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Victoria Child FIRST and Department of Human Services Key Learnings.

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Presentation on theme: "Victoria Child FIRST and Department of Human Services Key Learnings."— Presentation transcript:

1 Victoria Child FIRST and Department of Human Services Key Learnings

2 What is Child FIRST? Child FIRST = Child and Family Information, Referral and Support Team. Child FIRST operates as an intake to local Family Services (a differential pathway to Child Protection) - provides a central referral point to a range of community-based family services and other supports within each of the Child FIRST catchment areas. Part of a broad suite of child and family services reforms underpinned by new legislation (Children, Youth and Families Act 2005). Developed out of series of pilots (Family Support Innovation Projects 2001- 2005) that were subsequently mainstreamed across the State. Community Intake introduced in 2005 – later morphed into Child FIRST in 2007 with the commencement of new legislation. Child FIRST rolled out over three years (2007-09).

3 Child FIRST structure Provides state wide coverage across 24 catchments. Each catchment also has a service network comprising all Family Services providers and DHS child protection and other services. One or more Community Based Child Protection Practitioners in each Child FIRST site (equivalent to Senior Team Leader, PO5). Child FIRST provides initial family assessment and then refers on. Capacity to ‘hold cases’ (active holding management). Case practice model based on Best Interests Case Practice Model (shared with Child Protection). Core requirements of service delivery set out in Strategic Framework for Family Services (2007).

4 Legislative basis Child FIRST has a clear mandate in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 – this is seen as critical to its operation. Establishing a ‘differential intake’ without enabling legislation would not have been possible in the Victorian context. Setting out clear roles and responsibilities in legislation was a vital component of the reforms.

5 Community Based Child Protection Worker Child Protection Workers were intended to be located in community services. The location and function of the out-posted workers differed between sites. The workers may review child protection history of families via the statutory database. The workers may conduct a joint visit if there is a family with a higher level of risk. The workers may undertake some case work to support the family remaining out of the statutory system. All sites visited stressed the value and importance of this role.

6 The Shell Agreement The overarching (state wide) Shell Agreement provides the framework for the Child FIRST service – with local agreements developed to build upon the overarching agreement. Local agreements provide more detail in the prescribed practice instructions and operational requirements at the divisional and catchment level. It describes the mechanisms, timelines and responsibilities for local processes such as: –Prioritisation and allocation –Referral and reporting processes –Guidelines for resolving differences, formal mediation and dispute resolution processes –Demand management and contingency responses –Formal review processes –Other key decision making points. Local agreements provide greater flexibility for different geographical locations.

7 Referrals to Child FIRST Definition Section 31 Referral to community-based child and family service about child A person who has a significant concern for the wellbeing of a child may refer the matter to a community-based child and family service. Section 32 Referral to community-based child and family service about unborn child A person who, before the birth of a child, has a significant concern for the wellbeing of the child after his or her birth may refer the matter to a community- based child and family service. All referrals go through Child FIRST service as an initial point of contact (Gateway model) – excluding domestic and family violence matters which go direct to the relevant funded services.

8 Referral behaviour The Family Support Alliance members worked with the health, police and education workforce to assist them in changing their reporting behaviours. Referrals have grown steadily since commencement but composition is changing: –Child protection referrals 33% (up from 20%) –Self/family referrals 14% (down from 20%) –Other services/professionals referrals 53% (down slightly) Police referrals 19% for domestic and family violence.

9 Key learnings – partnerships Co-production/co-design – a genuine commitment by the department and sector to ‘get this right’. 3 year staged implementation made the task more manageable. Importance of a common language – Family Services focused on strengthening families, and Child Protection focused on tertiary child protection responses – Best Interests Framework. Which pathway to report to – Child FIRST or Child Protection – critical to provide clear, unambiguous advice to professionals. Professional referrers also needed clear advice on the information sharing provisions. Out-posted officers need to be credible, experienced staff with good networking skills and positive ‘people skills’. Benefits of Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisation, and an ATSI liaison officer and domestic and family violence specialist located in service.

10 Key learnings – purchasing This was a critical area. There were up to 4-5 Family Services in each prospective Child FIRST catchment, some very small. Child FIRST required that all these services work together collaboratively. A competitive tender for Child FIRST would have been highly competitive - approach utilised was an invited submission open to existing Family Services CSOs. Tender specifications made it clear that preferred approach was an agreed sole lead Child FIRST provider in each catchment. 23 of 24 catchments responded positively and worked this out amongst themselves (generally the largest provider). This approach laid the foundation for ongoing collaboration and respectful relationships – particularly important in establishing alliances on a local level – Child and Family Services Alliances in each catchment.

11 Key learnings – processes No common assessment tool, each Child FIRST designed their own forms and templates. Poor linkages with mainstream and secondary services system – alliance lacked linkages with adult mental health etc Families with lower level concerns are not receiving a service.

12 Implementation – what worked well? Enabling legislation. Clear policy direction - "A Strategic Framework for Family Services" Strong consultation with the sector in the development of the framework. All staff having a shared vision and understanding of why. Increased investment across the sector. Governance arrangements which promote partnerships and communication. Having Child FIRST as a visible entry point. Community education to key referrers. Strong value on joint training across the sector - training in legislation; the best interests assessment; engagement with families. Drive to ‘professionalise’ the workforce. Strong leadership committed to collaboration from the top down.. Agreed catchment and boundaries.

13 What could have been done better? Initial establishment funding for Child FIRST was modest --$5million – approx $500K per catchment. $3-4M growth funding since. No additional funding for Community Based Child Protection positions - created some tensions within child protection and periodic non-availability of the positions in some catchments. Child and Family Services Alliances generally not in all locations. Initial investment has not been sustained to desired extent – some opportunities missed. Some adult services missing from the Alliances e.g. mental health. Should have considered a specialised Domestic and Family Violence worker in each Child FIRST site - rapid growth in Family Violence reports to Child Protection is now presenting new challenges.

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