St Anthony’s Family Service, Footscray, was established by the Sisters of St Joseph in 1976, following the closure of St Anthony’s Children’s Home in Kew. It provided family support services combined with specialist educational services and family group home care. In 1997, these services became part of MacKillop Family Services.
St Anthony’s Family Service administration and family support was provided from offices in Commercial Road, Footscray. The Service aimed to work toward the prevention of family breakdown in addition to providing good quality residential care for children where breakdown occurred. The program was distinctive in that it committed resources to a limited number of families over an extended period of time. Previously, these families had been unable to use the existing welfare structures and required long term and intensive support.
Residential care was provided through four local family group homes. Group foster care was also provided. St Anthony’s community based program provided support including family aides and volunteers to families in the community. Agency staff also worked with families in St Anthony’s Footscray drop-in centre, and provided emergency residential care for children and mothers.
An article from 1976 described St Anthony’s gradual change of focus from the Home in Kew, towards family group homes situated in the west of Melbourne. It stated that:
The policy has been to site family group homes in the west, partly because the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph, which has responsibility for St Anthony’s, also has responsibility for 11 primary schools and 2 secondary schools in the western region of Melbourne. It is clear that this region is alarmingly low in preventive and protective services for children and families (Hops, Steps and Jumps, June 1976).