My Kids and Me
About This Program
Target Population: Parents whose children (aged 0-18) have been removed into the child protection system; either permanently or temporarily
For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 18
The program was designed specifically for the parents of children in out-of-home care. Restoration may or may not be part of the case plan. The course is not designed to give participants practical parenting help, rather its aim is to give participants an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and provide an opportunity for change. The program uses metaphor as a therapeutic process of change and works within an attachment framework.
This course is designed to have genuine respect and dignity shown to the participants by the facilitators. Facilitators must be nonjudgmental, accepting of difference, supportive, and respectful in order that, where appropriate. They are able to challenge the participants in their thinking, behaviour, or world view.
The goals of My Kids and Me are:
- Increase reflective functioning
- Understand how their own life experience has brought them to this place
- Recognize community perceptions and attitudes and the impact they have
- Feel safe enough to share their own story and engage in the group process
- Learn how to identify and manage strong emotions
- Understand the process of loss and grief
- Learn how to communicate appropriately and assertively with professionals and carers (i.e., foster parents)
- Learn the difference between aggressive, passive, and assertive communication
- Understand what it’s like for children who are in out-of-home care
- Learn how to communicate and relate appropriately to children during access visits
The essential components of My Kids and Me include:
- My Kids and Me is a multisession therapeutic/educational course designed specifically for parents whose children have been removed.
- The program is delivered in a group of 5 to 15 participants.
- Metaphor is used to enable participants to tell their stories without retraumatizing themselves or others. The use of metaphoric language also enables participants to engage with the emotions rather than remain in the cognitive space. This in turn provides an opportunity for healing and understanding rather than confusion, blame, and defensiveness. Participants are taught to build their capacity to self-reflect.
- Facilitators utilize an attachment framework to provide safety to the participants to be vulnerable as they grapple with the key issues in their lives that have led to the intervention of the child protection services.
- Facilitators build trust with the participants to break through the barriers that shame brings. When there is a trusting relationship with a facilitator, participants can be challenged around their values and beliefs, their thoughts, and behavior.
- The dignity and respect that is expected to be shown to the participants through My Kids and Me is, unfortunately, usually a new experience for them. When treated with dignity and respect, participants may rise to a higher level of self-respect, for example participants could start to dress differently, respond differently, and start to work in collaboration with the facilitators. Participants may be able to look at their parenting behavior more openly and build an understanding of why their children were removed without fear of being judged.
- Whilst My Kids and Me is a parenting program, participants are expected to build skills around communication and conflict resolution, meeting the needs of children, understanding the need to care for themselves, resilience, loss and grief, managing strong emotions and understanding the roles of parents. The main parenting skill that participants are taught is Emotion Coaching. Participants are encouraged to use Emotion Coaching with their children during contact visits to help manage their child’s strong feelings.
- The course encourages creativity and uses imagery, metaphor, and story telling rather than a didactic approach. This approach is designed to make the course relevant for participants of all cultures, background, and languages including any First Nations participants. While the facilitator manual is written in professional terms, facilitators are encouraged to be authentic in their facilitation and use of language in order to best engage with the participants.
- The facilitator training is designed to be practical and hands on; it spends time understanding and workshopping situations that can become difficult within the group context. Facilitators are introduced to the impact of trauma and how to work within that context while staying true to the course content.
- The program is designed to be facilitated within an agency context whose clients are those parents whose children have been removed due to child protection concerns. It is not recommended for staff of the statutory body responsible for the removal of children to facilitate this program. This is due to the participants’ perceived conflict of interest working with the agency who has removed their children which could significantly impact the parents’ capacity to trust the facilitators.
- All participants undergo a pregroup assessment. Participants cannot attend the group if they are drug or alcohol affected at the time of the group. Participants who have mental ill-health are assisted to have supports put in place during the course. Participants who have a history of domestic violence are placed in separate groups otherwise couples can attend the course together.
- My Kids and Me can be used with parents who do not speak English by using an interpreter.
My Kids and Me directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:
- Parents with children who are in out-of-home care who may have a history of drug or alcohol misuse, mental health concerns, or domestic violence and lack of awareness of how the impact their history, family of origin, parenting styles, choices and behavior led to child protection involvement and the removal of their children from their care
2.5 hour weekly sessions
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Community Agency
My Kids and Me includes a homework component:
There is a parent workbook which is completed during the course and parents are asked to reflect on their learnings over the week. The main homework that is given every week from session 3 on is to ask the parents to do something to look after themselves during the week. Usually no one has looked after them and so participants are encouraged to take care of themselves so that they can better take care of their children.
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
The program requires two trained and licensed facilitators and a group room space for the size of the group (5-15 participants). There are no PowerPoint slides however there is a facilitator pack which includes resources to be used in the course. A whiteboard and/or butchers paper and pens are necessary but most of the visuals for the group are in the form of posters which are provided as part of the facilitators’ pack which comes as part of the two-day facilitator training.
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
Facilitators should have Tertiary Qualifications (i.e., Bachelor’s degree) in a social science or related field and a minimum of two years of experience working with groups in the community and/or out-of-home care sector.
Education and Training Resources
There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.
Candlin, A. et al (2014). My Kids and Me; strengthening relationships with kids in care. CatholicCare Sydney and CatholicCare Wollongong.
- Angharad Candlin, Manager Parent Education, CatholicCare Sydney
phone: (029) 509-1111
Training is obtained:
Training is provided either at CatholicCare Sydney’s site or can be arranged as an in-house by a host provider for a minimum of 10 and maximum of 20 practitioners.
Number of days/hours:
All facilitators are required to attend a two-day Facilitator Training course; including a teach-back segment prior to being licensed to facilitate the course. In addition, there is an optional annual Development Day.
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for My Kids and Me.
Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia. (2015, April 29). My Kids and Me: Strengthening relationships with kids in care. Retrieved from https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/2015/04/29/my-kids-and-me-strengthening-relationships-kids-care
Gibson, C., & Parkinson, S. (2013). Evaluation of ‘My Kids and Me’: Final report. Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia. Retrieved from CatholicCare’s website: https://www.catholiccare.org/family-and-Individual-services/parenting-and-support/parent-education-groups/
- Angharad Candlin, BSc (Hons), Grad Dip M., MA Registered Psychologist
- Title: Manager Parent Education
- Agency/Affiliation: CatholicCare Sydney
- Email: Angharad.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: (029) 509-1111
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: April 2018
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: May 2018
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2018