Our newest CALI Award goes to another awesome duo, Rick and Kerry-Ann Mapperson. After years of providing emergency foster care, they saw a need to equip families who are at risk of displacement, with the necessary skills that they lacked so that families can stay together. And with help from committed and skilled professionals, Breakthrough Houses was born.
Q: Tell us about Breakthrough Houses.
Rick and Kerry-Ann: We purchased a home in Western Sydney that is two homes under one roof. This permits a managing family to live permanently on site along with a family in crisis to live in their own personal space but under supervision.
Each family accepted to live in Breakthrough Houses is assessed to find where they would benefit most from assistance, with the goal being that they will all function responsibly, individually and as a family.
Breakthrough House is a caring, supervised and safe home for families at risk to live in whilst undergoing rehabilitation and learning vital life skills. Parents and children can remain together so that they can learn to live peacefully, as a family.
There are chickens and a vegetable garden on site that all residents must participate in caring for along with maintaining the home well.
Classes are provided to assist with learning skills and character development and connections are made with community services that are already available to assist.
Breakthrough Houses exist to educate and equip and train at risk families in the essential aspects of family life. Just some of the areas we cover are:
- Health – Principles of healthy living, pro-active health planning, healthy eating.
- Parenting – Principles of parenting and child rearing techniques.
- Relationships – Principles of success relationships, communication skills, conflict resolution and marriage dynamics.
- Financial Management – Budgeting, money management, financial planning.
- Employment skills – Career guidance, resume preparation, and interview skills.
The amount of time allocated to each area is assessed on a needs by needs basis and is tailor made for each respective family that is taken into care.
As Breakthrough Houses are operated as a “live in” residential program it is possible to assess and monitor the specific needs of each family and address these needs specifically rather than try and use a “one size fits all approach” that could be a waste of resources or even counterproductive.
If we can house families in crisis in a supervised environment, we can promote resilience and support them to build up aspirations and capabilities. We can then build the capacity of family members to support each other.
Some families only need to be at Breakthrough Houses for a short time, others may need to remain for a long term or even permanently.
Q: What inspired you to set up Breakthrough Houses?
Rick and Kerry-Ann: After devoting many years to providing emergency foster care and seeing for ourselves the destruction of the family unit, we realised that a desperate need existed for a support function that would prioritise the family unit.
Many of the children who came to our home via foster care returned multiple times, stuck in a miserable, ongoing cycle. We believed a long-term solution to heal the family as a whole would address this.
It was abundantly obvious that children who were removed from their families suffered long term difficulties with community and peer inclusion, self-esteem, educational achievements and employment.
We saw a need to equip families who are at risk of displacement, with the necessary skills that they lacked so that families can stay together. They would be housed in a supervised and supportive environment that offers guidance, counselling and real world assistance.
With the assistance of committed and skilled professionals, Breakthrough Houses became a reality.
Q: What are the issues that your clients face in their lives?
Rick and Kerry-Ann: Some people just find it too exacting to consistently maintain routine, responsibility and relationships.
Some families face seemingly insurmountable problems on a daily basis. These are often multiple and complex and include unemployment, poor mental health, crime, domestic violence or substance abuse. These issues may be long standing or the family may be identified as being at risk of facing them.
The tragic statistics of families in crisis
- 150 children from NSW families known to DOCS, died.
- 55% of these children lived in homes affected by domestic violence.
- 79,000 Australian children were homeless.
- 200,000 women in Australia went to shelters to escape domestic violence.
There are many reasons why children are at risk of abuse and neglect. For example:
- their families do not have adequate support from relatives or the community
- their parents are experiencing a lot of stress such as unemployment, illness, isolation or loneliness
- their parents may not have experienced good parenting themselves
- their parents may be alcohol or drug dependent or have mental health issues or there may be domestic violence in the household.
Q: What is something that you are particularly proud of?
Rick and Kerry-ann: One story that always comes to mind is a family who for decades had lived together as individuals. They were constantly leaving each other vulnerable and unprotected and lived from moment to moment.
They now permanently live in Breakthrough Houses and almost immediately the security and safety of the firm boundaries move brought peace to many in the family. Now most of them live in happiness most days. They have learnt financial responsibility and how to care for each other. They assist each other in achieving work and study goals.
It is wonderful watching this family be so keen to help other individuals and families understand how to live so they too can enjoy life.
Q: What drives you?
Rick and Kerry-ann: We want to live in community that is safe and values every life. This is not going to happen by itself, everyone needs to work at creating and maintaining that environment. The family is the place where we get our compass for all of life, it is where we establish our outlooks, priorities and intentions.
If it is within my understanding and resources to do something, then I must get involved.
Q: Do you feel there is reward in your efforts?
Rick and Kerry-ann: Seeing healthy individuals enjoying life with their families and using that energy to benefit others is so rewarding. It is like NSW beating Qld in State of Origin. Yes! At last they get it!
Q: If you had your way, everyone would spend 5 minutes a day…
Rick and Kerry-ann: Looking at who they are and what resources they have at their disposal to assess what they can do for those they love, those they like and those who they know of but haven’t met yet.
While in the Breakthrough Houses live-in program, professionals teach residents healthy living, parenting skills, relationship counselling and teaching, financial management, employment skills and life skills. An accountability structure is in place to help ensure long-term change that affects the entire family.
Rick and Kerry-Ann’s dedication and hard work is reflected in the wonderful examples of families that have been transformed by the supportive environment they have created.
Connect with Breakthrough Houses:
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