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Families First Project Report 2004-2005

Project Officer: Fatema Rashid Hasan

The Families First Project, funded by the Department of Community Services, supports parents and carers in raising their children by providing a coordinated network of services using the prevention and early intervention approach. The target group includes families with children from 0-3 years old initially, with a plan to extend to 8 years old later on. This project intends to develop and implement models to support families in new release areas (Auburn, Berala, Lidcombe, Newington, Silverwater, and Regents Park in Auburn Local Government Area (LGA) by strengthening the connection between communities and families. The aim of the project is to encourage communities to connect with families with children in order to develop a sense of belonging, to organise activities that motivate families to come together, to develop supportive networks among families, and to advocate on behalf of families with children.

Since commencing work in October 2003, the Families First project continues to provide a wide range of services targeting families and children in Auburn. During the reporting period the Families First Project organised a series of activities based on needs of families, carers and children, including information and awareness-raising, training programmes for childcare workers and holiday programmes engaging young children and their siblings with creative activities. Key activities carried out during the reporting period were based on requests from childcare centers, and included training programmes for carers from Auburn LGA on “ Health Safety and Nutrition” and “Emerging New Curriculum”. Information sessions were organised for mothers from Arabic speaking backgrounds on issues relating to raising and supporting children. Examples of these were “Child Protection Regulation”, “Bed Wetting among Children and Bladder Control for Mothers”, “Positive Parenting Skills” and, “Healthy Lunch Boxes”. As a part of school holidays programme, the Families First Project organised a Day Out for families and children from Regents Park in September 2004. A sports carnival was also organised for children from 3-5 years old and their siblings, as well as an Arts Competition as a part of the school holiday programme. The aim in organising these programmes was to motivate families and children to come together.

The issues identified while working in the Auburn LGA vary greatly and include: lack of post-natal support, lack of access to dental health, difficulties in accessing childcare, lack of after school care services and isolated families. While some of the issues are ongoing, others have been addressed through the Families First project by strengthening existing services and the provision of new services. Some examples include Dental Health Information Sessions in various parts of Auburn LGA, a Multicultural Toys Resource Library, creative and motivating activities for families with children from 0-3 years old and training programmes for childcare workers that are mandatory under the Child Protection Legislation.

The projectís success has largely been due to addressing concerns in a timely and appropriate manner and the use of innovative approaches. While the lack of appropriate policies targeting very young children from 0-3 years has proved challenging in carrying out this project, it has demonstrated its success in the increasing number of families and childcare centres accessing Families First services and requesting sessions and activities for carers and families and children. From here the project aims to maintain its strong base of activities and will continue to introduce new programmes including the establishment of a Drop-in Centre.