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Evaluation of evidence-based models to divert families from child protection Posted: Wednesday 9 December 2020

In 2018, the Queensland Government invested in trialling two evidence-based models found to have success in diverting families from the statutory child protection system — Functional Family Therapy-Child Welfare and SafeCare. The independent evaluation of the two trials in 2020 has provided some key insights for consideration about the way forward.

The two evidence-based models (EBMs) trialled in the South East Region were very different:

  • Functional Family Therapy-Child Welfare (FFT-CW) delivered by YFS Ltd responded to families experiencing conflict and worked with the whole family unit to improve relationships, conflict resolution and communication.
  • SafeCare, delivered by Act for Kids, provided an educative program for parents of children up to five years to help with parenting skills, safety and connection.

There were some similarities in service delivery components of these models. Both were delivered in the home. They were also structured programs delivered over approximately 4-6 months, but also offered flexibility to suit clients' schedules. Practitioners required specialist training to be accredited and there was a strong coaching and supervision element.

FFT-CW had 113 families participate — about half were households with two adult carers (56%) and a large number (68%) had more than three family members involved in the program.

The evaluation found that families who participated in FFT-CW:

  • improved their family relationships
  • improved communication in their family
  • got along better together.

 SafeCare had 88 families participate – mostly women (98%) and about half (52%) were single parents. Eight per cent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

The evaluation found that parents who participated in SafeCare:

  • learned new skills
  • became more confident with parenting
  • improved relationships with their children.

 In both trials, the relationships and trust developed between therapists and clients was rated strongly. Another shared feature rated highly by clients was the convenience of in-home delivery.

The service providers were committed to the trials and invested a lot of time and effort to ensure training, resources and processes were in place. The EBM modules did require a large amount of tailoring and adaptation by the service providers to suit the Queensland context.

The costs associated with the accreditation and training were a significant factor in considering the use of EBMs. With the training provider being located overseas for both programs, there were added difficulties and costs caused by time differences and travel costs. For FFT-CW the ability to recruit, train and retain staff was an ongoing challenge.

The Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs is analysing the evidence gained from the EBM evaluations, particularly the impact on the goal to divert families from the child protection system. A collaborative working group with sector representatives is considering the broader application of EBMs in the family support system. The learnings from similar trials in Australia, particularly NSW and Victoria will also be considered. If you have an interest in contributing to this ongoing work or have any queries about the EBM trials and evaluations, please contact Avril Alley, Child and Family Team on 3097 7258 or

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