October 28, 2022

Date: 30 August 2022

Format: Online

Organisers: Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network

View the recording here

Event Host: The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre), and the Victorian Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness (FaPMI) Program

There is a growing awareness of the need to develop service responses that meaningfully address the needs of parents with mental health concerns. The session showcased examples of collaboration in practice between adult mental health services, and child and family services:

  • The need to acknowledge the benefits of continuously working together, harnessing knowledge, and developing reciprocal opportunities in order to improve mental health services access and availability for families; and
  • the benefits from working together, listening to families and children’s and experiences, and developing appropriate services.

The Centre and FaPMI focus on holistic family approaches across all life stages to create conditions for mental health recovery for all.

This OPEN Forum shared three examples of collaborative partnerships between service providers supporting children and families where mental health concerns are present. Presentations included :

  • A case study demonstrating collaborative practice working  with mother and infant where parent experiencing mental illness –  Vanessa Kirby (Community Bubs Practitioner, Family Life) and Julie Wassell, (Practice Lead, Family and Community Team, Family Life)
  • Sharing expertise, improving outcomes in OOHC – Exploring what’s helpful for workers, carers and children where a parent has a mental illness –  Alice Morgan, (FaPMI Coordinator at Alfred Mental and Addiction Health); Natalie Papps, (FaPMI coordinator – Monash Health); and Sally Groom, (Team Leader Carer Support, Assessment and Intake, OzChild Foster Care Program, Southern Region)
  • Hear more about FaAPMI Working Group building collaborative working relationships to explore systemic change, service design, workforce development and practice improvement in supporting families where a parent has a mental illness.

 Key messages

Support to collaboration included:  

  • Getting to know each other through discussion and planning processes – organisations and roles; expertise and strengths; resources; hopes and opportunities
  • Staff training and capacity building – helped staff to think more broadly about parents with mental health problems that have children in foster care or kinship placements. Training supported practitioners to consider challenges from the parents’ perspective and think about the ways that parents can succeed with contact
  • Identifying other support and resource needs – along the way, started to identify gaps in information and resources for children. This resulted in the preparation of a new children’s book titled ‘One of a Kind’ (shared at the end of the presentation).

 A range of issues were identified by speakers as barriers to collaboration. These included:

 Barriers to collaboration for Family Services Practitioners included feelings of:

  • Lack of confidence in understanding mental illness
  • Fear that they would have to manage mental health and associated risks alone, and do not have anything to offer regarding mental health symptoms impacting on parenting
  • That mental health services often don’t prioritise family services effects to communication or collaborate with them around the client/family
  • Barriers to collaboration for Mental Health Practitioners included feelings of:
  • That parenting is not their focus
  • Confused as to what they role of the family practitioner is and how that relates with their own role with clients

Key success factors for effective collaboration highlighted by the presentations included:

  • It is important to acknowledge that collaborations are a team effort, and so requires being able to see things from each other’s perspective and building a shared vision.
  • Being curious and open to new ideas and different approaches
  • Finding ways to overcome any actual or perceived barriers to collaborating together
  • Partnering with parent as the captain of the team and seeking their view and consent about who the most appropriate people to collaborate with
  • Value of ongoing learning
  • Generosity and flexibility with resources
  • Regular meetings and communication
  • Keeping child wellbeing at the center

 

FaPMI is seeking to expand –

If you are interested in working to support improved collaboration between child and family and mental health services, please contact Carol Clarke, FaPMI Coordinator, carol.clark@nh.org.au.