Children’s Commissioner visits McAuley Care

The importance of McAuley’s multi-faceted children’s program was in no doubt at a recent visit to McAuley Community Services for Women by Liana Buchanan, Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People.

 She was shown through both McAuley House and McAuley Care, learning more about the impact of family violence directly on mothers and children.

One in four children experience or witness family violence. Many of the mothers at McAuley House are separated from their children because of family violence.

Bess Meredith, McAuley’s specialist children’s worker (see story) told the Commissioner that much of her work focused on maintaining a calm and playful environment at McAuley Care.

“Children who live in homes where there is family violence grow up in an environment that is unpredictable, filled with tension and anxiety and dominated by fear. Instead of growing up in an emotionally and physically safe, secure, nurturing and predictable environment, these children are forced to worry about the future; they try to predict when it might happen next and try to protect themselves and their siblings. Often getting through each day is the main objective so there is little time left for fun, relaxation or planning for the future,” she said.

McAuley has a multi-faceted approach to working with children. It runs a specialised children’s playroom program funded through community donations. Its Court Support for Kids, already in Sunshine and Geelong, starts in Ringwood this month, enabling mothers to obtain their Intervention Orders and attend to other legal matters while their children are cared for.

McAuley staff are regularly trained by Wendy Bunston, social worker and infant mental health specialist, on strengthening bonds between babies and their mothers. This collaboration began in late 2012 when McAuley and Wendy worked collaboratively on Refuge for Babies in Crisis, a free informative resource, which promotes working with infants who have been traumatised by their experience of family violence, while strengthening attachment relationships between the mothers and babies who seek refuge accommodation.

The resource consists of a comprehensive workbook and DVD, and aims to change the way workers "see" babies and infants within their services, and have a lasting impact on the incredibly important work that they do.