Parenting can be a joyful, rewarding experience but, for some, it can lead to challenges that seem insurmountable.
A Samaritans-led program is helping vulnerable families overcome these obstacles and build resilience within a safe and supportive environment.
Brighter Futures provides in-home support to parents with children aged 17 and under who are dealing with issues such as mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence.
Each family joining the program is encouraged to identify and prioritise their goals for the other family members. A case manager then partners with the family to determine what is going well and tries to develop these strengths.
Lake Macquarie Team Leader Jo Gerrard said Brighter Futures is a family preservation program.
“Our aim is to keep children at home with the parents wherever it’s safe. So, our referrals are around risk of harm and abuse or neglect of kids and young people,” she said.
“We can work with families for up to 18 months. It’s a case management kind of framework but is very diverse – we do a bit of counselling, advocacy, parent education, and we work a lot in crisis and psychosocial support.”
Jo, who joined Brighter Futures in 2018, said her team of six case managers had to think on its feet and be mindful of risk and safety.
While the work can be challenging, the team’s passion and dedication has produced many positive outcomes.
“The last couple of years with COVID-19 have been difficult. We worked all the way through and there was a point, for a few months, where we were still visiting families and going out when other services weren’t,” she said.
“I think that was something we managed really well because we saw there was a real need for us to be seeing kids when schools were shut and things like that.”
Jo added it was a rewarding experience to meet parents who had managed to turn their lives around.
“It’s always amazing to run into people two, three or four years down the track and they’re doing really well – their kids are thriving at school, and they are able to get housing.
“I recently ran into a mum – who I worked with several years back – when she was on her lunch break from work. She had previously suffered a drug-induced psychosis and harmed her children, so they were removed from her care, and we became involved to help her to keep her new baby.
“When I met her, she let me know her little one was doing really well and still in her care and she was actually in the process of getting her elder children back.
“So, that’s really a best-case scenario for us – when parents keep their kids or when they are restored.”
Jo said she was proud to be involved in the Brighter Futures program.
“The team works incredibly hard, and they are super passionate about what they do,” she said.
“We’ve got two good teams – one here and one in Newcastle – and it’s a great program to be a part of.”