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Timely Support for Children and their Families

by PeakCare Qld on 29th July 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> July -> Timely Support for Children and their Families

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Referral to Active Intervention is in the Spotlight

"The role of practitioners in family support, child protection and out-of-home care is to find the strengths within families and the resources within their communities that support change and promote greater protectiveness for their children from all forms of harm."

Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci and Deputy CEO Janise Mitchell.

The Referral to Active Intervention (RAI) Program was established in Queensland almost a decade ago as the final instalment of the Future Directions Initiative focused on prevention and early intervention. The program aims to provide support to vulnerable children and their families.

The major premise for the RAI program was that early childhood, particularly from birth to five years, is a critical time for giving every child the chance to grow, learn and develop in a supportive environment. It is also a time when investment is most likely to be successful in influencing a wider range of positive developmental, social and wellbeing outcomes and reducing the need for interventions in later life. This is particularly so for children living in complex circumstances. It was thought that by investing in children’s development from an early age, the foundations for health, safety and wellbeing would be established.

There are 11 RAI services across Queensland managed by a lead non-government organisation and supported by networks of agencies that work directly or indirectly in child protection and family support arenas. The lead services provide case management as well as intensive family support for children and their families.

RAI targets families with a prior involvement with the child protection system. The priority group is those with high and complex needs but with assessed lower level risk in terms of immediate potential for harm to children. This includes families who experience a range of issues including: domestic and family violence, mental ill heath, drug and alcohol addiction, disabilities, relationship issues, housing instability or homelessness and a need for enhanced parenting skills. RAI works with the whole family when working with children pre-birth to 18 years of age.

The home visiting aspect of RAI is a significant component of the program in that it offers various benefits to families and removes access barriers such as transport and child care. Family Coach, Chris Mahony of RAI Gold Coast asserts that home visits afford improved rapport building between parents, the family and practitioner as the family members feel more comfortable in their own environment. They also offer an opportunity for comprehensive assessment and the ability to observe both the home environment and surrounding neighbourhood. Solutions and interventions are tailored to fit the family system. Home visits allow for opportunities to observe parenting capacity and parent-child relationships in the context of their everyday interactions. Ms Mahony also cites the increased awareness of the resources available to families in the local areas such as parks, community centres and support services as an important aspect of home visiting. Furthermore, practitioners are able to model positive parenting, relationship building skills and positive behaviour management in the family environment whilst also noting and promoting the strengths of families as observed during home visits which might otherwise not be reported. Home visits also create enhanced understanding of and respect for family values, culture and religious beliefs.

A key objective of the RAI program was the establishment then maintenance of a comprehensive prevention and early intervention service system with the aim to reduce the number of notifications and re-notifications to Child Safety Services and to reduce the progression of families through the statutory child protection system. This support service system was originally known as the ANT - Action Network Team. An ANT existed in each location where a RAI program operated. These teams included membership from other government departments and key non-government organisations and assisted in the development of local networks, local protocols, enhanced referral pathways and the identification of priorities in each local area.

The ANT teams also played a key role in reconfiguring the local human service system to provide a continuum of prevention and early intervention services. This role also included reviewing the service system, identifying gaps and providing advice to the Queensland Government on priorities for reform. It is important to note that the ANTs are no longer operational. In the current system Local Level Alliances (LLAs) have been (or are in the process of being) established in regions to sit alongside the Family and Child Connect Services funded post the recommendations of the Carmody Inquiry. Many argue that the Action Network Teams (ANTs) made a significant contribution to collaborative working arrangements in Queensland and paved the way for Local Level Alliances (LLAs).

Brokerage funding to enhance outcomes for children and families and the service system has been a significant allowance of the RAI program affording the capacity for individualised support and intervention. These funds enhance the ability of services to direct support where it is most needed. This flexibility in service delivery offers clients the most appropriate and timely individualised responses to their immediate and emerging needs.

The use of brokerage to support families in attaining their goals is an incredible strength of the RAI Model. We have allocated funds for paediatric assessments, therapeutic treatment, dental care, mobility aids and practical items such as washing machines and refrigerators. In my eight years of involvement with the Gold Coast RAI Service I have witnessed significant outcomes for families based on simple common-sense interventions. The simple support of payment of a TICA debt to assist a family to secure sustainable housing in the private market makes a significant impact on families. Miranda Bain, Program Manager, RAI Gold Coast.

An information management system for RAI programs, originally known as the Referral for Active Intervention Information System (RAI-IS) and now called CSIS captures key information required for the analysis of demographics, case management processes and data pertaining to client outcomes. This system is in the process of coming on line with the new version being developed by Infoxchange. CSIS is now also utilised by Intensive Family Support services, Family and Child Connect and Fostering Families to centrally capture data across programs.

There are 4 RAI service types:

  1. A large lead service funded to support 270 families per year
  2. A medium lead service funded to support 120 families per year
  3. A small lead service funded to support 24 families per year
  4. A lead service that incorporates additional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family support

The 11 Queensland RAI service providers are:

ACT for Kids in Cairns (large lead service with additional Indigenous support)

The Australian Red Cross in Rockhampton (large lead service)

Mission Australia in Caboolture/Deception Bay/Redcliffe (large lead service)

Mission Australia in Ipswich (large lead service)

Uniting Care Community in Loganlea/Beenleigh/Eagleby (large lead service)

Mission Australia in Inala/Goodna (large lead service)

Relationships Australia in Townsville (medium lead service with additional Indigenous support)

Uniting Care Community in South Burnett (medium lead service)

Uniting Care Community in Toowoomba (medium lead service)

ACT for Kids in Gold Coast (medium lead service)

George Street Neighbourhood Centre Association in Mackay (small lead service)

Evaluations of RAI services have evidenced a significant reduction in the contact with the child protection system for those families engaged with RAI services in each location. Miranda Bain believes that the success of the RAI service is dependent on the constancy of relationship between the worker,family, and the wider community. The case plans are family led and realistic. Without authentic relationship, families will not trust us with the real worries holding them back from achieving their hopes and dreams.

What’s also significant about the RAI program is that many staff employed have been with the program either since its inception or for a number of years. RAI program Managers Steve Dowker and Miranda Bain credit the staff retention to the ability of practitioners to work holistically with children and families and observe significant improvements in life opportunities for their clients. Sandra Dowman, Case Manager of the Loganlea/Beenleigh/Eagleby RAI has been with the service for 9 years and has seen numerous changes:

Assessment tools which Practitioners are using have come a long way in the last 9 years and have focused on the strengths of the clients. The role of Practitioners has also changed with more emphasis on places of engagement which are more client friendly. Our Community Connections are still very strong to this day and also our relationships with Department of Child Safety since the Carmody Inquiry recommendations has seen a change in our communications in relation to information regarding families that we are supporting.

The RAI services, whilst assisting in the improvement of parent, child and family relationships, have also inadvertently assisted many families in resolving issues of social isolation. The brokering of various supports have ensured that families are connected with ongoing services they require. In working collaboratively with colleagues and partners to tackle the wide array of issues families present with, complex issues such as domestic and family violence, child abuse and neglect can be appropriately assessed and responded to. Through this program and all the invested partners, children and their families can receive the right service at the time they require it through the most appropriate professionally networked responses.