As the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system continues to rise, peak bodies such as SNAICC and QATSICPP strongly advocate for initiatives to address this trend and strive to keep children connected to family, community and culture.
One such initiative trialled across four Queensland sites in 2016 and 2017 was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family-Led Decision Making (ATSIFLDM). ATSIFLDM Convenors in Ipswich, Mt Isa, Cairns and Thursday Island supported families to participate in decisions about the safety and wellbeing of their children.
The family led decision making approach was found to enhance case planning and outcomes for children due to the involvement of family and community members who understand the specific family context, relationships, needs, risks, and support options available, including cultural support.
The Queensland Government committed in its Changing Tracks action plan to expand the family led decision making approach state-wide. Implementation of the state-wide initiative will be informed by findings from the trial noted in the SNAICC Report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family-Led Decision Making (2017) and the external evaluation report compiled by research partners Ipsos and Winangali.
Recent legislative changes to the Child Protection Act raise the bar on participation of family in decisions that affect their children. As legislative changes are implemented throughout the year, independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies will gain greater autonomy in engaging with families at risk of, or subject to, statutory intervention. Prior to this change, services have had a limited role in providing cultural advice to the child safety department.
Now services can focus on empowering family and community to participate in decisions that affect children in their own way based on the best interests of the children.
Training will be offered to the sector to develop an understanding of the principles underpinning family-led decision making and to develop skills in how to best facilitate family meetings, support the voice of children and families in case planning and decision making, meet identified needs and work collaboratively with partners involved in the family-led decision making process.