Entries in Family Services (4)


Dad's pain spawns a lifeline


United … Gary and Amy Sillett with their son, Callum. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

A YEAR ago Gary Sillett lived through an expectant father's worst nightmare - the premature birth and subsequent death of his child.

He and his wife, Amy, had been excited about the impending arrival of their second son, Isaac, but on December 8 their baby was born by caesarean 14 weeks early.

Isaac ''fought like a trooper'' in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital, before he died peacefully in his parents' arms two days later. His ashes are in a rocket-ship-shaped container placed in the backyard of their Ryde home.

Mr Sillett took on the responsibility of caring for his wife and their toddler son Callum, informing loved ones and friends, completing reams of paperwork, organising the funeral, figuring out how he was going to go back to work to pay the medical bills as well as dealing with his own grief, anger and guilt.

''Your whole world is turned upside down,'' Mr Sillett said.

He found that fathers dealing with the death of a child or trying to cope when children have life-threatening illnesses were often sidelined and there was a big gap in support services for fathers.

That's when he decided to create Pillars of Strength, an Australian-first initiative designed to give practical support to fathers and some respite from the day-to-day stresses.

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New Parent Infant Network (NEWPIN) supporting fathers

NEWPIN offers parents and children a unique opportunity for positive changes in their lives and relationships, based on four core values of support, equality, empathy and respect. NEWPIN is a preventative, early intervention program, offering intensive work with families facing potential or actual child-protection issues. The award-winning program combines peer support, quality early education and personal development that is structured and therapeutic. NEWPIN centres are based in local communities and offer safe and supportive environments. There are six centres in Australia: Bidwill, Doonside, St Marys, Bidwill Fathers Program, (operated by UnitingCare Burnside). Geelong (operated by Bethany Community Support), Launceston (operated by Northern NEWPIN) and Canberra (operated by UnitingCare Kippax).


The men from Uncle making a difference in boys' lives

A mentoring project for boys with absent fathers is struggling to stay afloat, writes Saffron Howden. When Luke Chamberlain's father died suddenly of a heart attack while surfing near Byron Bay two years ago, the nine-year-old was left with his twin sisters and a loving mother. It wasn't enough. He needed a male guide: someone to take him hiking, camping and surfing; someone to talk about cars, movies, sport and girls.

An uncle was the obvious choice - and Uncle, a unique community group that for nearly 15 years has helped hundreds of boys with absent or fickle fathers find adult male mentors, provided just that. "There's a lot of boys growing up without father figures around; some of them are slack, some of them have left, some have gone off with other women," Uncle's chief executive, Mark Gasson, said. "[Uncle is] never a replacement for a dad, but it's someone in their life that they can call and say, 'I'm having this crisis."


Growing Together Dads and Kids

Growing Together... Dads and Kids is a program designed for fathers who want to build their relationships with their children (0-12 years old) and strengthen the family unit. The program takes the form of a Family Camp over a weekend in the country, which can be combined with other parent or children's groups at Family Skills.