Dr Melissa Kaltner


Dr Melissa Kaltner has a long standing passion for informing social policy and practice through research, with an extensive research track record in child protection and out-of-home care (OOHC). She currently holds the role of Associate Director, Infrastructure Advisory, Ernst and Young, and was formerly a Manager in Family and Community Services NSW. In 2015 Melissa was the recipient of a prestigious Churchill Fellowship during which she studied methods for supporting permanency and stability for children in OOHC. She has authored a number of recent journal articles on OOHC, and a book chapter on utilising public health models to improve outcomes for children in care. Melissa is dedicated to facilitating applied, practice-focused research and evaluation which addresses health and wellbeing inequalities faced by vulnerable children in our community.


Creating Innovative Systems that Support Stability for Vulnerable Children (Policy Think Space)

There is extensive evidence demonstrating the importance of stability for children’s wellbeing. Despite an increasing focus on permanency throughout the past decade, out-of-home care (OOHC) placement stability has remained a challenge across Australian jurisdictions. Recognizing that substantial change was required to drive permanency in New South Wales (NSW), in 2017 the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) introduced arguably one of the most significant changes to their child protection and OOHC system to date, the Permanency Support Program (PSP).

Core to the PSP is flexible, child-centered placement funding which deviates from the placement-centered model traditionally used in Australian OOHC. This individualized funding follows a child during their care journey and reduces their likelihood of remaining in care. The model includes family preservation packages that provide wrap-around, evidence based support for families. Where preservation and restoration are not possible, the model encourages permanent placements through the use of Intensive Therapeutic Care, guardianship and adoption placements to increase stability whilst maintaining birth family connections. Service Providers work alongside FACS to develop an individual child’s agreed placement goal, identify their needs and provide timely services to achieve permanency. An overview of the evidence base underpinning the PSP development, its design, implementation and outcomes, alongside the experience of a Service Provider implementing the PSP will be shared in this session to facilitate discussion.

This Think Space will encourage debate on the ability of policy to drive permanency outcomes for children, supporting jurisdictions seeking to increase stability and permanency for vulnerable children.

Daniel Barakate , Department of Family and Community Services
Michelle Smith , Department of Family and Community Services
Jamie Hodgson , Key Assets

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