Advancing children’s development and wellbeing in the first 1000 days
Why engaging parents in services is critical if we want to improve child wellbeing
Debbie Buhajiar, Uniting Communities, & Nicola Leng, Uniting Communities
Research shows that one of the most significant determinants of a child’s development and well-being is the quality of care provided by their parents. This is not a new research finding. The father of attachment theory, Bowlby stated the following in 1951: “If a community values its children it must cherish their parents’’. Despite this research, in Australia there has not been a significant investment in supporting parents during their child’s first 1000 days. Further, a parent’s willingness to engage in services is impacted by their perceptions about parenting and whether they think the services will be helpful.
This presentation will discuss parents’ perceptions about their role as parents and their thoughts about engaging in parenting programs. It is based on 52 qualitative interviews with parents. 23 parents had attended an evidence-based parenting program with Uniting and the other 29 parents were enrolled in a supported playgroup with Uniting but had never attended a parenting program.
None of the parents interviewed felt that parenting was valued in Australia. All the parents reported feeling judged at some point; however some parents had been more affected by this than others. Those most affected by people’s judgement about their parenting often experienced negative emotions such as shame and guilt, and this contributed to their anxiety about attending a parenting program. A case study will be used to illustrate the issues parents face.
Promoting Child Aware Approaches to practical interventions in communities: Using mixed methods research to evaluate Communities for Children programs
Dr Yvonne Karen Parry, Flinders University
Mixed method research designs are used to answer “the what and how” questions of a research project. Further, mixed methods provides a basis for a more comprehensive understanding of the interactions between these categories and patterns of health, welfare and educational access and service delivery. Whilst the quantitative data can describe the situation, such as attendances at a service, it fails to explore the deeper needs of a population group, or explain the influences behind some aspects of service use. Mixed methods research processes provides information, data, resources and process that enables deeper understandings of complex factors involved in providing services to children. Additionally, mixed methods research design have the potential to provide an evidence-informed understandings of public policy issues.
Key learning outcomes:
• Appropriate uses of mixed methods
• Sequential and concurrent mixed methods
• The application of mixed methods to acute care service provision and community care program evaluations
• The appropriate techniques for mixed method analysis and results.
Along with an exploration of appropriate statistical analysis and qualitative analysis techniques entailed in the evaluation of services for research projects focused on practical applications and the transfer of knowledge into nursing education.
Utilizing playgroups to engage rural and regional communities and advance children’s development and wellbeing
Dr Joanne Tarasuik, Playgroup Victoria
The playgroup platform can engage communities, bringing young children and their parents together in a developmentally stimulating environment that promotes the wellbeing of both children and parents.
An inclusive and welcoming environment, playgroup provides a place where parents of young children can converse and create connections thus preventing isolation, and parents can observe and learn from each other. These outcomes can be of even greater value in rural communities with geographically dispersed homes and limited early education services.
Playgroup attendance has been associated with lower rates of vulnerability at school entry (AEDC), with the strongest association amongst more disadvantaged cohorts (Gregory et al., 2016). Rates of vulnerability at school entry are higher in regional areas than major cities and vulnerability in remote areas is more than double that of major cities (DET (Cth), 2016). Furthermore, vulnerability is higher amongst children of SES disadvantage (DET (Cth), 2016), and SES disadvantage (SEIFA IRSAD) is greater across regional and very remote areas (Pink, 2013). Furthermore preschool attendance is also lower amongst more SES disadvantaged children, and in remote areas (O’Connor et al., 2016), and playgroup can promote the importance of early learning.
Playgroup Victoria projects across country Victoria such as the Connecting Rural Families Locally pilot project and the Wimmera Transitional Playgroup project demonstrate how playgroups can be a community solution, engaging families with young children.
In this presentation we will discuss the role of playgroups in rural community engagement and the prevention of developmental vulnerability at school entry and isolation.
Strategies to improve children’s safety and wellbeing must address growing child poverty
Dr Susan Tregeagle, Barnardos Australia; University of Sydney
The issue: Strategies to improve child development, safety and wellbeing need to consider the corrosive role of poverty in families; new research shows us more clearly than ever that alleviating poverty will significantly affect abuse and neglect and prevent entry to care.
