The most difficult moment of Ryan’s* life, was when the NSW Department of Family and Community Services(FACS) came to take his children away.
Ryan has been through a lot. His sister died when he was very young and his parents separated. He lived with an Aunt until he was 10, before returning to his mother. But he didn’t have a relationship with his father until he was 21.
“Growing up without a father was hard. It had a big effect on me,” Ryan says. “When I was 14, I started going drinking and stealing cars and selling drugs.”
At around 21, Ryan started doing heroin.
“Once you get into that scene, it’s not long before you’re going to jail,” he says. “I’ve done over 20 years. I missed out on most of my adult life.”
When Ryan’s son was born, he says it changed his life. “It gave me something that I never had – and that was a family,” he says.
“I was working, supporting my family, and my partner had previous contacts with community services. She was involved in drugs and stuff like that. FACS came in and took the kids. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. To watch my kids get taken.”
Ryan’s life changed for the better when he started working with the Uniting Newpin program, which provides support for families whose children have been removed from their care.
Newpin receives enabling capital from the Newpin Social Benefit Bond which was created in partnership by Uniting, the New South Wales Government, and Social Ventures Australia. The innovative funding mechanism gives families access to intensive therapeutic support in order to help parents address the issues which led to the removal of their children, and teach them to be effective parents.
The bond raised $7 million in private investment which Uniting Director of Resilient Families Bob Mulcahy says is being used to deliver and expand the program.
“There are now eight Uniting Newpin centres operating across Sydney and regional NSW which work with families to inspire good parenting, encourage the value of positive parent-child relationships, and raise the self-esteem of individual parents,” he says.
Ryan says after FACS referred him and his partner to Newpin, his life started to rapidly turn around.
“It gave me reassurance because you know when you’re in that situation, you feel helpless,” he says.
“You’ve got no one to turn to, you just don’t know what to do. Coming here to Newpin was the best thing for me because it got independent people to see me with my kids.
“My kids have now been back with me for over 12 months, it has been a huge journey you know, but things are very different now. If it wasn’t for Newpin, I don’t think I would have got my kids back.”
Ryan’s story was shared at the launch of a new Uniting Newpin Centre in Hurstville in December. The new centre reflects the spirit of the Newpin program. It provides families and their support workers a warm and friendly space where they can work through the issues together.
SVA Director, Impact Investing Elyse Sainty said the new centre will give more families access to Newpin’s lifechanging services.
“We are delighted that the Newpin Social Benefit Bond has helped make this possible,” she says.
New South Wales Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward said Newpin, which is now in its fifth year, has a strong record of delivering positive outcomes for families.
“Newpin helps break the cycle of destructive relationships and supports families to live together safely,” she says.
*Ryan’s real name has been withheld to protect his, and his family’s, privacy.