Rethinking Reunification
Families SA Reunification Initiative
Dr Helen Jeffreys
What is reunification?
• Reunification is the process of reconnecting
children and young people placed in out of home
care...
What the data told us:
In 2011 when we began implementation planning:
• South Australia had around 6.1/ 1000 children in
o...
What the data told us
• In 2009-2010, 644 new children entered care
and 405 went home
• Nationally, the ratio of children ...
Reunification timeframes
• In general, South Australian children who return
home usually do so within the first 12 months,...
Reunification rates
• Overall, a smaller proportion are reunified (only
30% vs. up to 50% in other States)
• This is gener...
Family characteristics
• There was a very high prevalence of problems in
families and much of this related to domestic
vio...
Family complexity
• It was very rare to find any families who were
characterised as having only a small number of
isolated...
Services indicated
• For effective reunification to occur, many
families need multiple services operating in
conjunction w...
Reunification Initiative
• In the 2011-12 Budget, the South Australian
Government provided an additional $4.7 million
per ...
Reunification Initiative
• The Reunification Initiative provided Families SA
with an opportunity to develop new and
innova...
What did we want to achieve?
• Where children are separated from their family
due to parental incapacity and/or risk of ha...
How did we do this?
• Restructured existing teams within targeted
Offices to create a dedicated focus on
reunification
• S...
A ‘whole of Office’ approach
• Rather than simply create ‘Specialist
Reunification Teams’, the Reunification Initiative
so...
How did we do this?
• Families SA staff alone cannot achieve
Reunification and Family Preservation
• Whilst we increased F...
Governance structure
• Across government Steering Committee
• Project Board
• Office specific working groups
- Monitor pro...
Our partners
Partnerships developed with:
- Health SA
- Housing SA
- Disability SA
- The Youth Court
- Children’s Centres/...
Health SA
• Seconded and co-located senior mental health
and drug and alcohol clinicians to Families SA
Offices to:
- Prov...
Health SA
• a one stop, seamless service delivery for
families
• service linkages and pathways
• accelerated referral proc...
Specialist therapeutic services
• Women and Children's Health Network - Infant
Therapeutic Reunification Service
• Specifi...
Youth Court
• Judicial Officer led Reunification Review
Meetings
• Court involvement in supervising and supporting
familie...
Children’s Centre's
• Actively partnered with local Children’s
Centres
• Linked socially isolated parents with universal
c...
Office for Schools
• School staff and Families SA are gaining a
better understanding of each others business
and are build...
Alternative care providers
• Strengthened the interface with family based
carers (foster, kinship and relative carers) and...
Non government sector
• Worked in partnership with the Stronger
Families Safer Children Programs to inform
and develop new...
Multi-disciplinary teams
• Case Support Workers
• Family Support Workers
• Financial counsellors
• Social Workers
• Mental...
Multi-faceted approaches
• A Care Team approach involving provision of
practical help (financial support, active linkage t...
Solution focused practice
Our goal is to:
• Work in partnership with the family to help
identify their strengths
• Focus o...
Post reunification support
• Reunification, although a positive milestone for
the family, is also a time of readjustment, ...
2 years on
Table: # of children reunified
Go live date
Noarlunga North Eastern Limestone Coast
Woodville
Total1 Nov 2011 2...
Key learnings
• Genuine consultation required for ‘buy in’ to
change
• Restructure of teams not sufficient in itself to
ch...
Key learnings
• Working across government departments with
differing mandates is complex and requires
ongoing maintenance ...
Families SA Redesign
• Five Program Areas
• Ten Projects
• Project Management Methodology
• A Unified Practice Approach
• ...
Evaluation
• All children and families will be tracked from their
initial contact with Families SA to capture
decision mak...
Reunification as a discreet,
visible process
• Reunification is the last resort in efforts to
keep children out of care
• ...
Dr. Helen Jeffreys, Families SA - Rethinking Reunification
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Dr. Helen Jeffreys, Families SA - Rethinking Reunification

1,397 views

Published on

Dr. Helen Jeffreys, Project Manager, Families SA delivered the "Rethinking Reunification" presentation at the Child Protection Forum 2013.

She spoke about factors associated with children's entry into care, reunification rates and patterns in South Australia, a multi-disciplinary approach to child protection, and family centred practice.

