The Walking on Eggshells Project

Date endorsed

Contact details:
Jeannette Stott
Address Relationships Australia - South Australia
c/o Level 5, 500a, Westfield Shopping Tower, 297 Diagonal Road,
(Marion Office)
Suburb Oaklands Park SA
Postcode 5046
Phone 08-83775400 (work); mobile: 0427 357 217
Program developer
Jeannette Stott, Mary McKenna, Rosalie O’Connor, Trevor Creswell, Sheila Davidson, Sally Fordham, Kay Buckley and Rob Swalling
Facilitator requirements 2.1.Step Up for SA must be delivered by:
• Community and/or health sector professionals with a minimum of certificate IV in community services, and completed the two days Train the Trainer Step Up for SA.
• Facilitators must have a minimum of three years working with groups.
• Facilitators must follow Step Up for SA manuals in delivering the group.

2.2.Facilitators’ skills must include:
• Three years working with groups in collaboration with two/more facilitators.
• Minimum three years’ experience and working knowledge of domestic and family violence work, its complexity and its impact on the adolescent and family members.
• Knowledge and skills in collaborative case management in domestic and family violence sector, including family safety domain, safety planning and homelessness services.
• It is a requirement that at least one facilitator, of each facilitator pair, has training and experience working in the area of domestic violence.
• It is a requirement that volunteers work in tandem with facilitators who has had training and experience working in the area of domestic violence. Volunteers must not work with volunteers and/or facilitators who have no training and experience working in the area of domestic violence.
• Facilitators must have delivered groups for adolescents and/or parents prior to Step Up for SA train the trainer.
• Volunteers comply with the same requirements.
Target group There are two target groups for the two different group programs:
Adolescents aged 11-17 years who use violent behaviours in the family. The behaviours may include physical violence (hitting, punching), emotional violence (verbal abuse, name calling, threats), property damage (break windows, parents’ mobiles, furniture), financial violence (stealing parents/siblings money, mobiles, household items), and the use of social media to discredit and/or threaten any member of the family.

Parents/caregivers of the adolescents who use one/more of the violent behaviours listed above.
Is this program available for purchase?

In South Australia, an audit of community services in 2008 identified a significant gap in services available that specifically targeted keeping families safe (Howard & Abbott, 2013). Over 65 percent of community agencies contacted indicated an unmet need for information and training on this issue. A subsequent phone-in identified very few helping professionals contacted had the knowledge and expertise to offer appropriate help to these families (McKenna; 2010). Two significant SA government initiatives provided the impetus for action. Firstly in 2010, the SA Women’s Safety Strategy was launched emphasising service provision, prevention and protection of women from violence. Secondly, The Prevention of Abuse Act SA was enacted in 2011 (McKenna & Stott, 2011). 

WOEP initiatives in addressing CAV:
  • The Walking on Eggshells Project reference group formed in February 2011 in relation to the Flinders University Knowledge Exchange Grant.
  • Developed a family resource book in 2012 (Walking on Eggshells: Child & Adolescent Violence in the Family) and services contact card for community education. These resources can be downloaded free. The community resource book was updated in 2013 and 2014. A fourth edition is scheduled in 2017.
  • 2103: Lily Anderson, co-author of the American Step-Up King County program delivered training seminar in Adelaide and endorsed WOEP to develop and implement Step-Up for S. A. In the same year, WOEP awarded as an SA State winner for the Australian Crime & Violence Prevention Award.
  • 2014 WOEP funded by Community Benefits SA to deliver Step Up for SA therapeutic groups across metropolitan Adelaide for three years (2014-2016). WOEP also required to deliver train the trainer workshops for community workers and volunteers.
  • October 2016, WOEP obtained White Ribbon funds to update services contact cards.

Step Up King County group was developed over a period of four years by Greg Routt and Lily Anderson to address CAV in King County, Seattle, U.S.A. as an integral part of juvenile diversion (Routt & Anderson, b, 2011). Step Up King County comprises 20-22 weekly concurrent sessions for adolescents and parents. Of these sessions, four are combined parent and adolescent sessions where adolescents and parents role model the communication skills acquired at their respective groups. Step Up King County uses the Duluth Abuse and Respect Wheels as tools in the group.

