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MacKillop Family Services – Therapeutic Life Story Work

February 6, 2020

MacKillop Family Services received a grant of $30,000 to help break the correlation for you, between disadvantage and living in Out of Home Care.

Children who grow up in Out of Home Care (including foster care and residential care) are among the most disadvantaged in our community. Children may enter care for many reasons – most often they have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; neglect; or have witnessed family violence, drug and alcohol misuse, or family members affected by mental health issues.

As a result of their trauma, many have disengaged, or are at risk of disengaging from education. A recent review of young people living in MacKillop’s residential care homes showed that only 25% attended school full time, with 75% attending part-time, sporadically or worse, not at all.

The Geelong region is particularly challenging.  The behaviours of the children and young people MacKillop support throughout of home care services in our region are among the most complex seen throughout the organisation, and engagement in education is particularly low.

We know that regular school attendance, positive educational engagement, learning and academic achievement are fundamental to children and young people reaching their potential. Therefore in October 2018, MacKillop launched an innovative pilot program – Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW) – to help the young people cared for in Geelong understand and heal from the trauma they have experienced.

TLSW is an internationally-recognised program which supports traumatised young people to make significant changes in their life by developing a deep understanding and awareness of how their history has negatively impacted their present.

TLSW helps young people to process unresolved anger, grief and loss and develop strategies to manage these issues. By addressing their social and emotional wellbeing, we aim to create a greater willingness to engage or re-engage in education and learning. And if they can achieve an education, they have the chance to break the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage – so often the result of growing up in care.

Since October 2019, three young people have completed the program. Before commencing, two of the three were completely disengaged from school, but they are now re-engaged in education and seeking further educational/vocational pathways.  The goal now is to continue to offer the program to as many young people as possible currently living in either foster or residential care.