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Family safety left in the balance due to NSW funding
Families on the NSW Central Coast could miss out on specialised support due to program funding ending 30 June (2023). The program in question is revolutionising the way in which adolescent violence in the home is addressed, disrupting the intergenerational transmission of family violence.
For the past three years the NSW Government has funded the evidence-based program Functional Family Therapy (FFT), delivered by OzChild. The program has been life changing for the 104 families who have completed the program. But for 21 families on the wait list the fear of missing out is becoming a reality, as funding for the program runs out in just days.
“This program is contributing to safer families, safer communities, stopping harmful behaviours from causing more harm within the family and working to stop the transference of violence into adult relationships,” says Dr Lisa J. Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer, OzChild.
“The support we have received from the Labor Government in years gone by, advocating for investment in this life-changing program has been warmly welcomed, as is the commitment to not stop funding programs where the evidence says it is working. I hope the newly elected government once again considers the value of this program in the fight to eliminate violence against women and children,” adds Dr Griffiths.
FFT is an evidence-based program that helps families overcome a range of issues, such as communication problems, substance abuse, and mental health issues.
This early intervention program centres around reducing conflict, improving communication, and teaching young people how to better manage their behaviours. The program extends to building the capability of parents, specifically addressing impacts of trauma in parenting.
Angela* knows firsthand the devastating effects of adolescent violence in the home, having just completed OzChild’s program with her teenage sons.
Having escaped a violent partner, Angela relocated with her boys to start fresh. Life was looking promising, they had settled in a new town, and Charlie* and Billy* were adjusting well. Then Angela noticed a change in her eldest son’s behaviour.
Charlie was exhibiting similar behaviours to those he witnessed while growing up, and Angela was scared for her safety, and that of his seven-year-old brother too.
Young people who are violent have often experienced or witnessed violence in the family home. Those experiencing violence from young people are mostly mothers and younger siblings.
Angela is like thousands of women and children across New South Wales who have been affected by domestic, family, and sexual violence. But what is not widely reported is the occurrence of adolescent family violence, the use of family violence (including physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, financial and/or sexual abuse) by a young person against their parent, carer, sibling, or other family member within the home.
According to a study into adolescent family violence in Australia1 conducted by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), the most common form of violence used by young people is verbal abuse, followed by physical violence and emotional/psychological abuse.
Angela was seeing all these forms of violence from Charlie. He wasn’t just scaring her, his younger brother was fearful too. Thankfully, the family were thrown a lifeline when they were referred to the specialised program which has been helping families on the Central Coast since 2019.
In New South Wales, there are many families who could benefit from FFT, but unfortunately, funding for the program is coming to an end. This is a shame because FFT is an investment in the future of families and communities, and has been shown to be cost-effective in the long run.
Many referrals to OzChild’s FFT program on the NSW Central Coast are for families with young people who have a disability or are disengaged from school. Many have been experiencing Domestic and Family Violence for generations.
“Other programs were just for me, and working on my parenting, it wasn’t involving all of us,” says Angela.
“FFT was different, it was exactly what we needed, as soon as I met our family therapist, I felt like finally someone understood what I needed, that we all needed to be part of the solution, it wasn’t just about how I was parenting Charlie.”
Through the program, the family learned new ways to communicate with each other and work together to support Charlie’s recovery. They also learned how to set boundaries and manage their own emotions, which helped to reduce conflict in the family.
After completing the program, the Robertson* family were able to maintain the progress they had made and continue to support Charlie. The family is now closer than ever, and they credit FFT with saving their family.
“We really needed to re-establish ourselves as a family, after everything we’d been through, having that outside person come in to bring us together has been so valuable.” Angela reflects.
Funding the future
The Robertson’s story is just one example of the many families who could benefit from FFT in New South Wales. By funding FFT, the government can make a real and lasting difference for families who have experienced family and domestic violence for generations. Stopping the escalation of violence and protect victim-survivors from both immediate and long-term harm.
Funding FFT is a wise investment long-term. By implementing support early on, the government can reduce the likelihood that families will require more expensive and intensive interventions later. This not only provides significant cost savings to government but improves safety and wellbeing of children and young people. A change that will positively impact the wider community.
Investing in FFT won’t solve the family and domestic violence crisis alone, but it does help to disrupt the cycles of violence in families. This can stop harmful behaviours from escalating now and into adult relationships. Missed opportunities to intervene early, and system barriers have only contributed to worsening cycles of violence.
Investment by the New South Wales Government in this early intervention and prevention program is a must.
Children’s Week is a national celebration of children’s rights, talents and citizenship held on the fourth Wednesday of October in Australia to coincide with Universal Children’s Day. Each year the theme of Children’s Week highlights a particular Children’s Right.
Foster Care Week is celebrated in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia from 11-17 September. We are both humbled and amazed by the enormous contribution of our village of carers who open their homes, their hearts and their lives giving back to the community so selflessly.
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