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 Organisational Reform in the Department for Child Protection and Family Support
Q. Many Aboriginal families talk about their continued trauma and grief when trying to have Aboriginal kids (both family and other) placed in their care. Is this being addressed and if so how and if not why not?

We acknowledge that some families can find their interactions with the Department and other community services stressful. In acknowledging this we have been working to improve our practice with Aboriginal families and communities and have developed an Aboriginal Services and Practice Framework. This framework recognises that achieving improved outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and communities that come into contact with the Department means valuing and respecting Aboriginal people's cultural systems and beliefs. Families, communities and service providers can read the commitments made within the framework on our website.

 

Q. CPFS Did the reforms look at best case management practice when working with Aboriginal families to prevent continuing high rates of children in care?

During consultation and planning for the out-of-home care (OOHC) reform plan the Department made a commitment to specifically address the needs of Aboriginal children, families and communities to prevent the continuing high rates of Aboriginal children in care. The Department has developed an Aboriginal Services and Practice Framework and is working to improve service responses and building on the capacity of Aboriginal families and communities.

A thorough review of the Department's earlier intervention and family support service system has also been undertaken. 
The Building Safe and Strong Families: Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFSS) provide a framework for the alignment of the service system to meet the needs of families most vulnerable to their children entering out-of-home care, including Aboriginal families. The strategies developed are more intensive and targeted towards supporting families who come into contact with the child protection system. A critical measure of the success of earlier intervention and family support is the improvement in the outcomes and life circumstances for Aboriginal children and families.
In developing the services specifications and models for the OOHC and EIFSS services the Department has committed to consulting with our partner agencies, the broader community services sector, the community, peak bodies and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. The focus of consultations to develop services that best meet the needs of families, children and young people to prevent children entering care, reunify children with family where safe as soon as possible and provide quality out-of-home-care services for children who are in care. One EIFSS service is the Intensive Family Support program. An extensive research and consultation process was undertaken to inform the development a service that will best meet the needs of vulnerable families and prevents children entering care.

The Service and Safety Standards for OOHC are also being revised in partnership with the Community Services Sector. A new standard has been developed that focuses on meeting the needs of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, in particular supporting meaningful connections to the child's family, community, land and culture in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.
The Aboriginal Services and Practice Framework and the Building Safe and Strong Families and Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy documents are available on our website at
www.cpfs.wa.gov.au .

 

How can an organisation inform you about their innovative services that are successfully addressing the needs of families linked to CPFS in order to enable their children to safely return to their care?

The Department is always willing to talk to service partners who are willing to share their successes and achievements. The Department has started a range of consultations to inform the service specifications for the EIFSS services. Throughout the engagement and consultation process there will be opportunities for organisations to let us know about the innovative strategies and programs currently providing positive outcomes for vulnerable families. Please refer to the OOHC reform page on our website for information on upcoming consultation opportunities. Alternatively you can contact the Department to discuss how your services are successfully addressing the need of children and families

 

Q. Will there be a focus on strengthening two way communication with families who speak Aboriginal languages, particularly in the regions, with the use of interpreters?

We acknowledge that some families can find their interactions with the Department and other child protection services stressful, especially if there is a language barrier. In acknowledging this we have been working to improve our practice with Aboriginal families and communities and have developed an Aboriginal Services and Practice Framework. This framework recognises that achieving improved outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and communities that come into contact with the Department means valuing and respecting Aboriginal people's cultural systems and beliefs, including the importance of communication through the use of interpreters when required. Families, communities and service providers can read the commitments made within the framework on our website at Aboriginal Services and Practice Framework.

 

Q. Is the 'needs assessment tool' designed to include birth parents as co-contributors with past and current knowledge of their child?

The Needs Assessment Tool (NAT) is a case management tool, specifically developed to help child protection workers, and the child's care team, to identify and assess the complex and changing needs of children in care. It is completed by the Department's child protection workers and all information available to the worker will be used to complete the NAT. As per the Department’s Care Team Approach Framework, the NAT will include (where appropriate) consultation with birth parents and other members of the care team including extended family, the carer, professionals and non-government agencies working with the child or young person. Individual circumstances will result in different people being consulted on the needs of individual children and families.

The Department also use Signs of Safety Framework. This is a strengths-based and safety-focused approach to child protection work and is grounded in partnership and collaboration, and involves the child's family. It expands the investigation of risk to encompass strengths and Signs of Safety that can be built upon to stabilise and strengthen a child’s and family’s situation. All OOHC services will need to demonstrate an understanding of this framework and explain how their model aligns with and supports the Signs of Safety Framework.

 

Q. What efforts will be undertaken to incorporate the lived experience perspective into the development of FDV initiatives?

