core values and ethos
The Cedar approach is firmly rooted in the belief that while domestic abuse can happen to anyone from any age or background, it predominantly happens to women and is both a cause and effect of the inequality of women. Cedar is about working together with women, children and young people to effect change while acknowledging that they are the experts in determining what will work for them. It is about being ‘done with’ rather than ‘done to’. It is an approach that avoids blaming or judging those who find themselves having been abused, controlled and living in fear.
The Cedar curriculum, structure and strengths
Core to Cedar is the combination of the curriculum, structure and a strengths-based approach. Cedar is not a ‘one size’ programme; there is scope for variety and adaption of activities and approaches, but the basic dual structure, curriculum content and flow are a valuable framework and one which is well evidenced to be successful.
Learning with and from peers
Groupwork is a powerful way to develop an understanding about the impact of domestic abuse on children. Being with peers was vital to the development of understanding of domestic abuse; to be able to give and receive peer support enhanced learning and promoted recovery.
It works well with both children themselves and their mothers and provides a non-confrontational, de-stigmatising environment to discuss experiences. Cedar is popular with children, young people and mothers; they express a strong preference for a group work approach rather than one-to-one counselling.
Also, there are trained facilitators who are able to work with the children, young people and mothers to share their experiences in a way that foster trust and empathy; promotes insight and reframing of the situation to strengthen the capacity for healthier relationships; and generate capacity for participants to help themselves and each other.
Parallel groups for mothers and children, where mothers attend group before their children, gives mothers information and tools to be able to express their support for their children in a visible, practical and supportive way. Lots of women attend group for their child and are motivated to attend to help their child through their experiences. We know from experience that children do better if their mothers attend a group.
However, it’s important to note that outcomes for mothers are not secondary to those for the children; whilst mothers are not the primary focus of the programme, the insight, empathy and reframing of their experience will be of benefit to their own recovery. As well as being able to continue to support their children in their on-going mutual recovery process.
Cedar recognises that women have their own emotional needs during the group. Self-care for mothers is an important theme as well as highlighting how far they have come on their own road to recovery.
Assessment as engagement
Cedar also provides an opportunity to signpost to additional support agencies. It may be decided by a family they are not ready to attend Cedar group and this can be a positive pathway to more suitable support.
Multi-agency professional learning and integration
Co-delivering the Cedar programme is a powerful and unique way for professionals to learn together in practice about the impact of domestic abuse on children. There have been very positive outcomes for professionals involved in co-facilitation who are able to build on their own levels of expertise and knowledge and have this enhanced by a heightened understanding and knowledge of the impact of domestic abuse as a result. Co-facilitators have acknowledged the power of hearing accounts at first-hand which enable this to happen. Different styles of facilitation and the different perspectives and experience of a range of professionals are valuable assets in successful multi-agency programme delivery. Cedar can contribute to genuine professional integration of service providers to produce more effective working together and pooling of knowledge of resources.
Most of us said we were getting on better at home or school now.