11 interesting projects that have protected and supported vulnerable children

This article was authored by Joe Tucci, CEO at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

I am often asked about the work of the Australian Childhood Foundation. Most people are aware of our therapeutic programs and our training in trauma and parenting. And an increasing number are interested in our Safeguarding Children Program working with organisations to build their capacity to better protect children.

Most often the questions are about a project that we have completed in partnership with an organisation in one of the many jurisdictions we work in. It made me think that we are sometimes too quiet about our work or the extent to which we work collaboratively with organisations and government to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable and traumatised children, young people and their families and/or carers.

For this reason, I thought it might be interesting to describe in summary 11 of our projects, their activities and outcomes. From time to time, I will keep you up to date with more examples of our work.

Project 1. Development of a Semi Secure Therapeutic Care Program for the Department of Human Services – Victoria

The Foundation in partnership with KPMG has recently been contracted by the Victorian Department of Human Services to develop a semi secure therapeutic operating model for high risk young people subject to statutory intervention and requiring periods of containment within the DHS Secure Welfare Service on a regular basis. The aim of the semi secure model is to provide an enhanced community based therapeutic residential care program that has the capacity to lock down and become a secure environment if the needs and risks of the young person require such a response. This consultancy is due for completion in April 2015.

Project 2. Development of model for family violence counselling service for children and young people for the Department of Health and Human Services (TAS)

The Foundation undertook a review of the literature about the emerging evidence based about neurobiology, attachment disruption and trauma for children and young people who have experienced family violence. The process also consisted of whole of sector forums, interviews with key stakeholders in government, police, courts, mental health. The analysis integrated these sources of data into a framework of tiered service delivery which has been successfully implemented across Tasmania over the past 5 years. We were subsequently contracted to undertake a review of the effectiveness of the service after 3 years leading to recommendations which further refined the model to meet changes in contextual factors including demand, increasing complexity of presentations and impact of legislative reform in the assessment of risk and prosecution of family violence.

Project 3. Development of an evidence based framework to enhance the capacity of Australian sport to safeguard children (Australian Sports Commission)

The Foundation was contracted by the Australian Sports Commission to develop a model for building child protection capacity across all sporting codes it funds and regulates. The project has integrated data from a national and international literature review, surveys with Member Protection Officers located at a club level, forums with National Sporting Organisations and key informant interviews with staff from State Departments of Sport and Recreation. The resulting capacity building strategy has been constructed to also meet all legislative requirements in each state and territory.

Project 4. Development of a therapeutic kinship carer support service for Office for Children, Youth and Family Services (ACT Department of Health and Human Services)

The Foundation was engaged to conceptualise a program for kinship carers in the ACT that could be implemented using a tiered model of support that scaled up or down according to the specific needs of the carers and/or children they look after. The program was based on a review of the national and international evidence about the experience of kinship carers within the context of legislation requirements for long term stability for children involved with the statutory child protection system.

Project 5. Development of evidence based therapeutic Pre-school service with Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-operative (GEGAC)

We have worked in collaboration with GEGAC to develop a model of therapeutic practice that combines trauma informed principles and family support models of resourcing families in which significant risk factors exist and affect parental capacity. The Foundation has now embedded a therapeutic specialist into GEGAC to support the early educational professionals and the Aboriginal support workers in a way that is now building the evidence to support similar services based on an integration of parenting support, early childhood education and cultural competency.

Project 6. Development and implementation of safeguarding children program of training and support for volunteers through the Australian Volunteers for International Development in AUSAID.

The Foundation was contracted to research and build a comprehensive induction, training and support framework for volunteers who are recruited by Australian Red Cross, Australian Volunteers International and Austraining International and deployed across 40 countries. This project involved a research and consultancy phase that included online surveys of volunteers, key informant interviews with partner staff, host organisations in country and in-country service networks. The resultant blueprint report provided a 5 year strategy that was able to engage all stakeholders in a commitment to implementation. The consultants then resourced the implementation of a pilot of the program in Fiji and through an evaluation adapted the final program to meet the broader scope of service delivery internationally. The program is now being rolled out foe all volunteers.

Project 7. Implementation of trauma informed healing service for vulnerable children and their families living on Town Camps in and around Alice Springs in partnership with Relationships Australia NT (RANT) and funded through Communities for Children.

The Foundation has worked in partnership with RANT and a range of other services in Alice Springs to develop a trauma informed therapeutic service for vulnerable children. The implementation support included training, regular reflective practice forums and capacity building through the development of specific program guidelines and forms that assist decision making and provided the basis for quality assurance. This included strategies for developing sustainability of the program in an uncertain funding environment. This program has been re-funded on the basis of its outcomes for children, families and the service network.

Project 8. Implementation of a Safeguarding Children Capacity Building Project for YMCA nationally.

The Foundation has worked with YMCA and all of its constituent member organisations to implement a Safeguarding Children Policy that is evidence based and identified as best practice. We have provided policy advice, staff engagement forums, and implementation advice over a 4 year period resulting in improved awareness of child protection, strengthened decision making that prioritises the needs of children.

Project 9. Supporting the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (Aboriginal Corporation) to use trauma-informed approaches in service delivery to remote Aboriginal Communities (NT/WA/SA)

The Foundation has been contracted by the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC) to provide monthly support and reflective practice sessions with staff and managers to assist staff to embed trauma-informed approaches into their service delivery in remote communities in the tri-state Central Australia region. ACF is working with the NPYWC management to support a change management process with staff to enhance their ability to incorporate these approaches into their practice. This has included ACF consultants working with managers and staff to understand their needs, develop tailored training and ongoing monthly support and reflective practice sessions to facilitate the integration of the knowledge and skills acquired through the training into practice.

Project 10. Transforming Trauma Project with the Department of Education (TAS)

The Foundation provided oversight of the Transforming Trauma project which ran over three years to work with DOE in Tasmania to build the capacity of secondary schools across Tasmania to better meet the needs of at risk and disengaged young people. This included providing training to involved schools and supporting the application of the knowledge into action research projects within the schools. We provided ongoing support to the schools throughout this process. Video footage from this highly successful project can be accessed here.

Project 11. SMART School Project with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (SA)

For the past nine years, the Foundation has provided oversight to the Strategies for Managing Abuse Related Trauma (SMART) Project in South Australia. Through processes of training, resource development and school-based action research projects, we have supported schools and early childhood settings across SA to better meet the needs of abused and traumatised students. For the past two years, we have provided specific support to schools in remote communities in the APY Lands. Video footage from this highly successful project can be accessed here.