Family Drug Treatment Court

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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.

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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.

Early bird tickets are available until October 17, so don’t miss out!

Save Foster Care campaign

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During Foster Care Week, we are focusing on the #SaveFosterCare campaign, a collaboration between Berry Street and the Foster Care Association of Victoria. We are working together in the lead up to the State election to save the foster care system. We are calling on the State Government and the Opposition to increase reimbursement rates for carers.

Foster carers willingly open their hearts and their homes to thousands of Victorian children and young people. They deserve to be supported.

More and more foster carers are leaving the system each year due to the financial stress. The gap between reimbursements to foster households and the actual costs associated with caring for foster children continues to widen, placing significant stress on families.

The facts:

  • 616 foster carers left the Victorian system in the last year, while only 442 new carers could be recruited. It’s the third year in a row the Victorian system has lost more foster carers than it’s gained.
  • Foster carers in Victoria still receive the lowest reimbursements in Australia, estimated to be over $5,000 less than it costs to care for a ten year old every year. This financial stress leaves many carers struggling to continue.
  • At the same time, reports to Child Protection are increasing and many more vulnerable young children are being placed into Residential Care. Residential Care is an extremely important service but is not the right option for every child, particularly very young children who would benefit more from a home environment.

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The financial cost of fostering is deterring as many as 60% of potential foster carers.

Berry Street and FCAV are calling on the State Government to increase reimbursements to carers, and provide them with a simple, fair system.

The time to act is now.

Visit www.savefostercare.org.au to voice your support and help vulnerable children.

Spread the word and help the #SaveFosterCare campaign create change!

Post written by: Skye Doyle, Media & Communications Officer, Berry Street

HEARTCORE Street Art – Radio Interview

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Recently, street artist Kaff-eine, and Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor Teaching & Learning, Tom Brunzell, spoke to the team of the Right Now – Human Rights in Australia podcast about the HEARTCORE book.

Kaff-eine and Tom spoke with Evelyn Tadros about the role of art in marginalised communities and discussed the way that expression through creativity is valued at the Berry Street Schools as a way to engage and empower young minds.

Click here to listen to the podcast with Kaff-eine and Tom!

For more info on the podcast, visit the Right Now page.

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Short stories, raps and poems written by these students have been interpreted by Kaff-eine and painted as a series of street art works on walls across Melbourne’s CBD & the inner-north. The striking images were shot by Rowena Naylor Photography and a beautiful coffee-table book will be launched on Thursday, September 25, featuring the photos alongside the stories that inspired them.

The HEARTCORE book is available at the special discounted price of $40 until September 24. Visit the HEARTCORE website to get your copy now!

Early Childhood Development

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Berry Street has always worked with children and young people at the most complex end of the continuum of risk and vulnerability, as a consequence of their experiences of child abuse and neglect.

As part of a commitment to prevent the harm that disrupts healthy child development, we are mindful of the need to intervene sooner, critically during the early years.

In keeping with this commitment, we are delighted to welcome back to Australia Dr Kristie Brandt, internationally renowned teacher, clinician, consultant, Assistant Clinical Professor of Paediatrics at the University of California Davis School of Medicine and Director of the Parent-Infant & child Institute in Napa, USA.

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We are proudly sponsoring Dr Brandt’s 4th September workshop on Professional Roles in Supporting Infant-Parent Mental Health as part of the Early Childhood Australia conference. We appreciate Dr Brandt’s contribution to understanding: the importance of the quality of the infant-parent and child-parent relationship; how infants shape and are shaped by relationships with their parents and other important adults in their lives; and the unique relationship between every parent and child and how it makes infant and early childhood mental health work both challenging and exciting.

We will also have an exhibition table at the Early Childhood Australia conference. If you are attending, please stop past and introduce yourself to Joanna Bock, our Statewide Manager of Early Learning is Fun program.