The Department values the views and perspective of all individual and communities that utilise it services and actively seeks their input via consultation when developing services, strategies, policies and initiatives. In regard to new FDV accommodation and support services initiatives, the focus is on providing a range of options to cater for the needs of women and children who have a lived experience of FDV.  We continue to work in partnership with the Women's Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services (WA) Inc in regard to developing new initiatives to ensure client’s perspectives are appropriately represented.

 

Q. How will education outcomes be prioritised, tracked and reported towards better outcomes across school?

Improving education and overall life outcomes, for children in the CEO's care is a priority area for the Department. To assist the Department to measure our performance in meeting children‘s education and life outcomes we have adopted an Outcomes Framework for Children in OOHC in WA. This Framework will allow us to track and report on life outcomes achieved by young people, including educational outcomes.
Information regarding the Outcomes Framework can be found at: Outcomes Framework for Children in OOHC in WA  
The Needs Assessment Tool (NAT) will also allow us to identify any additional educational needs and allocate resources to assist the child to achieve their educational goals and reach their academic potential.

 

Q. Have the evaluations of FSNs informed the way forward and will consultations take place with service users to further inform their direction?

Yes, the evaluations of the Family Support Networks (FSNs) have assisted the Department in determining the Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFSS) and how to progress the implementation of EIFSS. A key element to progress the EIFSS is our consultation with a range of key stakeholders, including service users. These consultations have recently commenced and will continue over the coming months. Please see the Department's website for information regarding consultations and workshops that you may wish to attend.

 

Q. How will the Aboriginal community be formally engaged and have an ongoing role in guiding the reforms and practice changes across the regions? We acknowledge the importance of effectively engaging with Aboriginal communities to gain further insight and understanding into their individual needs and to continue to work together as we undertake these significant reforms. In acknowledging this we have been working to improve our practice with Aboriginal families and communities and have developed an Aboriginal Services and Practice Framework. This framework recognises that achieving improved outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and communities that come into contact with the Department means valuing and respecting Aboriginal people's cultural systems and beliefs.

We are committed to facilitating an increased service provision to Aboriginal children and families, and recognise that service provision by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people is appropriate and effective. Therefore we aim to strategically support the growth of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs). Our long-term goal is for Aboriginal children and families to be supported by Aboriginal carers and workers, supported by Aboriginal organisations. To assist us to achieve this goal we are in the process of developing an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO) Strategy. To inform the Strategy we have undertaken extensive consultation with ACCOs and the Aboriginal communities across Western Australia. It is envisioned the ACCO Strategy will outline how the Department will engage with and support ACCOs now and into the future.

We have been undertaking a range of consultations with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as part of the out-of-home care reforms and have recently commenced consultation with Aboriginal communities for the Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFSS) services. Please see the Department's website for information regarding consultations and workshops that you may wish to attend.

 

Q. Is part of the strategy to provide staff with experiential training to gain cultural competency - led by appropriate cultural knowledge holders?

We acknowledge and understand the importance of ensuring people working with vulnerable Aboriginal children, families and communities have an understanding and appreciation of the Aboriginal culture. To support this we have proposed amendments to the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006. The Regulations will include the need for cultural competencies which all foster carers must meet. We are currently exploring options to support the growth of Aboriginal cultural knowledge in current carers; for new carers it will be included as part of preparation training.

All Department staff complete cultural awareness training. We also have a Cultural Leadership Program available staff that is aimed at improving service delivery and applying a cultural lens to all work that we do.

We also have a training program "Steady Walking and Talking - Developing Partnerships with Nyoongar People". This training is specifically designed for staff within the Department and the training focuses on understanding community dynamics and connection to community; learning about Nyoongar people and their culture; and building the practical skills to work differently, respecting the diversity of the community and working to its strengths. This training is provided in partnership with, and facilitated by community Elders.
All cultural training provided by the Department is and will continue to be facilitated by appropriately qualified people.

 

Q. Will tender responses for OOHC services be required to be Statewide? Rather than regional as they are now?

Through the tender process organisations will need to identify which regions they are submitting an Offer to provide a service. We believe a ‘place-based approach’ best addresses the unique needs of each region and community, and therefore assists in achieving better outcomes for the children, young people and families. It is important that services can demonstrate a connection to, or history of, involvement with the region or the ability to provide a localised service response to meet the needs of children and families within the region.
An organisation will be able to nominate to provide a service or services in one or more region.

 

Q. Will every district have or will have in place an Intensive family support team?

Yes. As part of the Department's commitment to providing early and intensive support to vulnerable families, to prevent children entering the CEO's care, we will be establishing an Intensive Family Support Team in each district.

