Supporting children from first responder families

  • Medical helicopter landing
    Helicopter rescue
  • Firefighter How do I know? Oh, that is easy! My Mum works away too!. She is a firefighter. Sometimes she is away for a few days, or weeks, or even months. When she is home, we organise extra time to spend together as a family. I even try hard to be nice to my twin sister, Rachael. Alana's mum leaving.
    Research-based children’s resources
By
Dr Marg Rogers
Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood,
Postdoctoral Fellow,
Manna Institute
Issue
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There are 80,000 full time First Responders in Australia, plus many part-time, volunteers and those who support the volunteers. Many of these children of First Responder families live in regional, rural and remote (RRR) communities where their parents work as fire fighters, paramedics, police, and security officers to serve our communities. The children are vulnerable to the secondary transference of trauma via their parents, who are increasingly in demand to tackle more frequent and intense climate emergencies as well as other critical incidents.

Being situated in RRR communities makes accessing mental health services problematic. First responders are also typically highly mobile, frequently relocating within their state or territory. This weakens support systems and affects children’s ability to make friends, bond with educators and find other forms of supports.

The original Child and Family Resilience Programs (CFRP) were co-designed and co-created using a strengths-based approach to support children (2-8 years) from Defence and Veteran families. Now, the modules are being adapted to include support for children from First Responder families.

In 2023, the CFRP research team partnered with organisations who support First Responder families and carers to co-adapt and expand our free, online, research-based multimedia modules for parents, educators and support workers. Partners included Fortem Australia, Everymind and Military and Emergency Services Health Australia (MESHA).

This partnership brings together the practitioner and research knowledge of individual organisations to support the research work of the team. Challengingly, we don’t have cash funding for the project, but each organisation and the research team are providing in-kind funding because they are passionate about supporting these children. In-kind funding is being given by:

As we work together, we are weaving research and lived experience narratives into the resources to ensure their relevance. We are also embedding research about children from First Responder families. The resources provide links to each organisation to provide relevant supports.

We are working together to apply for funding that will enable us to co-design and co-create research-based children’s resources to add to the CFRP’s growing library of children’s storybooks, interactives and educational resources.

These resources, written under a Creative Commons Licence, are now being adapted by the Canadian Institute of Military Veteran Health Research and partners. The Institute is working with focus groups from Military, Veteran and First Responder (PSP) families who are assisting with the co-adaptation process.

Adapting and adding to our CFRP to support First Responder families started in mid-2023, and will continue three modules per month. We are hoping to complete the project by the end of 2024.  We are also co-designing and co-creating a research-based children’s storybook to support children with relocations, and another to support children with a parent who has a mortal injury.

At the moment, the CFRP resources provide a soft landing as they support parents, educators and support workers better understand this potentially vulnerable cohort. They also improve parent’s and children’s social, emotional and mental health literacy.

In 2024, we will explore ways to add self-referral pathways to the programs. We will also refine our Personalised Programs feature to include First Responder families so we can ensure they can benefit from the data retrieval system. This free system allows users to quickly find relevant resources to suit each child’s particular needs. It was made possible through cash funding from The Ian Potter Foundation and in-kind funding from the Manna Institute.

 

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