Post written by: Pam Miranda, Senior Manager Knowledge Development, Berry Street Childhood Institute

ACWA 2014

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Berry Street are coming to the ACWA Conference in Sydney from August 18 to 20 and are delighted to be the Health and Wellbeing Sponsor.

We understand how important personal resilience and looking after ourselves is in order to be able to sustain ourselves in our challenging roles.

We even have a health and wellbeing initiative for ourselves at the moment, and this week’s challenge is eating 5 serves of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit every day. Why don’t you set yourselves this challenge too?H&WB challenge

Next week while the conference is on, our challenge is to include 30 minutes exercise per day – visit our table at ACWA and let our Events & Projects Officer, Prue, explain to you the rest of the challenge. Prue can also show you the great practice resources and publications we have developed, most of which are able to be downloaded for free!

Come and listen to our great staff members who are on the speaking program:

  • Anita Pell, a fantastic advocate for foster carers
  • Trish McCluskey, who with a strong evidence base will argue passionately regarding the importance of keeping siblings together in case, and
  • Andrew McClausland, who is a thought leader in the role of carers in children’s education.

And, if you are at the conference and see our Director Craig Cowie, stop and say hi – and let him know that you read this on our blog!

Post written by: Pam Miranda, Senior Manager Knowledge Development, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Childhood Conversations – Part 2

A retrospective look back at the era in which we grew up…

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Childhood. It’s arguably the most important time of our life: a precious time where we need to feel safe, happy and loved.

Most importantly, for some of us, it is a time where some of our happiest memories were made.

Berry Street believes that every single child deserves to grow up with a childhood they want to remember.

The first of our ‘Childhood Conversation’ sessions involved 6 parents from a local school, taking a retrospective look back through their own memories and experiences at the era in which they grew up.

Discussion was informally structured around the following five key themes:

  • Family environment- including: what did the average family structure look like? What were your perceptions of your parents’ work/life balance?
  • Health & wellbeing – including: how did you play – structured or unstructured? What environments did you play in? What food did you eat? How much time did you spend out of doors? Risk taking behaviours?
  • Education & Technology – including: what role did technology play within the family? What and how was information shared about families? Participation in education?
  • Community Participation – including: involvement in local community? Consumerism targeting children? Children’s voice in decision making?
  • Material Basics – including: understanding of poverty? Perception of employment/unemployment?

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It was a fun and enlightening conversation and we look forward to bringing you a summary of the issues raised.

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Creswick Fellowship Tour – Greater and Less Than: Lessons in Learning through Movement

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The PRTF School do what most neurodevelopmentally and “trauma” informed education programs do, by providing frequent “brain breaks” for their children. Essentially this is where they step down from academic learning and engage in some form of somatosensory activity such as playing outside, water play, sand play, play doh, calming corners with sofas, bean bags, blankets and soft toys etc.

They do this routinely, repetitively and frequently. Having access to a staff member dedicated to leading these breaks and co-regulating the children in between them worked a treat as well.

You know maths and mathematical concepts is a difficult gig at any school, let alone a classroom of children struggling with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties.

Immediately on entry into the room, she invited the children to the front of the class and had them all stand or sit around her as they preferred. Each child was given a piece of paper containing a number, each child read their number out aloud. The greater than symbol was drawn on the board and there was minimal question and answer time to ensure that everyone understood the concept of the greater than symbol.shutterstock_138148634

Then engaging the students in an activity based process, moving them around she asked them two by two (based on those most engaged in the moment) to identify their number and stand either side of her – as she held the greater than symbol.

The student’s task – to put themselves in the right spot – who’s number was greater than the other.  Each student excitedly took their turn and much celebration was had as each pair got it right…Read more about Greater and Less Than – Lessons in Learning through Movement here at, Chelle Taylor’s blog My Creswick Fellowship Tour

Edited version of a post written by: Michelle (Chelle) Taylor, Clinical Psychologist and NMT Consultant, Take Two Program.