Find out more at http://www.informa.com.au/childprotectionforum2013

Published in: Health & Medicine
0 Comments
1 Like
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
1,397
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
3
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
24
Comments
0
Likes
1
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Dr. Helen Jeffreys, Families SA - Rethinking Reunification

  1. 1. Rethinking Reunification Families SA Reunification Initiative Dr Helen Jeffreys
  2. 2. What is reunification? • Reunification is the process of reconnecting children and young people placed in out of home care with the family from which they were removed, by providing services and supports to the child, their family and their carers. • It is a dynamic process that begins as soon as children are placed in out of home care, and ends when they return home, the child is settled, and the family are no longer in need of ongoing statutory intervention.
  3. 3. What the data told us: In 2011 when we began implementation planning: • South Australia had around 6.1/ 1000 children in out of home care, an increase from 3.9/ 1000 in 2005 • Total numbers in care had also steadily increased from 1329 in 2005 to 2188 in 2010 (a 65% increase) which was higher than the national increase of 51% during the same period (AIHW 2011, Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  4. 4. What the data told us • In 2009-2010, 644 new children entered care and 405 went home • Nationally, the ratio of children entering care in 2009-2010 to those exiting was .78 • In South Australia, the ratio was .62 which indicated that relatively more children were staying in care for longer periods compared to the national average (AIHW 2011, Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  5. 5. Reunification timeframes • In general, South Australian children who return home usually do so within the first 12 months, but this proportion is generally smaller than observed in other States • The pattern of reunification was more stable and slower (Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  6. 6. Reunification rates • Overall, a smaller proportion are reunified (only 30% vs. up to 50% in other States) • This is generally consistent with the AIHW figures which show that the numbers of children remaining in care in South Australia is growing more rapidly (in relative terms) to some other States (Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  7. 7. Family characteristics • There was a very high prevalence of problems in families and much of this related to domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental mental health problems and poverty (financial difficulties and housing problems) (Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  8. 8. Family complexity • It was very rare to find any families who were characterised as having only a small number of isolated problems • Seven or more risk factors were identified as being present in almost half of the families (Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  9. 9. Services indicated • For effective reunification to occur, many families need multiple services operating in conjunction with one another • The most important of those would appear to be: financial and housing assistance; drug and alcohol services; mental health; and domestic violence services (Delfabbro, McCormick, Kettler, Fernandez 2012)
  10. 10. Reunification Initiative • In the 2011-12 Budget, the South Australian Government provided an additional $4.7 million per annum for five years to strengthen Families SA’s focus on reunification • Funding was invested in trialling innovative solutions beginning in four Families SA Offices, Limestone Coast, Woodville, North Eastern and Noarlunga
  11. 11. Reunification Initiative • The Reunification Initiative provided Families SA with an opportunity to develop new and innovative models of engaging and working with families who have children in care, with the aim of reunifying children in a timely and safe manner
  12. 12. What did we want to achieve? • Where children are separated from their family due to parental incapacity and/or risk of harm, the primary goal has been to intervene proactively to return the child home safely and quickly, hence: - increase the number of children reunified with their birth families - decrease the length of time children spend in alternative care
  13. 13. How did we do this? • Restructured existing teams within targeted Offices to create a dedicated focus on reunification • Strengthened and built policy and practice linkages • Created a multidisciplinary approach • Built service partnerships and promoted child protection as everyone’s business
  14. 14. A ‘whole of Office’ approach • Rather than simply create ‘Specialist Reunification Teams’, the Reunification Initiative sought to encourage a larger shift in thinking about family engagement in child protection practice • Not only did we have to strengthen reunification practices, but we also needed to pay heightened attention to placement prevention in the first instance.
  15. 15. How did we do this? • Families SA staff alone cannot achieve Reunification and Family Preservation • Whilst we increased Families SA Office staff numbers through the Initiative and worked on strengthening our intra-agency collaboration, we sought to embed a way of working that breaks down traditional inter-agency “silo’s” of practice
  16. 16. Governance structure • Across government Steering Committee • Project Board • Office specific working groups - Monitor progress - Manage/resolve issues arising and/or - Manage up
  17. 17. Our partners Partnerships developed with: - Health SA - Housing SA - Disability SA - The Youth Court - Children’s Centres/Schools - Alternative Care Sector - Non Government Sector - Intra-agency (Psychological Services, Principal Social Workers, Principal Aboriginal Consultants)
