Transformative Practice Projects

Working in partnership to deliver real change for children and young people

The Handbook of Therapeutic Care for Children – Evidence Informed approaches to working with traumatized children and adolescents in foster, kinship and adoptive care

One of the major projects of the Foundation has been to write up its pioneering work that led to the establishment of the new paradigm of Therapeutic Care. Published in 2020 by Jessica Kinsgley, the book is an edited collection by Janise Mitchell (Deputy CEO of ACF), Joe Tucci (CEO of ACF) and Professor Ed Tronick (Director of Child Development Unit at the University Of Massachusetts, USA). It includes chapters from Dan Hughes and Jon Baylin, Allan Schore, Martin Teicher, Kim Golding, Cathy Malchiodi and others.

It offers a synthesis and interpretation of the key elements that constitute Therapeutic Care as an emerging paradigm of practice that works to meet the past, present and future needs of children and young people forced to live from their family of origin for their own protection. It also provides strategies to empower all relationships around children to hold therapeutic intent in the everyday of children’s lived experiences of family, culture and contexts in which children and young people find themselves playing and learning.

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TRACK Program – Changing children and young people’s lives through relationship permanency

Established in 2002, the TrACK program is an intensive therapeutic foster care program now providing 18 placement targets for significantly traumatised children and young people who present with a range of complex needs and challenging behaviours. Developed and delivered in partnership by the Australian Childhood Foundation and Anglicare Victoria, the program was borne out of limitations within the existing placement and support system and sought to provide an alternative for children and young people living in residential care who were otherwise considered too ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’ to be successfully accommodated in foster care. It has been funded by the Eastern Division of the Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria.

A 2019 evaluation undertaken by Southern Cross University found compelling evidence to suggest that TrACK is a program worth investing in. It produces tangible and lasting results for children. Children who had experienced many placements and years of threat and deprivation before they entered TrACK were almost always able to achieve stability as a result of TrACK.

Clearly, TrACK can prevent young people from entering residential care, or as an alternative pathway supporting young people to leave residential care, and to be looked after in family-based care.

Download 2019 Evaluation Report here

Download 2005 Evaluation Report here


Building community capacity to end family violence – A trauma informed model developed with NPY Womens Council (Alice Springs)

In 2017, the NPY Women’s Council (Alice Springs) and the Australian Childhood Foundation worked together to develop a practice framework that aims to guide NPYWC staff, in particular the Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Team, to work alongside communities to support sensitively an emerging consciousness about the causes and effects of violence and extend the influence of acts and experiences which oppose it.

The NPYWC practice framework is based on a genuine and deeply held belief that resistance to violence is already occurring by those living and working in the communities of the NPY Lands. It seeks to honour even the smallest actions that people take to keep themselves and others safe in the face of violence.

The key to strengthening community capacity to end violence is the respectful and patient engagement of those living and working in that community in dialogue that seeks to understand the tactics of violence, names its effects in the lives of the individuals who live in the community, and validates the acts of resistance already being enacted in a community. It also integrates the need for resourcing safety, acknowledging and understanding the impact of pain in the lives of Aboriginal people in the present and over generations.

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Safe and Secure – A trauma informed practice guide for understanding and responding to children and young people affected by family violence.

Developed in collaboration with the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Family Violence Partnership, this guide offers a way of understanding the needs of children and young people when they have been forced to live with family violence. It explores a model of intervention which integrates trauma knowledge with an understanding of the dynamics of power and control which give rise to family violence.

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ChildSPACE Program – A trauma informed recovery program for children and young people affected by bushfires

The ChildSPACE Program is a new initiative which aims to ensure that there is a sustained focus on supporting the social and emotional well-being needs of children and young people living in these areas. It is being rolled out as a partnership with Professor Lisa Gibbs (Director of the Child Health and Community Wellbeing Program in the Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne and Lead of Community Resilience in the Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety), Brett Ellis (Disaster Recovery expert with direct experience in rebuilding communities in the region and nationally) and the Australian Childhood Foundation.

It works alongside communities to resource the formal and informal networks around children and young people who have suffered bushfire related trauma. Its primary goal is to strengthen the knowledge, confidence and commitment of community members to notice, care and support children and young people and their families as they navigate the recovery process, paying particular attention to the consequences of trauma on children over time.

