How ENVISAGE is empowering caregivers: Changing the view of parenting and caregiving for children with disability.

5 December 2023

By Envisage

5 December 2023

One year after the announcement of the $6.9m of federal government funding to provide support for caregivers raising children with disabilities, ENVISAGE – which stands for ENabling VISions And Growing Expectations – is changing lives across Australia.

One year after the announcement of the $6.9m of federal government funding to provide support for caregivers raising children with disabilities, ENVISAGE – which stands for ENabling VISions And Growing Expectations – is changing lives across Australia.

To date, nearly 400 parents and caregivers have either undertaken the 5-workshop program, are currently doing the program, or are enrolled for the program across Australia, thanks to ENVISAGE’s partnership with 22 Children’s Therapy Service Providers across the country.

In Australia, ENVISAGE Families consortium is led by the Australian Catholic University and includes the University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, McMaster University in Canada, Perth Children’s Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health., ACU, MCRI, UoM and MCMaster conducted research in both Australia and internationally which showed that ENVISAGE Families empowers parents and caregivers to take a strengths-based approach to their family life, especially when applied early in the life of a child with developmental concerns or disability.

The funding by the Australian Government Department of Social Services recognised the huge need for families and gap in services in this area and has empowered the consortium to launch ENVISAGE Families nationally through partnerships with Children’s service providers across Australia.

Since the ENVISAGE Families Program was launched nationally, it has proven to be an invaluable resource for families managing the complexities of raising children with developmental concerns or disabilities. Through a series of informative and supportive workshops, parents have had the opportunity to come together, connect and share experiences, strategies, and insights. As a result, participants have shared several key takeaways that have profoundly impacted their perspective on parenting, selfcare, and their child's development.

For one Victorian parent, the ENVISAGE Program has been life changing.

“Doing the ENVISAGE Program was like coming up for air after being underwater for a long time.

For years, I had been submerged in the diagnoses and therapies of my children and my fear for their futures, but ENVISAGE was such a positive experience for me, encouraging me to reframe my perspective and examine my values as a parent by focusing on my children’s strengths instead of their challenges,” said Mandanna Daemi, whose life as a parent was so changed by the program that she enrolled to become a Parent Peer Facilitator.

The Role of Facilitators

One of the standout aspects of the ENVISAGE Families Program is the dedicated facilitators who have been trained by the ENVISAGE team to deliver the program across Australia. Both the service providers and parent peer facilitators went above and beyond to make the facilitated workshops accommodating and informative. Their guidance and expertise were instrumental in shaping the program's success, creating a safe and open space for parents to share and learn.

Mandanna says, “Shifting the emphasis from my children’s therapies to having fun and enjoying time together as a family has had a profound impact on our relationships, happiness and wellbeing.”

As ACU’s ENVISAGE Chief Investigator, Associate Professor, Dr Laura Miller, has co-led ENVISAGE since 2017 - driven by an identified gap in evidence-based supports for families and caregivers. She says the design of ENVISAGE is informed by the lived experiences and needs of this cohort. Families, service providers, and clinicians are involved at every step of research and implementation. Rather than focusing on specific diagnoses or developmental concerns, ENVISAGE looks at the common experiences that impact families and their relationships – and builds a strengths-based focus.

"Our program is really designed to change the way people think, feel and talk about disability. Whether that be parents themselves, service providers or community members,” Laura said.

“It’s thinking about all the things children can do - and what they love to do - and what they’d like to do into the future.”

Recently, the ENVISAGE First Peoples Program was also launched for parents and caregivers that identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or are raising children that do. The First Peoples Program is future-focused and aims to empower and support First Nations families who are raising children with developmental concern or disability to feel strong, be strong and stay strong. The Program has been co-created with mob, to ensure it is a culturally safe space.

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