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06 October 2017

A win for parents and the Family Law system

Late last year, CatholicCare was funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department to manage the Post Order Support Pilot, an Australian Government initiative aimed at helping separated families experiencing high conflict over parenting arrangements. 

In a win for both separated parents and the Family Law system, CatholicCare’s Dandenong and Geelong offices were engaged to support families in resolving their disputes with less reliance on the family court, effectively filling the gap in providing post parenting order and agreement support services to separated families.

In Dandenong and Geelong, parents who participated in the pilot program were assigned a Post Order Support Worker - a family counsellor with knowledge of the experience and impacts of post separation disputes and skills and experience in: family systems theory; developmental psychology; the effects of family violence; parental estrangement and; conflict resolution techniques.

“It was wonderful to help parents stay away from court or avoid going back to court for parenting matters. Parents have the power to be their own judge and decide together what is best for their children”, said Lylia Pham, Post Order Support Worker at CatholicCare Dandenong. 

“Supporting parents to develop the tools to strengthen their communication, co-parenting relationship and bring their focus on to the emotional and developmental needs of their children has been the main focus of the pilot program”, said Debbie Moore, Senior Post Order Support Program Practitioner and Family Counsellor with CatholicCare at the Geelong Family Relationship Centre.  

Asked about the demand for the program, Anne Vranisan, CatholicCare Manager, Family and Relationship Services said, “There was a flurry of referrals in the final months, which meant staff were busy making sure parents were able to complete the program and receive their certificates. The pilot was unique in that we were able to try something a little different from our current approach in the Parenting Orders Program and we can use this experience to inform our on-going practice."

In the words of parents who participated in the program: 

‘I’ve learnt not to focus on the mother but focus back on the children and what I can do for them’.

‘I feel good once I walk out of here…it is not normal for a man to go to counselling…therapy is not something we talk about, I feel and remain calm when I have to deal with court after going to these sessions.’  

'Everything I have learned has been helpful. It gave me another look at everything. It has helped my relationship with my daughter and with my new partner. It has also helped my new partner to understand the situation we are in and how he can support my daughter.’

To the wonderful staff in Dandenong and Geelong who provided hours of one-on-one support to parents who were court ordered to attend this pilot, and the fabulous staff supporting our family counsellors to ensure the program functioned effectively – THANKS!

While we await formal evaluation of the program by the Centre for Family Research and Evaluation, there has been substantial learning from the Post Order Support Pilot in trying new approaches. We expect to use this in our post separation practice and will work together to formalise these service developments over the coming months.

CatholicCare wishes to gratefully acknowledge funding received from the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department to manage the Post Order Support Pilot - An Australian Government Initiative.

View the Parenting Orders Program

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