  18. 18. Health SA • Seconded and co-located senior mental health and drug and alcohol clinicians to Families SA Offices to: - Provide a point of entry into the health system for families involved with the child protection system who are experiencing mental health crisis or Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug issues - Work collaboratively to reduce identified risk factors and increase protective factors for children and their families
  19. 19. Health SA • a one stop, seamless service delivery for families • service linkages and pathways • accelerated referral processes and procedures • opportunities for formal and informal learning and development for all staff • instant access to agency administrative databases that provided clarity of information for clients in common
  20. 20. Specialist therapeutic services • Women and Children's Health Network - Infant Therapeutic Reunification Service • Specifically targeted therapeutic interventions in relation to the attachment and relationship- based issues for infants (aged 0 – 2 years) and their parents that will enhance timely decision making for this vulnerable age group • 64 referrals over the past year; completed 21 parenting capacity assessments and recommended reunification in 13 cases
  21. 21. Youth Court • Judicial Officer led Reunification Review Meetings • Court involvement in supervising and supporting families to address issues that impact on child safety and wellbeing • Increased accountability and monitoring of progress towards agreed case plan goals • Enhanced communication and understanding between Families SA and the Court
  22. 22. Children’s Centre's • Actively partnered with local Children’s Centres • Linked socially isolated parents with universal community services and supports • Facilities utilised for family contact and parent education purposes in a community setting that is non-threatening and family friendly • Staff trained in Marte Meo, Bringing up great kids, Circle of Security
  23. 23. Office for Schools • School staff and Families SA are gaining a better understanding of each others business and are building stronger networks and linkages as one department • Draft communication protocols were developed to establish referral mechanisms, regular review processes and formal communication pathways between Families SA, parents and School Principals where children are involved in a reunification plan
  24. 24. Alternative care providers • Strengthened the interface with family based carers (foster, kinship and relative carers) and supported them to be positively involved in reunification efforts • Developed Residential Care options that support reunification efforts and provided a therapeutic environment to assist children and young people
  25. 25. Non government sector • Worked in partnership with the Stronger Families Safer Children Programs to inform and develop new service models for the delivery of Family Preservation and Reunification Services • Sector consultations to clarify how the Initiative and the contracted service providers could work in partnership to build capacity in this area
  26. 26. Multi-disciplinary teams • Case Support Workers • Family Support Workers • Financial counsellors • Social Workers • Mental health and drug and alcohol clinicians • Psychologists • Psychiatrists
  27. 27. Multi-faceted approaches • A Care Team approach involving provision of practical help (financial support, active linkage to services) and emotional support alongside more defined interventions (educative and therapeutic work and relationship-based casework)
  28. 28. Solution focused practice Our goal is to: • Work in partnership with the family to help identify their strengths • Focus on everyday life events • Help families build the skills necessary to manage the situations that are difficult for them
  29. 29. Post reunification support • Reunification, although a positive milestone for the family, is also a time of readjustment, and a family already under stress can have difficulty maintaining safety and stability • about 25 percent of all children who go home will return to care at some point, often within one year (Wulczyn, 2004)
  30. 30. 2 years on Table: # of children reunified Go live date Noarlunga North Eastern Limestone Coast Woodville Total1 Nov 2011 2 April 2012 18 June 2012 27 Aug 2012 Number of families in reunification teams 71 40 30 31 172 Number of children in reunification teams 127 60 44 55 286 Number of children where reunification has ceased 38 23 11 16 88 Number of children where reunification is continuing 55 17 12 16 100 Number of children reunified 32 19 9 12 72 Number of children where entry into care has been prevented 2 1 12 11 26
  31. 31. Key learnings • Genuine consultation required for ‘buy in’ to change • Restructure of teams not sufficient in itself to change practice • Whole of organisational commitment needed • The need for a consistent, unified practice approach
  32. 32. Key learnings • Working across government departments with differing mandates is complex and requires ongoing maintenance of working relationships • Joint (across agency) training is an effective strategy in breaking down barriers and increasing understanding of other service areas and responsibilities • Reunification needs a driver to maintain impetus and motivation
  33. 33. Families SA Redesign • Five Program Areas • Ten Projects • Project Management Methodology • A Unified Practice Approach • An adopted Practice Framework • Evolution and transformation of the Initiative from a pilot at four sites to state-wide applicability
  34. 34. Evaluation • All children and families will be tracked from their initial contact with Families SA to capture decision making and assessment processes, interventions and service delivery and child and family outcomes (2009-2015) • Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies will be used
  35. 35. Reunification as a discreet, visible process • Reunification is the last resort in efforts to keep children out of care • Where children have been removed from the care of their parents the system needs to go to extra lengths to support reunification by helping families to care safely for their children

×