Connections UnitingCare is one of the Uniting Church’s larger community services organisations, providing more than 30 child and family focussed programs across the eastern and southern suburbs of Melbourne.
Recognising the complex issues facing many families, Connections seeks to be responsive and proactive, always with the focus on trying to keep or return children to their birth families. However, this is not always possible. Connections, in partnership with MacKillop Family Services, is piloting a new program, not offered anywhere else in Australia, the Concurrent Care Pilot Program, which seeks to stop children ‘bouncing around the foster care system’. As staff work with the birth family, concurrently they seek out other living arrangements in an effort to secure permanent care into adulthood if the birth family option proves unsustainable.
Children need certainty of where they belong, and when they enter into out-of-home care arrangements, it can create long term attachment and anxiety issues. This cutting edge program seeks to overcome these problems.
Connections is about partnership. Most of their programs are run in conjunction with other agencies, the Department of Human Services or churches. One such partnership is with Uniting Place, at Hampton Park Uniting Church in the City of Casey. Connections runs a Resource Room out of the church along with a music program.
The church offers a range of community activities which dovetail with the Connections programs, including a community garden, free two course lunches provided to all who turn up throughout the week and other community-based activities.