy to do things differently at home, and in addition to this, adolescents are telling parents that they need boundaries.
Early intervention and an openness to working on family dynamics are a starting point in tackling violence from an adolescent.
Aboriginal children today are twenty times more likely to be homeless, receive over 30% less financial support, face a life expectancy 20 years lower than that of non-Aboriginal children, and they are more likely to experience disability, ill health, and a reduced quality of life.
Despite all of that, Muriel reminded us that this data doesn’t tell us about the good things happening in Aboriginal communities and spoke of the successes in culture andsport of indigenous people like singer Jessica Mauboy, AFL star Buddy Franklin & NRL star Jonathan Thurston.
"When asked to draw what makes them feel safe, over 85% of Aboriginal children draw the Aboriginal flag" – Muriel Bamblett #GCConf
Muriel shared that building Aboriginal culture into everything VACCA do is crucial, and that after their safety, the most important thing to establish in an Aboriginal child’s life is culture and cultural safety.
How can we help provide an environment which respects that culture around us?
Presenters Michelle Clayton and Susie Richards, both Children’s Resource Program Coordinators, from the Southern and Eastern Regions respectively looked at issues of homelessness and family violence through the eyes of the children involved.
The key is that, children’s experiences of homelessness are very different to those of adults.
The important moments in this journey might be leaving a pet behind or losing a teddy bear, these are things that need to be understood by the social workers who take on these cases.
But the question is do you have the resources to make a space nurturing for a child and to make your service suitable for a child?
There are plenty of barriers in working with children facing homelessness:
Who is the client? Is it the child, his/her family or parents?,
Children aren’t often funded as clients,
Children can be somewhat invisible to the worker (as they’re often as school and cannot often be accessed on week days),
There is a belief that children are resilient,
There is also a belief that fixing the homelessness problem will fix the child (even though the trauma of such an event will impact onto the child’s life for a long period),
Parents are protective of children and generally have reasonable parenting abilities,
Children’s issues not addressed because of the hierarchy of needs within the family.
The role of the Statewide Children’s Resource Program is to try and overcome these barriers through training, much of which is offered free to agencies, and resource distribution to aid workers who are trying to engage with children facing homelessness.
The program aims to raise awareness among workers about the impacts on health, mental health, education and emotional stability that homelessness can have on a child and some of the simple things that can be done to aid kids through this time, such as having toys for kids to play with in the office.
Workers in this area need to assess their current ideas of children’s rights and their usual methods of dealing with family homelessness.
The Statewide Children’s Resource Program seeks to inspire this assessment and teach workers to improve their practice and support children who face homelessness.