Families battling substance misuse are inspiring hope and understanding in one another through group work with Kids in Focus.

From hiking to Sing and Grow music therapy, seasonal celebrations and chat sessions, the groups provide families with a safe space to share their journey as they work towards recovery.

For many, the groups are a rare opportunity for parents and children to make friends and participate in community.

The isolating nature of substance misuse by parents and caregivers can deny children opportunities for normalised experiences such as going to the park or playground and mixing with peers.

“As families take part in the groups, they meet up with the same faces and connect over their journeys with no judgement, regardless of where they’re at with their AOD recovery,’’ said Family Practitioner Jan Player.

“For those that have recovered, it’s nice to see them acknowledge how far they’ve come but with a real kindness and gentleness for others who haven’t got there yet.

Often the families are at different stages of recovery which provides space for learning, reflection and insight.

Jan Player, Family Practitioner

“Often the families are at different stages of recovery which provides space for learning, reflection and insight.’’

Many parents have never known a nurturing, stable environment and may not allow themselves to see the impact of their drug use on their children.

However, families who participated in one or more of the 11 groups held over the past year had shown significant insight into the effects of their behaviour and life challenges on their children, Jan said.

“The focus of conversations often led back to the needs of their children and their experiences of being parents,’’ she added.

KIF works in partnership with families for up to 18 months to increase parenting capacity, minimise harm caused by substance misuse, and create safe home environments.

In 2021-2022, KIF engaged 27 families including 52 adults and 31 children, closed 15 cases and allocated 10 new cases.

For 12 families who closed with the service after engaging with KIF for three months or more, nearly 92 per cent of children had an increase in opportunity and experiences which had supported them to reach life domains.

 Nearly 67 per cent of all families working with KIF improved their circumstances and family functioning.

“It’s a privilege to have the time we do to work with families, and it’s what’s needed to go with the ebbs and flows of addiction and mental health, because both by nature involve relapse,’’ Jan said.

“It’s that longevity of service that enables us to sit beside people to get real change at the end, rather than putting a band aid on and not getting to the challenges that sit underneath the substance misuse.’’

Kids in Focus Team Leader Chantal Dodd (pictured left with Manager Megan Jones) said the groups were an opportunity for clients to genuinely support one another as part of their broader KIF intervention.

“What is evident is the high tolerance of differences and acceptance, and the empathy, understanding and kindness they show one another,’’ she said.

Chantal highlighted the nature walk group which saw two families overcome initial anxiety and embark on a hike through Kersbrook with their children.

“The kids had a great time and the parents were so glad to have done it, but without the scaffolding of KIF, they might not have been able to make that leap for the first time.’’

Jan said she was constantly inspired by the personal growth of the families she met through the program which is based at Salisbury.

“My hope is that working alongside the parents changes their children’s inheritance map and shifts things to a point where life will be a bit different going forward,’’ she said.

For more information about Kids in Focus, email salisbury@centacare.org.au or phone (08) 8412 9500.