Domestic and family violence (DFV) takes a profound and long-term toll on women and children’s health and wellbeing, on families and communities, and on society as a whole.
It has been identified that children require dedicated, ongoing support to reduce the long-term negative effects of DFV on their physical and emotional development, their education, and mental wellbeing.
Thanks to a seed grant from the Property Industry Foundation, Open Support’s Child Wellbeing Program was developed and a pilot was conducted from February to June this year at Safe Haven, a DFV crisis accommodation and support service in western Sydney.
Through the delivery of this program and direct case management for each child, 18 children under-12 – including a tiny, seven-month-old baby girl, traumatised by the domestic violence her mother endured – have already been assisted.
“The feedback from the children’s mums on the positive impact the program has had on their kids has been amazing,” says Safe Haven Coordinator, Sharon Sutherland, explaining that, in most cases, mothers arrive at Safe Haven traumatised and feeling enormous guilt that their children have also been subjected to the domestic violence – either physically, mentally or emotionally.
“The Child Wellbeing Program helps these families to have conversations about their feelings and, through play sessions involving both the mother and child – or children, in some cases – helps to strengthen their bond. We know from research in this space that this is absolutely crucial for achieving long-term, positive outcomes for these families.”
With the aid of Safe Haven’s newly designated Child Support Worker and a specially-created suite of resources, the program is empowering the children at Safe Haven.
“By addressing the adverse childhood experiences of domestic violence by reducing suffering at the time of crisis and by building strong, resilient children and families, the program is a vial investment in a child’s future,” adds Sharon.