ICDP was introduced to Australia in 2003 through five workshops conducted by Nicoletta Armstrong, which were held in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra, attended by 72 professionals. A few small scale initiatives were developed during the following year but then all activities ceased. In 2009, Renee Goetz started to work on reviving ICDP in Australia.
The new training workshops were held in Brisbane for a group of professionals from Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. The first trainer with an ICDP diploma is Anne Oakley and she has successfully implemented ICDP in several projects which took place at the Moonyah Rehabilitation Centre for people with alcohol and drug addiction problems. Anne applied ICDP to work with groups of men who have been separated from their children for 3 months. Some only see their children on weekend visits so they are struggling to maintain a close relationship with their children.
From Anne Oakley's first report: "It is so nice that young men are interested in the program and want to be able to connect with their children. Their Case manager was a bit wary when I first told him what the ICDP program was about, as he felt that their men may not really relate; but by getting them on board right from day one they were happy to attend. They were also used to sharing and talking honestly as they do that as part of their rehabilitation program. They were trying really hard to stay connected to their children. One participant father had a 14 year old girl that he was really having trouble with, she was really angry and acting out and he did not seem to be able to connect with her. In the group there was also another father who had had the same problems with one of his girls, so he shared some stories about his child and gave some ideas about what he thought might help. The following week, we discovered that his advice worked as the father of the 14 year old girl came to the meeting really exited and told about how he had been able to talk to his daughter really openly and discovered why she was so upset. I found that to be one of the most powerful things about the program. It was very moving at times when the participants were sharing about how they felt as children and of the impact their addiction has had on their own children. There were a few tears but lots of successes and when we had our party on the final day, participants' partners, wives and children also came along. It is also really nice that TAFE are supporting me and allowing me the time to go and deliver the ICDP training, they are happy for me to do it and feel it promotes not only ICDP but also adds value to what TAFE deliver. It means that I can do ICDP work at no charge and really get it to the people who need it but can’t afford to pay for it."
Report about ICDP Australia, by Anne Oakley, 2012:
"ICDP is currently delivered in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre and the Salvation Army Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre. As an adjunct to their accredited training, ICDP was also integrated into the Metropolitan South Institute of Training and Education’s Youth Work program and was delivered for one semester (6 months) to students who were going to work in youth services, juvenile justice programs and with the Dept of Child Safety. This was done as part of my teaching duties external to the curriculum and on a voluntary basis. In the last 2 years there have been over 100 parents participating in the program. The program aims to keep parents who are currently separated from their children due to criminal activities or drug and alcohol abuse in touch with their children and give them strategies for re-connecting or maintaining connection with their children during this time. 11,613 children under the age of 18 were placed into either foster care or residential care in Australia in 2011. The latest statistics show there are 37,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 homeless and a further 54,700 children under the age of 12 who are classified as children of homeless parents. Family breakdown is attributed to being the cause of these dreadful numbers but many other children are ‘hidden’ numbers as they are sleeping rough or staying with friends.
The main challenges in Australia are:
1. The Triple P program (Positive Parenting Program) which has been established for over 30 years and is recognised as the flagship program for parents experiencing difficulties in raising their children. This program is mandatory for parents who have had children removed from the home by the Dept of Child Safety and placed in care.
2. Lack of funding - parents who are in crisis cannot afford to pay for programs and the current Queensland government has stopped funding for 55 Community Services withdrawing help and assistance to over 3000 families in crisis.
3. Over medication as a result of mis-diagnosis of children being labelled as having A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. or a behavioural disorder instead of recognising that by remedying poor parenting skills and educating teachers in positive child care practices these children may be understood and nourished instead of medicated.
Currently, all programs have been delivered only to parents and at no cost to the organisation. Metropolitan South Institute of Training and Further Education allows me to deliver the program in work time but cannot charge for my services as the program is not nationally accredited in Australia. The main difficulty with the accreditation process is that it would destroy the integrity of the program. ICDP Australia needs assistance with marketing the program, training new facilitators and seed funding to promote the program nationally at an academic or governmental level. Educational establishments such as schools and colleges do not recognise the program as accredited training and therefore do not give credit to the program and are not willing or able to provide funding. The positive outcomes from the programs that have been delivered make it important to develop strategies to overcome these barriers.
I have kept in touch with many participants and would like to share a couple of stories.
Joanne had a serious drug problem and her 10 year old daughter came home from school one day and found her on the floor, near death, having overdosed on heroine. Her daughter called for an ambulance and Joanne was taken first to hospital and then to the Salvation Army Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Service where she spent 10 months in recovery. Her 10 year old and 2 other children were in care during this time and their relationship was tenuous. It was doubtful if she would be allowed to have her children back of her release from the program because of her history of drug abuse. Using the ICDP program guidelines, Joanne re-established her relationship with her children and after many supervised visits, and a lot of hard work, is now drug free and has her 3 children back living with her.
Rory had been in jail for 8 years when I met him and had not spoken to his 14 year old son for many years. His wife had brought the child to see him on numerous occasions but the child had refused to speak to his dad. As part of the ICDP program, Rory made a picture for his son by cutting pictures and words out of magazines. At the next visit, Rory gave his son the picture and explained why he had made it for him. The picture had a lion, representing how brave he thought his son was, it had a picture of his son and his mother representing their relationship and had the words ‘caring’ , ‘loving’ and ‘kind’. It had a medal and Rory explained that his son deserved a medal for taking care of his mother while he was in jail and a picture of his son playing his guitar with the words ‘talented’ and hero. The boy did not say much but took the picture and his mum told Rory that he had put it on his wall over his bed. A few weeks later, Rory returned to the class and showed us all a picture that his son had done for him. He sat with his dad and told him he could forgive him for not being there for him and that he was going to keep taking care of things until he got out and was home. For the first time in 8 years father and son embraced and said ‘I love you’. Every man in that room had been in jail for over 4 years and they were tough, hard men. Every man in that room had tears in his eyes as Rory told his story. Rory is now home with his wife and son and he swears that his relationship with his child would not have been repaired without ICDP intervention. He uses the IDCP guidelines daily to maintain his relationship with both his son and his wife. He says that if he had completed the program when he was younger he would never have ended up in jail. There are numerous stories from participants who truly believe that ICDP has changed their lives and the lives of their children."
2013: ICDP Australia team has successfully completed three training workshops and is in process of finalizing the training of a new group of six facilitators. The workshops were held at Redland bay, Brisbane and led by ICDP trainer Ann Oakely. The participants had the opportunity to learn how to: reconnect parents to their children; work with parents and caregivers who are struggling to maintain positive relationships with their children; bring fun back into child care practices; develop and deliver programmes in a range of social services settings. As a result, ICDP is starting in Cairns, Melbourne and widening in Brisbane.