Showcasing: Circle of Security


Northern NSW

Lead agency

Northern NSW Local Health District 


Getting in earlier

Program overview

The Circle of Security program is an international evidence-based program that was developed in America to strengthen parents and caregivers’ relationship with their children1. Grounded in developmental attachment theory the program has been delivered around the world. The program aims to help support mothers and fathers to develop positive relationships with their children. Grafton Community Mental Health team has adopted the program and staff are accredited in the Circle of Security training to support parents who experience mental health issues and have children under the age of five. The program is delivered over an eight-week period and is delivered in combination with individual therapy which helps support mothers and fathers who have complex mental health issues and a history of complex trauma in the Grafton area.  


The first few years of a child’s life are a very important period where early attachment to mothers and fathers form. During this time, the relationship between child and caregiver has a significant impact on attachment and ongoing connection. Parents that have experienced complex trauma and live with mental health issues may struggle with attachment and emotional regulation2. By supporting this group of new parents in a way that helps them understand the role of attachment and how they can form positive relationships with their own children we can significantly improve both child and parent outcomes2.


Grafton Community Mental Health services recognised the need to support people experiencing mental health issues arising from childhood trauma. Grafton Community Mental Health introduced the internationally recognised Circle of Security parenting program for clients that have children under the age of five. The program is designed to help parents learn how to build positive relationships and better connect with their children. The program works with mothers and fathers and their children over an eight-week period, helping develop important skills and build positive attachment1. All participants in the program have been referred through the Department of Community and Justice (previously Department of Family and Community Services) and most have been previous clients of the Grafton Community Mental Health services.


In combination with the eight-week program, caregivers are supported by individual psychological therapy which helps further develop the caregiver’s skills and provide extra support on a one to one basis. Evaluation done on the Circle of Security program has shown decreased levels of caregiver helplessness, reduced feelings of fear, anger and rejection towards the child and decreased levels of stress3. Integrating this program into a Community Mental Health service provides an additional level of support for people with lived experience of trauma who are now parents. 

Next steps

The Circle of Security program will continue at Grafton Community Mental Health Service. These groups are also offered at Lismore through the Community Managed Organisation sector. Funding for the program is provided by the North Coast Primary Health Network and it is hoped to expand the program to other areas across the Northern NSW region. 


  • Cooper, G., Hoffman, K., & Powell, B. (2009). Circle of Security Parenting: A relationship based parenting program. Facilitator DVD Manual, 5.
  • Cassidy, J., Brett, B.E., Gross, J.T., Stern, J.A., Martin, D.R., Mohr, J.J. and Woodhouse, S.S., 2017. Circle of Security–Parenting: A randomized controlled trial in Head Start. Development and psychopathology, 29(2), pp.651-673.
  • Kohlhoff, J., Stein, M., Ha, M. and Mejaha, K., 2016. The circle of security parenting (COS-P) intervention: Pilot evaluation. Australian Journal of Child and Family Health Nursing, 13(1), p.3.