Putting fractured families back together

Posted on 12 Oct 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Newpin 2

Separating children from their families because they are at risk, even when done for valid reasons, can be a gut-wrenching and traumatic experience for all those involved.

It is that knowledge that drives a dedicated team of carers who, working closely with government case workers, help reunite children in foster care with their parents when it’s safe to do so.

Uniting’s New Parent and Infant Network (Newpin) program works with families under stress to break the cycle of destructive behaviour and enhance parent-child relationships.

Many of these parents have experienced significant abuse and trauma in their own childhood, which can have ramifications for their own parenting skills and fracture family relationships.

Newpin is designed to help parents address their emotional issues via a therapeutic program aimed at improving attachment with their children and developing positive parenting skills.

Parents, children and staff work together in accordance with a set of core values:

  • support
  • equity
  • empathy
  • respect
  • self-determination
“Since 1998, thanks to Newpin and its remarkable staff, hundreds of children have been safely reunited with their parents – an outcome that is transformative for children and families.”
Uniting NSW.ACT CEO Tracey Burton.

Participating parents are required to attend a Newpin centre weekly for up to 18 months and engage in educational parenting groups.

They in turn receive support as they integrate the knowledge and skills they have learned into their home environment.

An essential part of the free program is the quality time parents spend with their children, a process that allows staff to observe their interactions and tailor the level of support needed to improve their relationship.

2023 marks the 25th anniversary of Newpin in Australia.

In the past decade alone, the program has helped more than 400 children transition out of care and return to a loving home.

Uniting NSW.ACT CEO Tracey Burton said Newpin started with just seven families in the western Sydney suburb of Bidwell in 1998.

From those humble beginnings, the program has expanded to six locations in NSW and centres in the ACT and South Australia.

“Since 1998, thanks to Newpin and its remarkable staff, hundreds of children have been safely reunited with their parents – an outcome that is transformative for children and families,” said Ms Burton.

Newpin 1

Parents who have participated in the program include Marie and her sons Mark, aged four, and Jason, eight.

Both children were removed from their parents’ care in August 2020 because of parental domestic violence, drug use and mental health issues.

Uniting Newpin Operations NSW Lead Mel Courtney said, with Newpin’s support, Marie has worked hard to overcome her mental health challenges and has managed to maintain a drug-free life.

Both boys have now been reunited with their mum and the family has been together again since May 2022.

Ms Ms Courtney said feedback from Marie indicated she found the groups and play sessions at Newpin increased her understanding of her children’s needs and boosted her own self-confidence and personal growth.

“The peer support and connection she has with other parents and staff have provided her with the emotional support she needs to stay strong and keep moving forward,” said Ms Courtney.

“She has also found the play sessions and the knowledge and support from the play staff invaluable to her as a parent in supporting Mark, who has global development delay and additional special needs.”

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