5G The First 1000 Days
Too often left behind: infant and child reunification in families with problematic parental substance use
Due to a number of biological, environmental, economic and systemic risk factors, infants and children exposed to problematic parental substance use are over-represented in child protection services and in out-of-home care. This group of children tends to enter out-of-home care earlier, sometimes immediately after birth, to remain in care longer and to not be returned to parental care. The reunification process is complicated by the lack of services able to deal with the complexity of co-occurring presenting concerns including mental health and domestic violence, parental reluctance to engage with services, and unconscious bias and risk-aversion by service providers. For over two decades, Odyssey House Victoria, an alcohol and other drug treatment agency, has been supporting parents with problematic substance use to safely care for their infants and children.
This presentation outlines the trauma and attachment informed practice model used by the Kids in Focus (KIF) program, with particular emphasis on intensive outreach case management in high-risk situations and the opportunity for therapeutic attachment-focused repair between infants, children and parents when access is supervised by KIF staff. The presentation will also discuss how the model helps mothers and fathers maintain the sense of being a parent while children are out of their care and how, with parental hope restored, KIF works in partnership with the statutory child protection service to monitor risk while improving parenting capacity in readiness for reunification. A short video of mothers speaking about their experience of the program will be shown to illustrate successful reunification.
Anne Tidyman has a background in nursing, public housing, community development, out-of-home care and public advocacy. She has volunteered and worked in the community sector for the past 15 years with a special interest in working with vulnerable families and communities. Anne is Manager, Child and Family Services, at Odyssey House Victoria.
Violeta Solarte qualified with a Masters of Social Work in 2013 and has worked in the Alcohol and other Drug sector since. Violeta is passionate about working with families who face marginalisation due to their substance issues. Violeta is the Team Leader, Kids in Focus Odyssey House Victoria