Why does it matter? Evidence since the 1980s has shown the impact of poverty on rates and severity of neglect and abuse. However, recent Australian research has attempted to quantify this impact and claims that 27% of child maltreatment is due to economic factors. International studies show that abuse rates have been affected by the GFC, changes to minimum wages, and, neighbourhood poverty. In relation to entry to care, poverty controlled for other factors was shown to account for 57.1% of regional variation in placement rates for children under 5, and, research on decreases in welfare payments shows a 25% increase in annual risk of out of home care placement.
The solution: We need to refocus the National Framework especially in the areas of welfare ‘reform’ affecting family payments, child support, barriers to childcare and affordable housing. Practitioners must ensure that the assistance that they offer includes practical support.
What difference will it make? We must improve the wellbeing of the 17.4% of Australian children who live in poverty (731,300 children) and arrest the increase of 2% increase between 2000- 2014. We particularly need to focus on children in lone-parent households where 40. 6% live in poverty and in private rental housing (59% under the poverty line).
Building child safe organisations and environments
Managing Challenging behaviours when conflict arises
Samantha Kolasa, FMC Mediation And Counselling
When the relationship between parents breaks down, conflict is a common experience. This conflict often impacts on the ability of parents to raise their children effectively (McIntosh & Chisholm, 2008). The lack of an effective parental alliance has been shown to have a detrimental effect to the wellbeing of children (Smyth, 2004). The problems associated with a lack of parental alliance can be magnified when the child engages in defiant behaviour, either in reaction to the separation, due to an underlying psychological disorder or both. Many psychological interventions for defiance, attentional and emotional regulation issues emphasise the importance of calming the family system and maintaining a unified parental approach (Barkley, 2013; Australian Psychological Society, 2010).
This presentation suggests approaches to addressing defiant behaviour as a result of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) and Adjustment Disorder. Approaches are drawn from existing evidence based practice (Australian Psychological Society, 2010) and integrated with learnings from the Parenting after Separation program. Emphasis is placed on maintaining relationship boundaries between parents, not perpetuating conflict impacting children, boundaried grief of the relationship between parents, and supporting children with oppositional and challenging behaviours to transition between different parental environments.
The Victorian Multidisciplinary Centres Model
Joanne Sheehan-Paterson, Mallee Sexual Assault Unit/Mallee Domestic Violence Services
The aims of the Victorian Multidisciplinary Centres Model (MDCS) is to respond to child and adult victim/survivors of sexual assault and family violence in an integrated, multi-disciplinary context and environment which provides safety, support and access to the criminal justice system.
MDCS have been developed to improve responses to sexual offences and child abuse. The Centres co-locate sexual assault counsellor advocates with specialist police investigators, and child protection practitioners, as well as forensic medical professionals.
These specialist professionals work collaboratively to provide a victim/survivor centred, specialist, integrated and holistic response to victims and their significant others from a single location.
Improved integration and co-location of the key agencies has the capacity to significantly improve the response to victims/survivors and significant others.
MDCS provide services to any person who has experienced sexual assault or any child who is at risk of abuse. in some Centres family violence specialist practitioners are also co-located in order to improve the response for victims of family violence.
the Mallee MDC also has co-located, a health nurse practitioner, specialist family violence solicitor, financial counsellor, risk assessment management panel, family violence specialist practitioners and a specialist family violence child protection practitioner.
Supporting Adoption through Structure
Dr Susan Tregeagle, Barnardos Find-a-family; University of Sydney
Recent amendments to the Children (Care and Protection) Act 1998 require the Courts in NSW to consider a care plan of adoption for children who are unable to safely return to their family and for whom guardianship is not appropriate. This change enshrines the principle of permanency for children through the provision of a “family for life” that lasts beyond childhood. However, there are few organisations who are currently accredited to undertake this work or who are prepared for this major change to their agency’s focus.
Barnardos Find-a-Family has been finalising adoptions for children in OOHC care since 1985, with approximately half of the children in the program exiting care through adoption. This presentation will explore the strategies that have supported Barnardos in achieving this goal and how these may assist other organisations.
The commitment and belief in adoption from Boards, senior management and operational staff is critical as a main driver of change and must be embedded in corporate plans and reflected in strategic plans and targets. Equally important is the ability of organisations to be proactive, to prepare for growth and change and identify barriers to achievement of goals. Centres and programs need to evolve and adjust their structure to meet future needs and consideration should be given to specialised teams which have a focus on achieving adoption.
