Caring Dads Anti-violence program launched

Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos today officially launched Caring Dads, an early intervention pilot program aimed at fathers experiencing drug or alcohol abuse who have committed, or are at risk of committing family violence.

The Victorian Government is investing $4.6 million over four years for the Caring Dads program, with an additional $1 million contributed by philanthropic partner Gandel Philanthropy.

Fathers attend voluntary group sessions over 17 weeks where they learn parenting skills and the impact of family violence on their children as well as the importance of a respectful relationship with their children’s mother.

“This program helps bring in to sharp focus for fathers the impact that family violence can have on their family and the development of their children,” said Minister Mikakos. “The Victorian Government is committed to trialling family-focussed programs that end the vicious cycle of family violence.”

Referrals to the program are made through alcohol and other drug services, mental health services, child protection, Child FIRST, maternal and child health services, police and other community service providers.

The pilot program will operate in three locations around the state. In Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs, the program will be managed by the Children’s Protection Society (CPS) in partnership with UnitingCare ReGen.

The Children’s Protection Society is also providing clinical oversight to Anglicare who are running the program in Inner Gippsland, while Anglicare and IPC Health are managing the program in Melbourne’s west.

“Family violence is insidious and the whole society has a duty to support programs and activities that address this crisis. Gandel Philanthropy trustees believed that the delivery of a pilot program, based on a very successful overseas model directed specifically at the perpetrators of violence, was worthy of support and had the potential to help tackle this pressing and complex social issue,” said CPS CEO, Aileen Ashford. “As a community we need to enhance the scope of services that assists men early on and supports them to build positive relationships with their children. This program will give us that chance. There are very few services that respond holistically to the multiple issues associated with family violence and none are evidence-based.  This program aims to keep children and parents together whilst building safe and healthy environments. “

The pilot will run until June 2019 and will be fully evaluated by the University of Melbourne, represented at the launch by Professor Cathy Humphreys.

Caring Dads was developed in Canada and is also currently delivered in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.

Following the Victorian Government’s commitment to implement all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence – including researching, trialling and evaluating intervention programs for perpetrators, a record $1.9 billion package of measures to end family violence in Victoria was announced in the 2017-18 Victorian Budget.

Gandel Philanthropy’s support comes as a strong advocate for addressing domestic violence and made one of its largest program-focussed grants to support the trial for the next three years.

Jean-Paul Mouton