Working better with families in contact with the child protection system

Our department is progressing a range of initiatives designed to:

  • refocus child protection practice on engaging with families earlier and, where appropriate, keeping children safely at home
  • help give children and families a voice.

Tertiary System Redesign

Assessment and Service Connect

The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry recommended that we find a different way to respond to notifications, and a shift away from a ‘one size fits all’ investigation for every notification.

Based on these recommendations, we are redesigning how we work with children and families in the tertiary system. The first step in this redesign is to improve how we respond to children and families that come to the attention of Child Safety.

We are introducing Assessment and Service Connect to improve how we respond to notifications, particularly the investigation and assessment process we undertake.

Assessment and Service Connect will ensure the level of intervention is proportional to the needs of a particular child and family. We will focus on improving an individual family’s capacity to care for their children safety at home, wherever possible.

Vulnerable children and families will receive the right services at the right time, and in the right place, with the aim of preventing children from becoming in need of protection and reducing re-entry into the child protection system.

Partnerships with non-government service providers, including specialist domestic and family violence services and culturally responsive services, will ensure that the unique needs of the child and family can be addressed.

The safety, wellbeing and best interests of children and young people will remain paramount in all responses. Assessment and Service Connect will include a specialist investigation function to respond to matters requiring high-quality evidence gathering and analysis, including joint investigations with the Queensland Police Service.

Assessment and Service Connect has begun operating on the Gold Coast, in partnership with Act for Kids and the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre Gold Coast. Far North Queensland, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Roma, Bundaberg and Maryborough will follow, allowing us to test the response and refine it, as necessary, before being progressively rolled out across Queensland.

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Collaborative family decision-making

In reforming Queensland’s child protection and family support system, the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry recommended changes to the family group meeting process.

In response, we undertook trials in Brisbane, North Coast and North Queensland to test and strengthen new approaches to family group meetings. These approaches included working more collaboratively with families in making decisions and developing plans to meet their children’s safety and wellbeing needs.

The trials, which ended on 30 June 2016, informed the development of an investment strategy to transition the current family group meeting model to a more inclusive process for planning and decision making with families.

We are investing $8.652 million over 3 years, from 1 July 2016, to:

  • establish an Indigenous Investment Principle aimed at responding to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and their communities
  • increase the number of qualified and experienced family group meeting convenors within the department, who will report to a senior officer within each region
  • engage external convenors to facilitate particular family dynamics, and offer greater choice and flexibility in meeting the needs of families
  • develop a statewide workforce strategy to build collaborative family decision-making practice quality and skills.

Over the next 3 years, we will review the transition to collaborative family decision-making practice for continuous learning and improvement.

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Strengthening Families Protecting Children Framework for Practice

The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry final report identified the need for a new child protection practice framework to enhance engagement with children, young people, families, carers and agencies, both during assessment and within collaborative safety planning and case planning processes.

On 9 March 2015, the former Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services launched the framework known as the Strengthening Families Protecting Children Framework for Practice (PDF), which was developed in partnership with the Children’s Research Center (CRC) and Sonja Parker Consultancy (SP Consultancy).

The framework sets out a strengths-based, safety-oriented approach that will enhance Queensland’s child protection practice and deliver better outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families in need.

It identifies the range of sources of knowledge critical to effective child protection practice. It highlights that, while research and practitioner sources of knowledge are valued, so too is the knowledge held by individuals and families, the community and culture, and the broader system in which children and family are located.

With clear focus on engagement, assessment, planning and organisational processes, the framework will also enhance linkages with our non-government partners and relevant stakeholder agencies.

The framework provides child safety professionals with a range of practice maps, tools and processes to build on their existing skills and support collaboration at all points in their work with children and families throughout the child protection process.

To date, more than 3,400 government and non-government staff across the state have participated in the framework for practice foundational training. This large-scale joint training has helped to build a shared understanding of the framework’s foundational elements across the child protection sector and assist staff to use new practice tools in their work.

We are currently focused on deepening knowledge and experience and embedding the framework in our practice through targeted training. The provision of coaching to key staff is further strengthening their skills, knowledge and ability to utilise framework components in supervision, case discussions, and ongoing training and coaching with other staff.

Regional implementation teams have been established to serve as focused and accountable groups for embedding and assessing the implementation of the framework.

We are continuing to work with CRC and SP Consultancy for a 3-year period to identify opportunities to challenge and align all departmental practices with the framework, including the use of the appreciative inquiry process.

Access more Framework for Practice resources.

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Care audit

As part of the child protection reforms, we undertook an audit of all children and young people in care to consider whether the current Child Protection Order remains in the child’s best interest. The audit was conducted in 2 phases.

Phase 1 was completed by June 2014, in which external panels considered the Child Protection Orders of 775 children and young people who, as of 31 December 2013, had either:

  • been in out of home care for less than 6 months, or
  • were aged 15 to 17 and either not living in care (for example, they were self-placed) or had substantial placement instability.

Panel discussions occurred within the existing case planning review process, and considered strategies for more focussed casework, engagement with families and maintaining young people's connections to family and community. A critical friend participated in each panel to ensure the discussions were robust and that the voices of children, young people and their families were heard.

As a result of Phase 1 of the audit, recommended changes to the type of order were minimal (6%).

Phase 2 of the audit, which was completed by November 2015, reviewed 3,227 children and young people who are subject to a Long-term Guardianship Order to the Chief Executive and whose Child Protection Orders were not audited in Phase 1. Phase 2 audit results concluded that for 88% of children and young people, the current Child Protection Orders continue to be in their best interest. For 10% of children, the audit recommended that the current orders be progressed to long-term guardianship to their carers. It was recommended that only 2% of children and young people audited should have their current orders changed or revoked.

The audit has enabled a higher number of children and young people, parents, carers and child protection partners to have meaningful discussions about their views and wishes, and ensure the child's long-term needs for safety, belonging and wellbeing continue to be met.

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The Office of the Public Guardian

From 1 July 2014 the Office of the Public Guardian, an independent statutory body, became responsible for protecting the rights of children and young people in out-of-home care, residential care and youth detention, and vulnerable adults with impaired decision-making capacity. This statutory body combines the roles of the former Child Guardian and Adult Guardian.

The Public Guardian has specific responsibilities to support and advocate for children and young people in child protection, ensuring their views and wishes are considered when decisions are made about their care arrangements.

The Public Guardian is also responsible for the:

  • community visitor program, which aims to ensure children and young people in the child protection system are safe and well, and are being properly cared for
  • child advocacy program, which gives children in care an independent voice, ensuring their views are taken into consideration when decisions are made that affect them.

Find out more about the Office of the Public Guardian.

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