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Future Focused Families is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 14th July 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> July -> Future Focused Families is In the Spotlight

Future Focused Families is an organisation that focuses on assessments of foster carers, kinship carers and specialist foster carers as well as eco mapping. Staff of this organisation work with both the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (DCCSDS) and non-government organisations. They also run training packages for carers and staff to enhance skills and professional development.

Melissa King, Director of Future Focused Families, states that the organisation understands the complexities of Kinship care and aims to work holistically with carers. “We have a strong focus on working with kinship carers. Previous to setting up Future Focused Families I set up one of the first kinship care organisations in the specific region I worked. The difference of working with and supporting kinship families is important to recognise.”

“I have a great passion for humans in general. All of us have a journey and a different view of life and the crux for me is family. Through my work in child protection, understanding the importance of family structure and the ability to work together well as a family and community is how we have positive outcomes. I believe all our wellbeing areas of health, social connection, work capacity and education are based on how we function as a family. Family as a whole has the capacity to ensure positive outcomes for children and young people. I’ve observed this as a practitioner and I’ve also learned this as parent.”

Melissa notes through her discussions with workers and families that the most significant outcome of the Carmody recommendations thus far is early intervention work. In reflecting on the recommendations and subsequent systemic changes post the Carmody Report: Taking Responsibility: A Roadmap for Queensland Child Protection (June, 2013), Melissa is clear that the focus on early intervention was essential and is the greatest offering of this Inquiry.

In terms of Future Focused Families, Melissa highlights her team’s passion for working with Kinship carers and families in addressing trauma. She is pleased that funding has been allocated to expand programs much needed in this arena. “In terms of the work I’ve noticed that funding has gone to areas to expand on programs that were needed such as the Kin care plus model which was part of the recommendations.

With regard to changes brought about by the Carmody recommendation Melissa states: “I believe they are filtering out slowly and most of the recommendations I was in agreeance with from my own experiences working in the field”.

Melissa considers that understanding the plethora of complex information imparted to them is the most significant challenge for families. As such the working relationship is key to ensuring that families and workers can communicate comfortably. She asserts that workers need to work differently with each family: “We need to adapt how we communicate so that all with whom we work understand what we are communicating. This is something that has been worked on and is improving over the years.” She also impresses the importance of not making assumptions about support needed whilst instead gleaning from each family what they need both as individuals within the family and as a group. “The key is all knowing that we are all a team and each have a different and important role. The more everyone understands their own and each other’s role the more each individual team member can fulfil their own role. Kinship carer’s relationship with department and support workers is so important. We all experience the work differently – each family learns and understands differently.”

Future Focused Families currently has four team members with the intent to expand in the near future. A Queensland-wide service, based in the southeast, the organisation primarily covers Brisbane and the north coast. They have recently completed work in the Fraser coast region and are heading up to the Whitsundays. As well as their assessment work with carers they offer a broad range of training packages aimed at supporting carers, offering assessment skills and working as a holistic team in supporting carers. Following are a few examples of training opportunities:

  • Tips for Child Protection Practitioners on engaging and connecting with Kinship Carers
  • When being Grandma/Grandpa/Aunty/Uncle is no longer your leading role in their life ... Understanding the role of Kinship Carers
  • The Caring team – Carer, CSO and support worker: A look at how this team can function at its highest potential
  • Assessment Training - Tips for Assessors/Staff

Currently the challenges for child protection are high on the public agenda after the recent death of a 21 month old boy known to the system. Melissa is well aware that conversations over many years between professionals and families have been that the system isn’t perfect and there are many reasons families become frustrated by decisions. She says that human beings aren’t perfect and nor are the systems. This is why we need to absolutely ensure that there are mechanisms to speak up and that as professionals we must make sure we are advocating for ourselves, families, children and young people: “We need to be advocates and we need to raise issues and challenge decisions. We need to be on the same page and function as a whole of system team from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services to non-government organisations to the Office of the Public Guardian, CREATE, the Family and Child Commission and all associated stakeholders.”

Melissa notes that in her work across regions, some regions communicate differently with their key stakeholders. She considers the key to a consistent approach is compiling information, building knowledge and understanding and ensuring that all professionals within the broader system including carers are all valued members of the child protection team and given the necessary support and information to enhance their capacity and wellbeing.

In terms of framework, Future Focused Families utilise the frameworks of the Sanctuary Model and its seven commitments, along with being strengths based, child centred and family focused.

For more information visit the Future Focused Families website.

Future Focused Families is a registered supporter of PeakCare Queensland. If you are interested in becoming a PeakCare supporter please email Gary Roberts or visit our membership page on our website.

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