Karen Watson had a vision to make the journey for anyone affected by a loved ones addictions easier. To set up a stand alone agency that would not only offer support but also a place of safety that those in need could call their own. 

Since opening in November 2001, over 25,000 people have directly benefited from programmes and services of the familial trust, including over 2500 children and young people.

Writing about opening day brings back many memories. Karen Watson ran the very first intensive outpatient programme that day with Lynda Nyssen as co faciltator . Talk about hitting the ground running. The familial trust had three staff – Karen Watson, Graeme Watson and Pip Mechaelis, all unpaid volunteers. Graeme worked at nights and at the familial trust during the day.

We often talk about kind hearted people dropping off food parcels to keep us going, living from week to week; unsure if the rent on the premises would be paid.

Uncertain but exciting times as the reputation of the familial trust grew in the Canterbury region with an official opening by then mayor of Christchurch Garry Moore late 2002.

With the closure of The Queen Mary Hospital a treatment centre for alcohol and drug dependants a group was formed to look at the reconfiguration of  alcohol and drug services in the South Island. Karen Watson was asked to represent the interests of families and significant others on this group. The Familial Trust gained its first Funding from the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) for one full time position in 2003. The agency now has 3.5 positions funded by the CDHB  and funds all other staff from a variety of funding sources like many community organizations. Currently The Familial Trust has seven staff plus 12 amazing volunteer group leaders.

So much has happened since opening in  2001. 

Childrens programmes and services, bringing Jerry Moe the National Director of Childrens Programmes from the Betty Ford Centre in California to run a workshop in Christchurch in 2011. Affiliation with The National Association for Children of Alcoholics in The United States. Our awesome volunteers winning multiple local and National awards for their work with young people.Our founder Karen Watson being a finalist in the New Zealander of the Year Awards Local Hero Category 2016. Celebrating 15 years of service to the community in November 2016 with a gala dinner for over 250 people. The thousands of people who have received support from the service and all the wonderful staff, volunteers students on placement and the amazing supporters who have all contributed to the history of the The Familial Trust thnak you.   


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Karen Watson

Founder & Manager of The Familial Trust

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Graeme Watson

Assisstant Manager of The
Familial Trust