It is widely recognised that the statutory system hasn’t always been effective at addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children entering the child protection system, and that this situation continues to occur at an unsustainable rate. The TAIHS Family Participation Program (FPP) team aims to address the current situation by working with families to assist them to better understand child protection concerns and to ensure they have a say when important decisions about their family are being made.
The FPP is a new program that recognises the importance of explaining to families that their circumstances can change at any given point in time and our role is to support them to address identified child protection concerns. Families are made aware of Child Safety’s immediate worries including those things that are not negotiable and must change. Our service explains to families that the FPP engagement is an ongoing process involving parents, children and extended family members. Our service values the family’s identified needs whilst presenting alternative options that will promote a culturally safe outcome for children. To promote self-determination the TAIHS FPP uses a family led decision making process that ensures families have a voice when developing solutions to make their children safer. Although the FPP referrals may come from different points across the child protection continuum, our model promotes self-determination by adhering to the same family led decision making process.
In terms of continuously improving our service to families, children and community the TAIHS FPP will develop tools and strategies to ensure families feel comfortable and confident in providing feedback. Critical to our success is capturing the family’s strengths and stories over time to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. For example, by having families actively participate in the design of our model of service means that our program is drawing directly on family strengths and exploring their own solutions. Experience tells us that children are safer and more connected to community and culture when Murri and Islander families are directly involved in the planning and able to make informed choices.