Kids’ home with a big difference

VICTORIA’S commissioner for children and young people Bernie Geary yesterday opened a new residential care home in Wodonga for children trying to rebuild their troubled lives.

The four young residents, aged 12 to 16, have their own rooms they can decorate and, unlike other residential care units, they are trusted to treat the house as their own.

The Willow Therapeutic Residential Care house in Nordsvan Drive is run by youth homelessness support group Junction Support Services.

It is the first in the North East to offer a new type of residential care service — called therapeutic residential care — that helps young people face the trauma behind what got them there in the first place.

Mr Geary said: “This is a way of acknowledging something we talk about all the time and don’t do enough about, and that’s the past trauma they’ve faced — these kids have been betrayed by adults and they come here expecting to be betrayed again. They’ve suffered pain and somehow we’ve got to bring them back from that ... and not just have them in a place where you tick boxes.”

Behind the scenes the children will work with a psychologist and other social workers on how they can move forward.

Data from 11 units that piloted the four-year program from 2007 showed 80 per cent of children were in school or a vocational course, compared with 25 per cent in normal units.

Mr Geary hoped there would be more units like it across the state.

“I reckon if kids are happy and have friends and are connected meaningfully to adults and school you’re 85 per cent of the way there,” he said.

Program manager Greg Turner hoped the program would expand.

“Most units are very sterile and not very welcoming environments; they’re institutional to the extreme,” he said.

“But where would you rather raise your kids — in a home or an institution?”

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