 

Q. Can we please obtain a copy of your presentation?

Yes, a copy of the presentation is available on the Department's website at https://www.dcp.wa.gov.au/Pages/Home.aspx

 

Q. Intensive family support team....do you have a regional presence in Kimberley?

Yes. As part of the Department's commitment to providing early and intensive support to vulnerable families, to prevent children entering the CEO's care, we will be establishing an Intensive Family Support Team in each district.

 

Q. What safeguards and monitoring controls have been/will be set in place to ensure that families whose children are wards of the state until 18 can be reassessed for suitability to be a primary carer for their children, when foster placement outcomes are creating greater risks than if the children were returned to family's care?

The primary focus of the Department is to support families to provide a safe and nurturing home for children. To assist this an additional $20 million over 4 years has been allocated to the Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFSS) which has a number of initiatives and programs. One element of EFISS is reunification services. We will be undertaking a range of consultations in the coming months to assist in developing EIFSS services, including reunification services.

When a child enters the CEO's care our priority immediately shifts to reunifying the child with their parents. Reunification must be achieved in a timely manner to support the best life outcomes for the child. It is only after a timely reunification is assessed as not possible, that a long-term OOHC care arrangement is sought, to provide the child with the safety and stability they require.

Our commitment to children remaining with family carers where safe and appropriate is paramount. As a result more children are now placed with family carers than with Foster Carers. The Department's 2015-16 Annual Report indicates that 43 % of all children in the CEO's care were placed with family carers.

 

Q. Family Inclusion Network of WA (Inc.) workers have an excellent track record of assisting families to work collaboratively and respectfully with CPFS to improve outcomes for children at risk of harm. Surely one way of improving outcomes for children in care would be to fund more full/part time workers with the Family Inclusion Network of WA (Inc.) so more families could be given the appropriate advocacy and empowerment they need to work collaboratively with the department. Why have they not received extra funding for more staff and been advised that no additional funding is available (when in reality 21.5 million has been made available to improve outcomes for children and families)?

 

We understand the important service Family Inclusion Network of WA (Inc.) (FINWA), and other advocacy services, provide to families, carers and children and have committed to continue our support of these valuable services. Acknowledging the important work FINWA undertake the Department has increased their funding by approximately 55% since 2012.
As a procurement process (Tender) has commenced and, at this stage, we are unable to provide further comment.

 

Q. Parents of the 995 children currently in DCPFS care struggle to believe that you are serious about wanting to work with them to return their children into their own care, when current funding placements for reunification programs are limited to 36 funded placements a year. That is a 1/27 chance of being chosen. Unless greater investment is made to allow more funded reunification placements each year, parents will always be wondering how serious you are about working together with them to get their children back in their care. What assurance can we be given as parents that adequate funding will be allocated to families who work hard to get their children back?

The primary focus of the Department is to support families to provide a safe and nurturing home for children. Out-of-home care is the option of last resort and supporting parents to care for their children in a safe environment is always the first priority. To help achieve this aim an additional $20 million over 4 years has been allocated to the Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFSS) which has a number of initiatives and programs. One element of EFISS is reunification services. We have begun consultations to assist in developing the EIFSS services, including reunification services. There are many reasons why children come into out-of-home care and the complexity of each individual family and child's need is considered on a case by case basis.

In recognition that carers and Department staff on their own cannot meet all of a child's needs, a 'care team approach', that includes the child's family and other people in the child's naturally occurring networks, was endorsed in 2016. The care team will maintain and support the child's care arrangement and their continued connection to parents, siblings, their wider family, networks, community and culture. The emphasis is to create stability and reduce the disruption to lifetime connections that a child has when they enter out-of-home care, and also the importance of maintaining and increasing the naturally occurring networks they belonged to before coming into care.

 

Q. If the Department's first priority is to keep families together and not remove them unless absolutely necessary, why is the Department spending a far greater proportion of their available funds on maintaining needs of children in care instead of investing in proven useful family support systems and reunification programs?

The Department is committed to providing services to support families and prevent children and young people entering the CEO's care. This includes a $20 million commitment over four years for the Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy (EIFSS), which has a number of initiatives and programs. The program includes both intensive support for families and reunification initiatives.

Our priority is, and continues to be, preventing children entering the out-of-home-care system. We also strongly support placement of children with family carers, where appropriate, if children are in the care of the CEO while working towards reunification where safe to do so.
However, we also have a responsibility to provide for the needs of children in the CEO's care and assist them to reach their full potential and achieve their goals. To support this we will continue to allocate funds based on the needs of these children and young people, in order to provide them with quality care and provide them with as many opportunities as possible.

 

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