Planning and reflection are the keys to success and must be a constant feature as organisations change and adapt to meet agency goals.
Supporting young people in out-of-home care to flourish in adulthood
Healing in “other home care” the Aboriginal way
Jennifer Hannan AM, Mackillop Family Services
In WA 53% of children in OOHC are Aboriginal and many are placed out of country and out of culture. Recognising the significant over-representation of Aboriginal children in care, MacKillop approached the Roelands community just outside Bunbury over a year ago to establish a house in which Aboriginal fosters carers could care for children from their own communities, trained and supported by MacKillop staff. Roelands is now a working farm and has become home to Aboriginal people – many of whom were original residents of the mission – determined to turn this place of historical heartache into a place of healing.
This paper will take you on a journey of collaboration between MacKillop Family Services and Woolakabunning Kiaka Incorporated the Aboriginal controlled organisation who bought the old Roelands Mission. With MacKillop’s support a home on the site has been turned into a foster care home for children. Carers are from the local Aboriginal community, some having grown up on the old Mission and they are being trained and supported by MacKillop staff to provide therapeutic foster care based on the Sanctuary Model.
Children living in the house will benefit from community run healing programs available at Roelands, while their carers will receive supervision and support from experienced MacKillop staff, in a project expected to improve their chances of finding safety and healing while also preserving their cultural identity.
The implementation of therapeutic life story work: practice review of a pilot program
Dr Jodie Park, Family Pathway Solutions
This paper will discuss the implementation of therapeutic life story work in the Illawarra region of NSW. The paper will present an overview of an informal therapeutic life story work pilot program, that has been in place since September 2015.
Therapeutic life story work is an attachment based intervention that involves the child and the carer. The intervention allows the child to understand and process their life history by using the relationship between the child and the carer as a reparative tool.
The pilot program involves the practitioner and two different non-government OOHC service providers. This will lead to the presentation of three case studies which will illustrate therapeutic life story work in action. The case study discussion will critically reflect on the success and the challenges of the implementation and intervention process by considering the intervention from a clinical perspective to determine if the therapeutic life story work intervention has assisted the child and carer to understand, process and explore the child’s narrative.
The discussion in this chapter will be presented as a qualitative reflection of the pilot program. It will also have an emphasis on exploring the practice that has underpinned the implementation process.
Supporting young people in out of home care to flourish into adulthood – help children out of the care system
Dr Susan Tregeagle, Barnardos Australia; University of Sydney
The issue: Open adoption can offer children greater sense of belonging and stability than live in out-of-home care. Yet in 2015-16 there were only 70 carer adoptions in Australia (a decline from 94 from the past year). Open adoption is a viable and important option for non-Indigenous young children who are currently forced to live their whole childhood in unstable care systems.
Why does it matter? International studies show adoption to be a more stable and improve outcomes for children who are permanently removed from their families. Many young children in care who will have to live their whole lives in unstable foster care: 12,293 children under 1 living in care and 8,443 children under five, 67% of children had been in continuous placement for 2 years or more and 87% had been in the same placement. Of these children many will never go home – 31,129 lived on finalised guardianship and 9,070 on third-party orders.
The solution: Practitioners must actively consider case plans for open adoption particularly when babies entering care are highly likely to stay there till age 18. Birth parents must be clear about their rights and timeframes for action. State Governments should model their adoption legislation on NSW and prioritise adoption from care.
What difference will it make? Up to a thousand children per year will have greatly improved placement stability (3%) and better educational and health outcomes. An adoption costs on average $230,000 compared to care costs of $688,000.
Winangay Stronger Ways with Aboriginal Families
Aunty Sue Blacklock (AM), Paula Hayden, Gillian Bonser, & Karen Menzies, Winangay Resources Inc
Winangay Resources Inc. have developed resources to assist workers and carers in working with families and children. The resources have been recommended at the highest level by governments, academics, Elders, aboriginal workers and the Healing Foundation. The display provides information and examples of the various resources Winangay Resources has produced.
