Animal relationships program to help children impacted by violence

Animal relationships program to help children impacted by violence

Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk has launched a new pilot program that supports children who have been exposed to family and domestic violence using animal-assisted therapies.

The Building Animal Relationships with Kids (BARK) Program is run by the Patricia Giles Centre for Non-Violence and offers an eight-week therapeutic program for primary school-aged children who have been impacted by family and domestic violence, and are demonstrating or showing signs of control and aggression towards animals or others.

BARK engages evidenced-based therapies that are led by qualified children’s counsellors to promote an intervention approach for children exhibiting violent behaviours, to address any violence-related issues before they develop further as adolescents and potentially follow them into adulthood.

Over the eight-week course, sessions are designed to help children to achieve the following outcomes:

  • establish trust and teamwork skills;
  • reduce PTSD symptomology;
  • improve psychosocial functioning;
  • improve relationships with a non-offending parent or caregiver and other adults, peers and siblings;
  • build emotional recognition and empathy;
  • alleviate blame and shame; and
  • enhance self-esteem.

The $76,000 grant awarded to service provider Patricia Giles Centre for Non-Violence to run the program delivers on a McGowan Government election commitment and will support an initial six-month pilot and evaluation.

“One of the hidden aspects of family and domestic violence is the significant trauma that children are often left with.

“Building Animal Relationships with Kids provides an age-appropriate and evidenced-based approach to helping young children with unpacking their feelings and emotions in the aftermath of violence at home.

“Participants are supported and nurtured to understand and heal from their trauma, with animal therapy forming a crucial part of that process.

“Children typically experience or are present for violence at home through absolutely no fault of their own, so I would like to thank the Patricia Giles Centre for Non-Violence for the dedicated support they offer to some of the youngest survivors of family and domestic violence.” said Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Simone McGurk.

“We would really like to thank Minister McGurk and her team for supporting us in the development of the program.

“Once the BARK pilot has been completed and evaluated, our plan is to support other agencies to develop this evidence-based intervention program across WA.” said CEO to Patricia Giles Centre for Non-Violence Kirsten Shearn.