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FISH project hooks $95,000 to help children in out-of-home care

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The Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation (NPCF) wasn’t the only organisation in celebration mode this week.

So, too, was the locally-based Family Inclusion Strategies Hunter (FISH) team.

The group’s ecstatic members secured $94,831 at the NPCF’s 20th annual grant giving ceremony at the NEX on Tuesday 9 May.

The much-needed money will go towards enhancing outcomes for children in out-of-home care, by providing parents with assistance, knowledge and skills.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation chair Jennifer Leslie, Rachel Evans, Felicity Kime, Lou Johnston and Jessica Cocks of Family Inclusion Strategies Hunter (FISH).

FISH peer support and advocacy Lou Johnston said the NPCF windfall would help many in the Hunter.

“Our project creates opportunities for families who share the experience of having children in care to connect with and support each other as they work on changes,” she explained.

“We’ve found that youngsters benefit from good relationships with their parents, relatives and communities, no matter where they live, now and into the future.

“So, this strategy may increase the chances of children returning home safely and strengthening their connections and identities.”

Ms Johnston explained the project boasted two parts.

“Both are provided by FISH peer workers who are parents with their own experiences of having children removed and placed in care,” she said.

“So, the first part is an orientation program with support groups and an educational workshop for families who are new to the child-protection system, to help them navigate complicated processes.

“Then the second is supported meetings and family time to strengthen children’s relationships with their families and communities while they are living in care, including family inclusion in decisions about their children.

“For example, a couple who had a child in care and one removed at birth were supported in different ways by FISH peer workers.

“They both said the workers helped them understand what they needed to do to move forward, especially at court, and assisted them with meetings with child protection personnel, which can be really hard for parents.

“They talked through what would happen and facilitated on how they could respond to what was being said.

“The parents noted that meetings were usually at a time when one of them would argue and they wouldn’t get very far, which changed with the peer worker’s support.

“They now attend consultations by themselves and practice what they were taught.

“The peer workers reassured them they knew how to handle things, giving them confidence.

“So, thank you to Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for this amazing opportunity to change the experiences of those living in care through supporting and educating their parents and families.”

Other Hunter beneficiaries included RizeUp, Solve-TAD and SMART Recovery.

The funds will support their delivery of initiatives aimed at improving the health and social wellbeing of vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

RizeUp snared $55,000 for its Driving to Safety program.

By purchasing a vehicle, they’ll be able to collect donations that will furnish homes for survivors of domestic and family violence.

Solve-TAD received $55,000, too.

Its project will gift a custom-built Freedom Wheels bike to 25 children with physical and cognitive disabilities who are unable to personally afford or access NDIS funding to purchase such a vehicle, introducing them to the social benefits of cycling. 

SMART Recovery also garnered $50,000.

They’ll train 20 Lifeline counsellors across two hubs – Hunter and Central Coast – to deliver Self-Management and Recovery Training meetings, which provide clients with evidence-based addiction and mental health support.

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