Building connections for Dads: research into Dad focused parenting programs – what works
Dr Yvonne Karen Parry, Flinders University
Research shows that children living in poverty are exposed to higher levels of stress and this interferes with their ability to learn and meet developmental milestones (Margolin and Gordis 2004, Suor, Sturge-Apple et al. 2015). Furthermore, the differences in cognitive ability are evident at aged four (Margolin and Gordis 2004, Suor, Sturge-Apple et al. 2015). Additionally, research and systematic literature reviews highlight the importance of engaging fathers antenatally to improve longer term childhood outcomes (Bronte-Tinkew, Ryan et al. 2007, Committee 2014, Fletcher, May et al. 2014). The Murraylands Rural Region of South Australia has been recognised as an area where children experience high rates of developmental vulnerability (Australian Early Development Census 2015).
Traditionally, antenatal education has not specifically targeted fatherhood and father’s needs. The positive impact of fathers on children’s cognitive, linguistic and physical development is compelling (Fletcher, May et al. 2014). The CfC Murraylands Antenatal education classes provides specific sessions for expectant father participation. These separate meetings invite fathers to explore their roles and parenthood in a male context. The results of research on the two of the programs offered by ac.care Murraylands, Communities for Children, found that Dads engaged positively as parents after completing the Antenatal Dads program (for Dads 0 to birth) or the Beyond Kayaking (for Dads 0 to 16 years) programs. The results also found the programs are cultural inclusive and decrease risks for vulnerable rural infants and children.
Working towards better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families through building a strong and sustainable sector
Candice Butler, QATSICPP
A range of individual, family, systemic and historical factors affect the capacity of families to provide a safe, secure, nurturing and culturally supportive home for their children. However, the mix of these factors and how they affect each child and family varies. This is their storyline, their story of how they came to this situation. Understanding their story and journey is fundamental to changing it and establishing a new story. A shared understanding of the child’s and family’s storyline is developed and strategies are put in place to reduce their vulnerability and strengthen their capacity to protect and care for their children. In this way, the child and family establish a new storyline.
Underpinning this approach is the sharing of knowledge and learning by children, family, community members and service providers.
The concept of Storylines assisted the Practice Development Team of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak Ltd (QATSICPP) to develop a suite of practice resources to assist frontline practitioners throughout Queensland.
This presentation will discuss Storylines and provide an overview of the suite of practice resources.
Engaging School Communities to Break the Silence and Prevent Gendered Violence
Dale Palmer, White Ribbon Australia
Building child safe organisations and environments involves negotiating the broader social context and needs of the community. With one in four children exposed to domestic violence in Australia(1), schools are vital to creating a safe space for children. Schools play a key role in violence prevention through a “whole-of-school” approach, maintaining strong relationships with agencies and strategies to embed a culture of respect and equality.
White Ribbon Australia’s Breaking the Silence Schools Program is a professional learning program for Principals and school leaders. It offers a holistic organisational framework to embed models of respectful relationships in classroom activities, policy, community engagement, and broader school culture. Breaking the Silence sits within a community development model, enabling schools to develop their own strengths based community solutions that contribute to the prevention of men’s violence against women.
This poster resource charts the history of Breaking the Silence, explores best practice principles, and highlights key findings of an independent evaluation, informing organisational considerations for the prevention of men’s violence against women.
(1)Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse. (2011). The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children: A Literature Review. Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/1oiyn2E p.3-4
A whole school approach to child safety and protection
Merrin Sulovski, Child Protection Education
The introduction of the new Child Safe Standards in Victoria requires all organisations who work with children and young people to comply with seven specific standards including policy development and training of staff. While this is welcome, schools and early childhood settings face multiple challenges in implementing the standards.
The purpose of this presentation is to provide an overview of a whole school approach to child safety, protection and trauma-informed teaching that aligns with the Child Safe Standards. Child Protection Education provides comprehensive, interactive and research-based training in:
- Identifying and reporting child maltreatment
- The impact of trauma on brain development, function and learning
- Sexual abuse – the educator’s role in protecting children and young people
- Sexualised behaviour – the educator’s role in responding
- Family violence – the educator’s role and response
- How to empower children – rights and protection
Further, we provide advice to educational settings regarding policy development and offer parent/community workshops that complement the staff training.
A main point of difference in our approach is our focus specifically on schools and early childhood settings. As teachers ourselves, we understand that educators have specific needs relating to their role in child safety and protection. We aim to integrate theory and practice to assist educators in understanding their role in working with children who have experienced maltreatment, as well as children who display concerning sexualised behaviour. Feedback from leadership staff and educators suggests that this is a timely and much needed approach.