A retrospective look back at the era in which we grew up…
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?
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
Cal Farley’s is a one of a kind service. It is one of America’s largest privately-funded child and family service providers, specializing in both residential and community-based services at no cost to the families of children in their care.
Cal Farley’s operates like a small town – hosting a chapel, fire station, its own bank, post office and independent school district, activity centre etc. Many of the staff live on site, and at capacity, Cal’s can have up to 260 children and young people at a time. Residential homes are staffed by 2 sets of house-parents, the lead house-parents and relief house-parents.
Capacity for vocational training and part time employment
All this is embedded in a community where relationships serve as the key to success. I had to remind myself that this was a service for children and young people who had mental health, emotional and behavioural problems, because often what I saw seemed just like any ordinary community. The importance of relationships whereby the kids were positively supported, contained and nurtured by multiple adults in their daily experiences was evident in the way the children and young people conducted themselves in the community. I’m not saying that there were no challenges, but on the whole the adults in this community do a wonderful job of creating a relationally rich environment filled with amazing activities, “interventions” and opportunities.
If you work in the child and welfare sector and ever find yourself in Amarillo Texas – look Cal Farley’s up and see if you can visit – it’s nothing short of impressive and it’s folk are just downright good people who are absolutely and only in this for the best outcomes for kids.
Society and the government are facing a variety of social problems, such as obesity, and service systems that are intended to help families and children are struggling to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged.
Dr Tim Moore, a Senior Research Fellow of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, highlights that not understanding why the problem exists makes addressing the problem more difficult. Due to the complex nature of social problems, Dr Moore argues that evidence-based programs are not capable of making sustained changes.
A person’s health and well-being is influenced by the local social environment and the built environment. Hence, it is argued that consequential strangers matter; that is, connections with people in the broader social hierarchy other than family or close friends. To not have contact with consequential strangers can be considered corrosive to a person’s health and well-being.
And so, in poorer communities, building social capital can be a more effective way of promoting children’s welfare due to what flows across from people in connection networks.
Problems which are multi-factored need to be worked on in an organic way. Thus, a place-based approach which includes community engagement and regular monitoring and feedback stands a better chance of being successful.
“While we are the lucky country, it’s not lucky for everyone,” David James, General manager of Children’s Ground.
After 20 years working with communities facing the reality of sustained socio-economic disadvantage in remote areas, it was found that things had not improved; rather they had worsened…and probably wouldn’t improve.
This called for a complete rethinking of how to end entrenched disadvantage. This approach started with thinking about the needs of the community and ended with the building of the Children’s Ground platform.
Children’s Ground is a set of ideas and steps that can be implemented from within the community as opposed to being imposed upon it. It aims for families and communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage to realise their aspirations for the next generation of children – to be free from trauma and suffering. If this feels like a big commitment, that’s because it is!
This is a preventative program and a huge part of its success is starting early, even before the birth of the child. This commitment gives the child the best possible start at life and then this child is supported by the Children’s Ground platform for twenty-five years.
Within this time, the platform places focus on the child first, then the family and the community as a whole, whilst still being implemented from within the community. This bottom-up model for community led action is perhaps the biggest achievement of Children’s Ground.
It allows for deeper engagement and builds a relationship with a generation who can pass information and knowledge on to future generations.
The Children’s Ground platform is currently being used in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and West Arnhem Land. Here the platform was offered to the community with no strings attached and no further communication with Children’s Ground if the community didn’t seek it.
This giving up of ownership is was makes for the community led success of this project.
Presented by Sharon Fraser, Central Goldfields Shire Council and John Bonnice, St. Luke’s Anglicare
This session was about the ‘Go Goldfields’ project, coordinated in Central Goldfields Shire, which seeks to improve the community through partnerships and coordination so that children in Goldfields can live a full life.
This place-based initiative was planned and implemented entirely from within the community, uniting service providers, local government and community leaders to address the issues that face the area.
Central Goldfields Shire is positioned between Ballarat and Bendigo, with a population of about 13,000, with the main centre being Maryborough. This has been an area of socioeconomic disadvantage and the common problems that stem from this, however, ‘Go Goldfields’ want to change that story.
Central Goldfields Shire council employed a place-based planning approach for this project. This means that the initiatives are driven from within the community, as opposed to being established and researched by bodies outside the area and then implemented in the community.
What’s critical to this is having a ‘critical enquiry approach’, where you keep asking the questions to try and identify and face the key issues of the community.
So, if the question is ‘why are children suffering in this area?’, keep asking that question, keep peeling off the layers until you can see the answer. This involves talking to and asking the question of all the players in this issue.
The ‘Go Goldfields’ project was implemented across the entire shire, with focus being given to poverty, social connection, community engagement, youth, family violence and workforce development. There’s a history of services focussing on one improving one part of community life in the hope that this would lead to greater advantage in other areas.
By uniting service providers and partnerships, the ‘Go Goldfields’ project can address the most pressing issues for the community from a wide range of angles.
Let’s talk about implementation and planning, are community development projects better implemented in a place-based approach, or is this re-inventing the wheel?