A Sebastopol play group that caters for dads’ social lives as much as their children has won a major state child protection award.
The Me and My Dad Playgroup, a bi-weekly gathering of fathers, has won the Victorian National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) Play Your Part Award.
National Child Protection Week starts on Father’s Day, 2 September and continues until 8 September 2018 with this year’s theme; “Protecting children is everyone’s business”.
The awards recognise people and initiatives doing inspiring work to build stronger communities and support children and families in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.
“Children thrive when their families are well supported and their communities are connected and strong,” NAPCAN chief executive officer Richard Cooke said.
A lot of the dads don’t have an outlet, so it is important to be able to talk.- Leigh Whitten
The NAPCAN Play your Part Awards are designed to recognise all the ways that Australians are working together to “create a safer community for all children and young people,” he said.
“NAPCAN warmly congratulates the Me and MY Dad Playgroup … this project is a wonderful example of the power of peer support and genuine connection in building stronger communities for children.”
“It is also great to recognise the importance of men in the lives of children and remember that our positive interactions with children every day can have a positive long term impact on their lives,” Mr Cooke said.
The Me and My Dad Playgroup was established in 2013 and is held at the Sebastopol Primary School from 10am on Mondays and Fridays.
Me and My Dad Playgroup is supported by the City of Ballarat and the not-for-profit Playgroup Victoria, an organisation that helps to develop playgroups and connect them with parents.
Playgroup Victoria Playgroup development consultant (south west region) Maureen Hatcher said they were “very excited about a State award going to a local playgroup.”
Current playgroup organiser Leigh Whitten said the play group is not only a great play space for children but also a forum where men – dads, foster dads, grandfathers, uncles, brothers – can gather, talk and get help.
Mr Whitten has been attending the group for five years and said the group can attract anything from one or two up to 11 dads and 14 children at a time.
About 30 per cent of the men are stay-at-home dads, while others work from home or do shiftwork. Mr Whitten juggles the group with his night shift, while another man works in hospitality during the weekend.
Mr Whitten started going to the group after his wife, Roshelle saw the advertisement and suggested he go along. He first took son, Jaxon (now four) along and then continued when their daughter, Tori (now two) was born and says both he and the children have developed great friendships there. Now he schedules his week around it.
“It’s great for their social development and for us it’s like a lighthearted therapy group where we can talk about family and social issues, similar things that we are going through,” Mr Whitten said.
“A lot of the dads don’t have an outlet, so it is important to be able to talk,” he said.
“You can take the kids to the park or somewhere, but you don’t get the same social interaction as here.”
Me and My Dad Playgroup will receive the award on Friday, 7 September at Sebastopol Primary School, Warreen Street, Sebastopol.
Winners receive a $10,000 grant to assist with their project and also gain recognition as an inspiring prevention initiative.
ReachOut Parents coaching service was this year’s national winner, hailed as an “excellent example of a program that supports the needs of parents and their children.”
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