Step Up King County is underpinned by cognitive-behavioural and social learning principles. Over the course of the weekly sessions, adolescents learn skills in respectful communication, conflict management, emotional awareness and self regulation, and the impact of their abusive behaviours on family members. The group context encourages shared learning and role modelling. At the start of each session known as “check in” adolescents and parents discuss the progress of behavioural goals for both parties. Parents learn skills in self reflection about their parenting strategies, and behavioural techniques to disengage from conflict and role model appropriate problem-solving strategies.

In 2005, King County conducted an internal evaluation of Step Up and concluded that this group program facilitated significant improvement in adolescent behaviours and attitudes for over 500 parent-adolescent dyads between 1996 and 2004 (Rout & Anderson,b, 2011).

Routt and Anderson (2011) also conducted face to face interviews with 149 parent-adolescent dyads who completed the Step Up King County group between 2000 and 2004. The participants reported the group decreased social isolation, increased coping behaviours for both parents and adolescents.

Step Up for SA stands for:
  • Stop all the violent behaviours.
  • Think: what am I feeling, thinking?
  • Evaluate: What is the problem? What are my choices
  • Plan: How can I deal with this problem and stay respectful?
  • Use Skills: “I statements”, listening, self regulate and assertive, not violent communication.
  • Patience: Persistency is what makes respectful communication work. 

Step Up for SA theoretical underpinnings

The program uses a cognitive behaviour, skills based approach to help young people stop the use of violent and abusive behaviours and teaches non-violent, respectful ways of communicating and resolving conflict with family members. The program is underpinned by the following theoretical principles:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioural Principles: Violent behaviours are learned. These can be replaced by prosocial behaviours in a context of shared learning and mutual respect. Adolescence is a period of greatest physical and psychosocial change. The neuronal pruning process continues from adolescence to around 25 years of age (Nixon, 2012). Adolescents become better able at abstract thinking and problem solving however they are unable to weight up multiple options and associated consequences (Berger, 1986). Calm, safe and supportive approaches may facilitate conversations with adolescents about cautious and informed behavioural choices (Nixon, 2012). 
  2. Social Learning Principles: Interpersonal relationships in a social context provide the supportive structures for learning prosocial behaviours. Children learn to discern between acceptable and unacceptable beliefs, appropriate and inappropriate behaviours, as well as attitudes that prevail in all contexts (Routt & Anderson b, 2014). A group context also provides social support for adolescents and parents as they navigate new concepts and practice new behaviours. Parents and adolescents share a meal with the facilitators at each session. This provides a unique context for them to socialise in an activity of daily living. This enables facilitators to role-model prosocial skills and table etiquette. 
  3. Restorative Justice Principles: Behaviour change tends to be a process. Some parents and adolescents change quickly after a specific event and some do not. Prochaska, DiClemente and Norcross (1992) developed a model of change working with clients through step-ty-step process of goal setting, problem solving and preventing relapse. This model fits with restorative practice in that change is promoted through awareness, goal setting, role modelling and social learning. The critical point is the separation of the individual from the behaviour (Costello, Wachtel & Wachtel, 2009). Adolescents are encouraged to learn about the impact of violent behaviours on interpersonal relationships and how the impact can be remediated through making amends. Adolescents and parents are encouraged to take a step-wise approach to learning new interpersonal interactions, that mistakes are opportunities for new learning and making wise choices. 
Frequency and delivery of the program
  • The pilot in 2014 ran for 13 weeks and has been modified to a 10 week program following adolescents and parents’ feedback. Each session spans 2½ hours. The first half of the session is “check in” and revisiting goals followed by dinner and another 45 minutes to reflect and practice skills.
  • Adolescents and parents are encouraged to provide brief feedback at the end of each session and where change may be needed, e.g. more activity on problem solving, or dietary requirements.
  • Adolescents and parents are encouraged to develop, implement and monitor behavioural goals that reflect respectful and safe communication.
  • Programs use a range of interventions that reinforce each other in addressing relevant issues, and should be designed in such a manner that changes in behaviour and attitude resulting from the program can be sustained.
  • Each concept is delivered via an activity at the beginning of the session. For example self-regulation starts with emotions and emotional expression. This is followed by a colouring activity about each individual’s physiological triggers, and strategies to manage these. These skills are repeated over several sessions until adolescents and parents report a change.
  • Parents and adolescents are offered individual counselling during the week when they express a desire/need for more one-on-one support.
  • Group facilitators ensure warm referrals and follow ups are made with the parents and adolescents’ consent. 

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