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BREAKING CYCLES OF DOMESTIC ABUSE AND TRAUMA

Those living with domestic abuse and professionals across many public services would agree with former London Police Chief Superintendent John Sutherland that ‘domestic abuse is the single greatest cause of harm in society’.

A philanthropically-established charity, the Stefanou Foundation, has developed a new approach to breaking the cycle of domestic abuse through their programme, For Baby’s Sake.

Many people do not realise the scale of the problem, with one in five children affected, or that the impact of domestic abuse on babies from the womb  to age two is especially serious, because of how babies’ brains and bodies develop over this period. 

For Baby’s Sake is the UK’s first programme to work with both parents, whether or not they are together as a couple, and to start this work in pregnancy.  The aim is to break the cycle of domestic abuse and to give the baby the best start in life.

The programme works with each parent’s motivation to make changes in their life, driven especially by their desire to be a good parent. By the end of 2019, For Baby’s Sake had helped around 600 people, including babies, children and the mothers and fathers who are changing life-chances for themselves and their families.

Stelios Stefanou v2

Giving babies the best chance at life

Stelio Stefanou OBE, who set up the Stefanou Foundation using a CAF trust, said the shocking story of Baby Peter, the 17-month-old who died of multiple injuries in a case that shocked the country, inspired him to find ways to reduce the harm and the frequency of such horrific incidents.  

Stelio discovered that childhood experience of domestic abuse was a factor for Baby Peter and previously for his mother.  As his research continued, he learnt more about the prevalence of domestic abuse between parents and the direct impact it has on babies and children.

His desire to find new ways to bring an end to domestic abuse led him to decide that his charity needed to work with both parents: not only with the parent experiencing the abuse but also the parent who has been abusive.

The effects of trauma, Stelio said, were a big driver in the charity’s mission.

“We decided to reach out to parents who had experienced trauma in their own childhoods in addition to needing help with trauma related to the domestic abuse,” he told us. 

“Although it’s not an easy fix, our thinking was that by giving each parent, the mum and dad, their own For Baby’s Sake Practitioner, with whom they could each build a trusting relationship, work through their trauma and develop new life skills as adults and parents, we could increase the chances of breaking the cycle of domestic abuse for good.”

The charity’s mission also reflects how such intervention can help social mobility and have  long-term impact – from improved behaviour and emotional development to a reduction in police and criminal justice system interventions.

Together we break the cycle

Partnership has remained crucial to Stelio’s philanthropy since he established his Foundation using a CAF Trust.  He explained,    

‘‘We decided early on that For Baby’s Sake would operate as a partnership between philanthropy and the public sector, with For Baby’s Sake teams sitting with children’s and family services in local government.

“We don’t want to be working in isolation. We have already seen results of how we are able to help people by doing so together. It really is heart-warming to hear from our practitioners and council officers, and especially from the families who are creating new futures for themselves and their babies and children.

“We started with teams in London and Hertfordshire.  We have just established two new teams in Cambridgeshire and Blackpool.  We are keen to continue scaling up and are seeking new philanthropic and public sector partners for this exciting phase.  Together we can break the cycle”.

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