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Chris Boyle Consultancy is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 26th October 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> October -> Chris Boyle Consultancy is In the Spotlight

Chris Boyle Consultancy (CBC) offers training, professional supervision, assessment and intervention services as well as consultancy services to those engaged in child protection, community services and family support. Based in Queensland, CBC is focused on improving the lives of all children, kin, families and community members. This has been CBC’s Director Chris Boyle’s professional passion since becoming a Social Worker 20 years ago. His dedication to this goal has taken him across the State as well as across the globe when he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship that increased his contribution to both the knowledge and practical implementation of the work he has undertaken.

As a second generation Social Worker in his family, Chris attributes his professional Social Work values, ever-present from a young age, to his mother. He notes that social justice has always been a passion of his. “As a young, novice Social Worker, I recall to this day, the words of a young man who was in residential care. Through his tears and pain, he provided this powerful insight into the child protection system which was responsible for meeting his care needs. He said: Why bother trying…all the kids in care will end up in prison or dead by the time they are 18”.

That moment solidified for Chris the importance of hearing what children and young people say. “For the past 20 years that very moment has served to motivate me towards systems change so that every child will have that feeling of hopelessness replaced by a sense of love, care, support and belonging” says Chris. He has remained committed to listening to children and young people and their families and has taken their feedback on board. He remains motivated in speaking out with the view to impact systemic change and work towards a more positive and holistic support experience for children and young people who require intervention to achieve healing and wellbeing.

Throughout his career, across government and non-government organisations, Chrishas held many leadership roles and positively influenced culture and change in challenging circumstances.As a strong advocate for systemic change within the sector, he’s also passionate about the provision of timely supports and resources to be offered to all children, young people and families.He believes in establishing communities of hope, where children are safe andfamilies are strengthened. “As a Social Worker, I am privileged to walk alongside our community’s most vulnerable and as a change agent, create opportunities for hope.”

When Chris was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2012 to pursue his passion and explore the latest research and practice in family preservation services to reduce the number of children removed from their families, he travelled for 10 weeks across the United Kingdom, Denmark, USA and Canada. During this time, he met some of the world’s foremost experts on child protection who shared their time, experiences and invaluable wisdom with him. These learnings culminated in his report: IMAGINE: A System Willing and Able to ProtectChildren and Support Families.

Chris’s journey was an exploration into the effective use of intensive family support services to address child abuse and neglect. He was clear that his research was inspired by his observations and experiences: “Over the years, I have witnessed that the harms children experience, the hardships that families endure and the challenges for the communities, people and services that work to address these issues are, not surprisingly, very similar. In Australia, numerous Inquiries into the child protection system identify the dire need for change, especially to address the growing number of children placed in out of home care and the significant over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As a frontline worker, I understand the constant dilemma for today's child protection worker seems to be the choice between exposing a child to abuse or neglect through either their family or the ‘system.’ How can one practitioner, service or government end the ‘vicious cycle’ of abuse and neglect that children are exposed to with each passing day?”

Chris then went on to say that despite the best efforts of committed staff and services, existing policies, systems and structures have proven ineffective in addressing the multiple and complex needs of our most vulnerable children and their families. Regrettably, he states, it is the children and families who frequently bear the consequences of our risk averse system, to which the demand for intensive supports and out of home care placements has long surpassed the supply.

As we move forward in Queensland towards a less risk averse system and change that involves all in our community taking responsibility for child protection and paying attention to children and young people in our midst, it is clear that advocates such as Chris are essential to our aims. Chris is an avid advocate for a child protection system that has at its core, a three-pronged process that includes: prevention and early intervention, family preservation and a tertiary intervention system - involving children removed as a last resort. He acknowledges that at each stage of this process, solid practices and quality intervention are required. He is equally clear that when practitioners in the statutory system remove a child from their family they must then commit wholeheartedly to ensure they offer the best possible care.

CBC is also committed to a system that respects and supports quality staff who do the most complex of work on the front line of practice. Chris states: “Whether you work in government or non-government organisations, direct practice is the important aspect of this role as well as being the pointy end of the system. We’ve so far failed as a system to really value and respect those workers who do the hard yards and stay committed to children, young people and their families. We really need to appreciate these workers as they are often the ones who are scaffolding this fragile system. When we do acknowledge them, we will find change happens. That change will mean that all across the entire child protection system respect for our staff and respect for our children, young people and families will grow. Acknowledgment and appreciation goes a long way in achievement. If we can note that for our professional staff, we may have a greater understanding that children, young people and their families need the same processes applied to them. We need to acknowledge and appreciate the work of both the professionals who are committed to working with children and their families and the efforts of children and their families as they strive towards healing, recovery and change for themselves.”

Chris is currently part of a consultancy team who are delivering the Strengthening Families Framework to the Family and Child Connect (FaCC), Intensive Family Support (IFS) and non-government sector. He has also been engaged by several non-government agencies across Australia to implement family preservation services to vulnerable families. Furthermore, he has recently joined forces with like-minded professionals across various disciplines to create Commsync - Communities In Sync. As the General Manager of Commsync, Chris shares his vision of child protection through the synchronising of safe and supportive communities. This exciting initiative blends Social Work practice and knowledge with technological applications to enhance the universal understanding that children and families face various complexities and solutions need to be understood across the whole of society.

Commsync has designed a watch for children that allows a pre-determined safety and support plan to be activated within 3 seconds following the push of a button. Once pushed, the CommsyncAlert management system immediately calls the child’s safety network and escalates until someone acknowledges the call for help. This program/device is based on the principle of families taking the primary responsibility for their children’s wellbeing and allows them to act as first responders to address issues of risk. These safety plans are developed with families - for families.

Commsync conceptualises the family support and child protection system into one that works with the child, family and community as a whole. Commsync’s innovative approach integrates new thinking and digital disruption building communities of support that shares responsibilities as opposed to shifting responsibilities onto other unknown entities. Whilst the applications vary depending on the needs of each child and family, CommsyncAlert is also being trialled with staff who work with high need clients and in high risk environments to provide worker safety. Commsync is excited to be working with a family support agency in Brisbane to trial the watch with vulnerable children and families and is pleased to have Professor Bob Lonne providing the research and evaluation.

Chris is excited about the child protection reforms and the opportunities to achieve systemic change in Queensland. He shared his thoughts that in order to achieve true change, we must first seek to understand what maintains the status quo. He recalls the words from his meeting with Dr William Bell, President and CEO, Casey Family Programs:

“The pull of history is powerful! We need to recognise it, understand it and make conscious effort to change it. Historically, we have separated the child from the family and the child/family from the community. We need to re-think the paradigm to one of inclusiveness that sees the child/family and community as a whole - as the ‘client’”.

CBC has many ideas for ensuring that Dr Bell’s statement is heard and enacted across Queensland. The work they commit to daily in training, organisational development, supervision, assessment and intervention upholds this ethos. Furthermore, with regard to the commitment to innovation CBC sees Commsync as just the beginning.

For more information on Chris Boyle Consultancy, please visit his website

For more information on Commsync, click here.

Chris Boyle Consultancy is a supporter of PeakCare Queensland. If you’d like to apply to become a supporter, please email our office or call us on 07 3368 1050.

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