Family & Connectedness

Children and young people are connected to their families, communities, kinship and support networks
Kobie wrote this spoken word poem to raise awareness of the issues Indigenous people and communities face in the Sydney area. Since Year 3 Kobie has been active in the not-for-profit organisation Weave, which offers long-term support for children, young people, women, families and communities seeking a way forward amid complex social situations such as mental health, homelessness, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, family breakdown and isolation

The action needed

Keep children and young people safe and with their families

Ensure there is a well-resourced continuum of support for vulnerable children, young people and their families from the prevention and early intervention stages, right through to family preservation and restoration, with a focus on keeping families and kinship networks together. This should include:

  • Increased investment in prevention and early intervention to increase support for vulnerable families and reduce entry into the child protection system, including an early intervention service growth fund targeted at areas with high rates of risk-of-significant-harm notifications.
  • Ensuring the real value of funding for existing early intervention programs and services is maintained.
  • Establishing a child protection innovation and evidence fund to test and evaluate new approaches to early intervention.
  • Increased investment in intensive family preservation and restoration services.

Integrated service delivery for our most vulnerable families

Develop a more integrated, whole-of-government approach to addressing issues which lead to child protection concerns earlier. This should include a policy approach which gives families with child protection concerns priority access to services such as social housing, early childhood education and health services.

“I get 3-4 calls a week for people looking for space for a family that really needs help. We have space for 30 families at any one time. 27 of those have to come from FACS, meaning only 3 can be community referrals from someone (school counsellor, social worker, family support etc.) who’s worried about a family. We haven’t had room for a community referral in 6 months.

To get onto FACS’s radar there has to be risk of serious harm – something has to happen to push the situation over the edge – and only then is there a chance we can step in. I’m a believer in early intervention. We would like to be able too have 100 families at any one time. And that’s not an exaggeration. That’s the level of need.”

Lisa Hetherington
Youth Hope, Tamworth

“I get 3-4 calls a week for people looking for space for a family that really needs help. We have space for 30 families at any one time. 27 of those have to come from FACS, meaning only 3 can be community referrals from someone (school counsellor, social worker, family support etc.) who’s worried about a family. We haven’t had room for a community referral in 6 months.

To get onto FACS’s radar there has to be risk of serious harm – something has to happen to push the situation over the edge – and only then is there a chance we can step in. I’m a believer in early intervention. We would like to be able too have 100 families at any one time. And that’s not an exaggeration. That’s the level of need.”

Lisa Hetherington
Youth Hope, Tamworth

Why it is needed

All children and young people have a right to feel connected to their family, community, culture and country. We know that young people see family and friends as a source of happiness and the most important things in their lives.1 They have a right to a system and network of supports that provide for and strengthen these relationships.

All children and young people have a right to feel connected to their family, community, culture and country. We know that young people see family and friends as a source of happiness and the most important things in their lives. They have a right to a system and network of supports that provide for and strengthen these relationships.

We also know that for children, young people and their families, prevention and early intervention are key to greater stability in the home environment, reduced risk of harm, and improved outcomes in a range of areas such as education and employment.2 However, as a state we continue to focus our investment on the ‘pointy end’ and crisis responses while funding for prevention and early intervention has eroded over time.3

Across NSW we heard concerns that the levels of funding for the early intervention sector in particular are not sufficient to meet the level of need. Vulnerable and at risk families are not being identified and referred to services early enough to prevent the breakdown of relationships and other serious harm or child protection concerns. As a result, children and young people are entering the out-of-home care system at an increasing rate. This picture is even worse for Aboriginal children and young people; more than 5,500 were in out-of-home care as at 30 June 2016, at an increase of approximately 500 Aboriginal children from 30 June 2015.4

There are also long wait times for families with child protection concerns to access other needed supports such as housing, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and mental health services, exacerbated by the fragmented nature of service provision across government agencies. Child protection concerns should trigger greater prioritisation for access to services such as housing and health.

We continue to support efforts to improve existing services and the out-of-home care system for our children and families through the Targeted Early Intervention (TEI) Reform and Their Futures Matter. However, to be effective these efforts must be accompanied by appropriate resourcing that maintains funding for existing services, significantly increases overall funding for prevention and early intervention, and targets areas of highest need. We also need to build an evidence base on what is working and where the gaps are to best inform the allocation of resources, and drive innovative approaches to early intervention.

Working with families to stay connected also needs to happen right across the continuum, whether it is at the pre-crisis stage or after a child has entered the out-of-home care system.

While we are pleased that Their Futures Matter aims to increase places in family preservation services, the steady increase in numbers of children entering out-of-home care demonstrates that we need far greater investment to cope with rising demand.5 The incoming government therefore needs to direct investment towards intensive family preservation and restoration, rather than foster care and adoption which should always be seen as options of last resort. We also need to see the incoming government adopt the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle as a priority.

“We’ve built a service system that relies on people remaining poor and disadvantaged…Solutions must involve the family. There can be no solution without empowering the people involved.”

NCOSS Consultation
Kempsey, 2018

Children and young people should be supported to live safely with their families wherever possible, or permanently in other family arrangements such as kinship care.
  1. Ivancic, L., Cairns, K., Shuttleworth, L., Welland, L., Fildes, J. and Nicholas, M. 2018, Lifting the weight: Understanding young people’s mental health and service needs in regional and remote Australia. Sydney: ReachOut Australia and Mission Australia
  2. Fox, S., Southwell, A., Stafford, N., Goodhue, R., Jackson,D. and Smith, C. 2015, Better Systems, Better Chances: A review of research and practice for prevention and early intervention, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), Canberra
  3. Productivity Commission 2016, Report on Government Services, Child Protection Services
  4. AbSec 2016, ‘Aboriginal Children in Out-of-Home-Care’, available here
  5. FACS 2017, FACS Statistics, Objective 1 – Improving the lives of children and young people, accessed 28 August 2017
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