DIOCESE OF PARRAMATTA REPORT: CatholicCare Social Services - Diocese of Parramatta (CCSS) has joined with three other Catholic social welfare agencies in forming a program which assists separated families in Sydney.
The 'Keeping Kids in Mind' (KKIM) Program is the result of four years of collaborative work between CCSS, CatholicCare Sydney, CatholicCare Wollongong and Centacare Broken Bay.
Each year, more than 45,000 couples apply for divorce. Many more, who are not married but living together, separate. More than 50 per cent of these separations involve children.
The innovative KKIM joint venture supports families through the separation process, especially families where there are high levels of parental conflict, mental health issues and other complex needs.
The program provides an integrated case management model and offers a range of therapeutic, educational and family dispute resolution services to couples and families experiencing conflict in separation. The project is designed to inform and improve parents’ awareness regarding the impact of their conflict on their children’s psychological and emotional development and to increase the resiliency of children and families in separated situations. The service is accessible through a single 1800 number (1800 55 46 46) or through the KKIM website.
The collaboration between the four agencies also means separated families can be assisted in a coordinated way across a broad geographic area, and creating a streamlined access point ofr the Courts, family lawyers and other referrers.
“It is not uncommon for separated families to live both within and beyond boundaries of service organisations,” CCSS Executive Director Otto Henfling said.
“This new collaborative project between our four agencies enables a much greater coordinated response for families and will assist in improving outcomes for children where their parents are experiencing high levels of conflict.
“The aim of KKIM is to assist separated parents focus on the needs of their children, and to find ways to develop more cooperative parenting practices.”
Proper support for parents with complex needs
|The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant, Family Court of Australia and Federal Magistrate Dale Kemp.|
“Keeping Kids in Mind is a unique and innovative program. It is a tailored post-separation service bringing together four locations, and it is targeted to disadvantaged families,” Chief Justice Bryant said.
Chief Justice Bryant also said the strengths of the program were the use of a common assessment framework and the provision for providing feedback to Courts.
“It provides support services to families to enable them to be better parents."
CatholicCare Sydney CEO Bernard Boerma said children are particularly vulnerable during the separation process.
“It can be difficult for parents to provide support when they are stressed and caught up with their own feelings of grief and loss,” he said.
“An important component of achieving good outcomes for children is to ensure that parents with complex needs are properly supported and have access to specialist services that support their needs.”
The project includes an educational DVD and a group work program for separated parents experiencing medium to high levels of conflict. Centacare Broken Bay Executive Director Deidre Cheers said the group work program has been independently evaluated by the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle and has shown very positive results.
“There has been a need in the community for evidence based programs that can assist families manage complex post separation situations,” she said.
The great benefits expected from the KKIM consortium are improved outcomes for children in families experiencing post separation conflict and an improvement in family relationships generally.
The new program includes an approach to helping separated families that places an emphasis on the importance of the first contact a family makes with the service and assisting a family through the process.
CatholicCare Wollongong Executive Director Kath MacCormack said theprogram's case management approach for separated families avoids the burden for those seeking help to repeat their story to a number of different people.“It will assist people in complex post separation situations to have their needs assessed and responded to in a more integrated and individualised way,” she said.