Helping families through separation


The CatholicCare Parramatta team (from left): Karolyn Ellis, Otto Henfling, Ann O’Brien, and Dr Oscar Modesto Ramirez
  Catholic Outlook, October 2011


A new program which aims to assist separated families with complex needs was launched in Sydney recently by the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant.  

Keeping Kids in Mind’ is a collaboration of four Catholic social welfare agencies covering the greater Sydney area: CatholicCare Social Services Parramatta, CatholicCare Sydney, CatholicCare Wollongong and Centacare Broken Bay.

This innovative joint venture aims to support families through the separation process, especially where there are high levels of parental conflict, mental health issues and other complex needs.

‘Keeping Kids in Mind’ provides an integrated case management model and offers a range of therapeutic, educational and family dispute resolution services to couples and families experiencing conflict in separation.

The program is designed to inform and improve parents’ awareness regarding the impact of their conflict on their children’s psychological and emotional development and to increase the resiliency of children and families in separated situations.

People can access the service by calling toll free 1800 55 46 46 or through the website:

In launching the program, Chief Justice Bryant said Australia had the environment in which programs such as ‘Keeping Kids in Mind’ could grow and flourish.

"This unique and innovative program is a tailored post-separation service bringing together four locations, and it is targeted to disadvantaged families," she said.

Chief Justice Bryant said the use of a common assessment framework and the provision for providing feedback to courts, all combined to better support separated families, enabling them to be better parents.

More than 45,000 couples apply for divorce each year and many more who are not married but living together, separate. More than 50% of these separations involve children.

Keeping Kids in Mind’ includes an educational DVD and a group work program for separated parents experiencing medium to high levels of conflict.

The new program includes an approach to helping separated families that places an emphasis on the importance of the first contact a family makes with the service and assisting a family through the process.

The collaboration between the four Catholic agencies also means separated families can be assisted in a coordinated way across a broad geographic area, and there is a streamlined access point for the Courts, family lawyers and other referrers.

Otto Henfling, Executive Director of CatholicCare Parramatta, said it was not uncommon for separated families to live both within and beyond the boundaries of service organisations.

“This new collaborative project between our four agencies enables a much greater coordinated response for families and will assist in improving outcomes for children where their parents are experiencing high levels of conflict,” he said.

“The aim of ‘Keeping Kids in Mind’ is to assist separated parents to focus on the needs of their children, and to find ways to develop more cooperative parenting practices.”

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