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Aboriginal Family Strengthening provides targeted and intensive child, young people and family supports that are oriented towards addressing identified risks and preserving families, preventing the need for more intrusive responses. Aboriginal Family Strengthening spans low intensity family supports through to intensive family based services, with flexibility to respond to family needs. The focus on addressing identified risks, building the capacity of parents and families, and strengthening family functioning, means that Aboriginal Family Strengthening supports are also critical for the safe and timely restoration or preservation of Aboriginal children with families.
Aboriginal Family Strengthening approaches seek to build the capacity of key adults in children’s lives through active skills building, service provision, and the development of both formal and informal networks which enable families and communities to shape a safer, more successful developmental context for Aboriginal children and young people. Preservation and restoration services use community-led and evidence-informed approaches.
Aboriginal Family Strengthening encompasses a broad range of supports and interventions focused on strengthening families and ensuring child safety and wellbeing, including, but not limited to:
A caseworker is assigned by the service provider to:
DCJ refers families for Aboriginal Family Strengthening services after a safety assessment is completed by DCJ (see Safety and Risk Assessment). This occurs when a child is assessed as being at risk of significant harm (ROSH) and active supports are needed to strengthen families and address risks, with the safety decision recorded as either ‘safe’ or ‘safe with plan’. The case plan goal will be family preservation, with proactive efforts undertaken to strengthen families and address identified risks.
DCJ and a service provider will jointly determine service fit and where possible refer the family to an Aboriginal service provider. Services may also be engaged by:
DCJ is responsible for conducting a safety and risk assessment (SARA) to assess a child or young person’s immediate safety and the risk they may experience abuse or neglect in their household in the future. Proactive efforts are made to engage with Aboriginal families and communities and support their participation in these processes in order to make valid assessments of risk and safety with respect to the best interests of their children. Such efforts are to include Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes and are clearly evidenced by DCJ and other relevant service providers.
Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes continue to provide proactive supports, identifying and addressing safety concerns with the family. DCJ caseworkers:
SARA is a set of Structured Decision Making tools that are used alongside the professional judgement of DCJ caseworkers.
Caseworkers work from the perspectives of families to identify a range of practical, educational, therapeutic and advocacy supports, assessing each family’s strengths and needs to formulate case plan goals and strategies. Prompt assessment is critical to engaging and working with Aboriginal families in ways that they view as relevant and helpful. Caseworkers use assessment models sensitively to ensure assessments are valid, and prioritise culturally valid models.
An assessment of family needs and strengths includes:
Outcomes of assessments are validated within Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes, engaging transparently with families about all elements of the assessment and supporting families to participate in this process with independent supports as needed.
Aboriginal Case Planning occurs through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes.
Caseworkers respect that families are experts in their own lives and partner with the whole family to enable meaningful participation in assessment, case planning and review, including identification of goals and priorities, existing and required supports, and action plans to achieve goals and address risks.
A case plan is developed through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes jointly with the child, their parent/s, family/kin and the service provider with case management:
Where there has been a community based referral (no SARA pending), a case plan is also developed through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making within 45 days of the initial Aboriginal family-led assessment for other community based referrals
In partnering with the family, caseworkers:
DCJ and service providers work together as a collaborative support team, engaging parent/s, family/kin and community members in the planning process to ensure a child’s safety, wellbeing, permanency and cultural continuity, focusing on family strength to prevent escalation. The key components of case planning within this segment focus on family-led and participatory practice.
DCJ and service providers respond promptly when risks are identified, taking the opportunity to provide tailored supports to address risks and strengthen families, preventing further escalation. Families are provided with access to family supports, aligned to the identified need, at the first point of contact and may be offered these supports more than once.
DCJ and service providers take all possible steps to preserve families and prevent child removal through pro-actively engaging families and providing tailored, culturally embedded services and supports to strengthen families and address risks.
DCJ and service providers engage local communities to build on their protective and preventive practices, and utilise Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes to enable formal and informal support to strengthen families.
DCJ determines which permanency support services a child, their parents and family/kin receive based on:
Where the Safety Decision is ‘Safe’ or ‘Safe with Plan’, proactive efforts support and strengthen families towards the case plan goal of family preservation. Service providers coordinate the provision of Aboriginal Family Strengthening supports to address identified risks and enable children to remain safely at home. This includes building capacity and strengthening formal and informal supports. DCJ and the service provider closely monitor progress toward achieving the child’s case plan goal in partnership with families through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes. Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms provide community oversight of case plan actions and achievement.
Permanency Coordinators facilitate linkages to Aboriginal Family Strengthening supports and assist caseworkers to access culturally embedded services and specialist supports such as Aboriginal Intensive Family Based Services, Multi-Systemic Therapy - Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN©), Functional Family Therapy - Child Welfare (FFT-CW©), specialist drug rehabilitation and community services that strengthen family functioning. Permanency Coordinators work collaboratively with service providers to coordinate and tailor packages and services to prevent the need for more intrusive responses.
Transfer of case management responsibility occurs through existing referral pathways during the DCJ transitional period. Refer to ‘other case management functions’ – case management transfer.
Chapter 16A of the Care Act allows DCJ and service providers (who are prescribed bodies) to exchange information that relates to a child’s or young person’s safety, welfare or wellbeing whether or not:
Chapter 16A of the Care Act also requires prescribed bodies to take reasonable steps to coordinate decision making and the delivery of services regarding children and young people.
To maximise Aboriginal Family Strengthening, informed consent is sought from families to enable more effective case coordination, participation, and family-led, strengths-based practices. In practice, this allows for the effective engagement of support programs to enable holistic responses that address family need.
24 Feb 2023
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future.
Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.
You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.