Making her own future

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Louise Carson

Young mother and child walk along the beach at sunset

A new early intervention program launched in Western Sydney last year is making its mark with local families and children.

MacKillop Family Services is delivering Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare (FFT-CW) in the Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Parramatta and Auburn areas. FFT-CW is an evidence-based, intensive program aimed at keeping families together, targeting the causes of harm and trauma, and where appropriate keeping children from entering the child protection system.

Siblings Jamie, Jaz, Ned and Tia* have already benefited from the program, having recently returned to the care of their mum, Marisa*, after four months living apart.

Days before the children were returned, Marisa joined the FFT-CW program. She had already taken several positive steps in anticipation of the return of her children, but after meeting with FFT-CW therapist, Sue Buratti, her life was transformed.

“Through intensive therapeutic support, plus sheer hard work and determination, Marisa has turned her life around,” said Sue.

“She has completed positive parenting courses, engaged in drug and alcohol counselling, and created a home environment where her children are safe and able to stay together.”

Sue provided intensive therapy to give Marisa insight into negative relationship patterns, how to react to escalating behaviours in her children, how to understand her responses to these behaviours, and how her own experiences as a child influence how she behaves today.

“All this therapy was carried out in Marisa’s home, so we could be present in an environment where she felt comfortable,” said Sue. “I was there to help her think about her behaviour and support her to choose safe options. This was a turning point in her behaviour and enhanced her confidence in her parenting skills.”

Therapy also helped Marisa establish a stable routine for her kids, which included going to school and childcare. Conversations with Marisa were often relationship-focused, so she could develop a better understanding of how children perceive things, how they perceive their Mum, and how being back with their Mum was so important to them.

Given the high proportion of Aboriginal clients in Western Sydney, the program is delivered in a culturally inclusive framework. All FFT-CW therapists attend cultural awareness training; an Aboriginal case worker is on-hand to guide therapists on culturally appropriate behaviour; and the team is constantly focused on building positive working relationships with local Aboriginal agencies and services.

“As a young, single mother of four, Marisa’s challenges are ongoing. However, her family unit has been strengthened, she is a competent and confident mother, and she engages and encourages others in her community to seek the support they need,” said Sue.

In recognition of her determination, Marisa was nominated for the Mary MacKillop Award for ‘Courage in Life’ at the end of 2017. These important awards acknowledge service participants who demonstrate inspirational perseverance towards goals in the face of challenging circumstances, and the nomination earned Marissa a cash voucher.

“Her first instinct was to spend the money on her children, but with encouragement she decided to do something for herself,” said Sue.

“She went to a hairdresser and had her hair cut, coloured and blow-dried for the first time in her life. It was a symbol of how far she has travelled with MacKillop and FFT-CW – to recognise her own self-worth and her value as a woman and mother.”

MacKillop continues to work with Marisa who will soon be commencing a Community Pathways course at TAFE to prepare her for a Certificate IV in Community Services. Marisa plans to work as a domestic violence support worker to support other Aboriginal women in her community.

*Names changed to protect privacy