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Success Stories - Families

Frank and Sarah: Keeping Each Other in Mind

When Frank* first approached CatholicCare Sydney’s Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) service for help mediating a property division with his former partner Sarah*, he feared it could be impossible to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Following their separation Frank and Sarah reached an amicable parenting arrangement for shared custody of their three-year-old daughter, but had been unable to agree on the division of property.

When the former partners attended their first mediation session, Frank, who had previously managed the couple’s finances, brought several files and financial statements with him. Sarah, on the other hand, brought with her a list of concerns, worried that her lack of financial experience would put her at an unfair disadvantage.

Sarah explained that if she did not receive a fair settlement she would be forced to return to her family home overseas, which would mean an unavoidable – and undesired – change to the parenting arrangement.

Throughout the mediation, which took place over three sessions, both Frank and Sarah expressed the desire to remain friends. It was clear that the process was resulting in an increased level of trust between the former partners as both parties attempted to reach an outcome that would satisfy both their needs.

FDR mediations include private sessions alongside the joint meetings, which give the people involved the chance to talk about aspects of the process that might otherwise have gone undiscussed.

During one of her private sessions Sarah revealed that she struggled with depression. The FDR mediators immediately offered Sarah a referral to CatholicCare’s counselling service which she accepted.

Sarah then disclosed to Frank her fears of facing an “uncertain”, “unsustainable” and “limited” future. As the emotional impact of the separation hit them both, Frank sympathised with Sarah’s heartfelt concerns. In a private session he told mediators that he wanted to ensure not only his own future, but to make sure Sarah’s was secure as well.

Eventually, thanks to CatholicCare’s FDR service, Frank and Sarah reached an agreement that left them both happy and pledged their desire to maintain a positive friendship for their sake, and the sake of their daughter.

Read more about Family Dispute Resolution.

Saad and Kathleen: Commitment and Cooperation 

Saad and Kathleen struggled with drug addictions for several years and as a result their first child, four-year-old David*, was removed and placed in out-of-home care.

Both Saad and Kathleen were born overseas. Kathleen migrated from New Zealand, while Saad, originally from Iraq, arrived in Australia as a political refugee. Consequently, neither had strong social connections in Australia and when Saad began taking a substance to alleviate back pain the couple developed a dependency on drugs.

Saad and Kathleen were referred to the Intensive Family Support (IFS) Program by the Department of Community Services (DOCS) in February 2012, following the birth of their second child.

The IFS Program provides strengths-based casework for families in crisis, including 12 weeks of intensive home visiting and ongoing support for up to 12 months. IFS caseworkers, through guiding the couple and allowing them a voice, enabled Saad and Kathleen to trust and engage with services.

The couple participated in drug counselling and a number of CatholicCare parenting programs and were able to achieve successful outcomes while keeping their dignity intact.

Saad and Kathleen’s struggles were not limited to drug addiction, the couple also faced trauma from their past, but through the IFS Program were able to understand and deal with some unresolved issues which enabled them to better maintain their drug-free lifestyle.

Saad and Kathleen worked hard, were very cooperative throughout the entire program and have now been drug-free for more than a year.

Their successful parenting means their second child is developing extremely well and they have made substantial progress towards improving their relationship with David.

CatholicCare and the team at IFS are proud to have worked alongside Saad and Kathleen to develop their parenting skills and provide a safe environment for their new child.

Read more about the Intensive Family Support Program.

*Names have been changed