It has been supported by a grant from USA based philanthropic organization – Direct Relief.

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Changing Trajectories – Capacity building with organisations who care for young people who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviour

Funded by the DHHS Victoria, we have developed and implemented a capacity building program that embeds a trauma informed response within residential care programs that look after young people who have engaged in problem or harmful sexual behaviour. The program provides training, secondary consultation and safety planning support to ensure that young people are safe for themselves and other who they live with.

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

ACF 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 was 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.

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

ACF 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.

ACF was 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.

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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.

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Development and Piloting of Therapeutic Residential Care Program in NT

ACF has been a key consultant and training provider for Territory Families (formerly DCF) since 2011 and as such has a comprehensive understanding of the core business of Territory Families and the context within which it operates. ACF was contracted to develop a Therapeutic model of Residential Care of use in residential care delivered by Territory Families across the Northern Territory.  ACF developed a fit for purpose model of residential care and was subsequently contracted to support the implementation of across the NT.

ACF was then contracted to employ a full time Therapeutic Specialist in Greater Darwin to work with Territory Families residential care staff.  A key function of this position was the completion of developmental therapeutic needs assessments for all young people in the program and the development of therapeutic care and support plans for staff and the care team to implement. The ACF Therapeutic Specialist resources and supported the staff and care team to implement the plan.

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Trauma Responsive Practice Framework across all services run by Brophy Family and Youth Services in Warnambool (VIC)

Brophy Family and Youth Services is the primary provider for youth and family services in South West Victoria. Brophy originated in 1974 with its beginnings in hostel accommodation for homeless youth. Over the years, it has developed a comprehensive range of services for young people, individuals and families.

It has worked with the Foundation to develop a unique practice framework that integrates trauma responsive knowledge with an Advantage Thinking model of community development.

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Development and implementation of Woon-yah Ngullah Goorlanggass (Caring for Our Children) Therapeutic Kinship Care Program (Perth, WA)

ACF secured project funding through the WA Attorney General Department and Lottery West to adapt the Side by Side program for Aboriginal children, young people and their family carers. Named the  Woon-yah Ngullah Goorlanggass (Caring for Our Children) Program ACF piloted an innovative culturally responsive, trauma informed model of therapeutic family care support. The program sought to address a critical gap in support for Aboriginal family carers.

The program used trauma-informed approaches embedded within a cultural framework, focussing on the strength that can be drawn from connection to culture and use this as a primary platform upon which support and intervention is based.

The program has built a strong reputation over the life of the project for the quality of the collaborative working relationships built with other services (government and non-government) and the Aboriginal community such that the program has a positive reputation within the sector.

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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.

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Development and implementation of a practice framework for supporting children and young people in out of home care services and youth support services for Anglicare Southern Queensland

ACF worked with Anglicare Southern Queensland to develop a whole of organization practice framework drawing from the principles of trauma informed, culturally strong, strengths based orientations. ACF then support the roll out of multiple levels of training involving more than 500 staff across multiple sites.

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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 works 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.

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Partnering to improve outcomes in early childhood learning contexts

Our Early Childhood Team has established partnerships with a range of providers of early learning services to enact trauma responsive and relational approaches. For example, we are working in partnership with Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative (GEGAC) in their preschool centre to put in place a trauma informed and culturally strong approach to educating and supporting a group of 3-4 year old children. This beautiful centre is set near parkland and offers traditional ways for children to learn about their cultural heritage. Our team has introduced ways of supporting the GEGAC staff to create opportunities for therapeutic forms of play. Children come to find healing in their relationships with their families who also come into the Centre and are supported. The partnership between GEGAC, our team and the families becomes an important bridge helping children’s development to flourish.

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Partnering to improve outcomes for young people and adults with disabilities and complex mental health needs

ACF has partnered with Nexus (Tasmania) to support the development of a trauma informed practice framework for young people and adults with disabilities and complex mental health needs. This new initiative will provide a blueprint for the continued evolution of Nexus services as it grows to encompass an increasing population of young people and adults in need of care and support.

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