The AIFS Life during COVID-19 survey ran from May 1 to June 9 2020 and had 7,306 participants from around Australia. It was the first survey in the Families in Australia Survey series. The aim was to understand how Australian families coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the greatest health, social and economic challenges in history. The findings in this report are drawn from our first analyses of the survey data. Later reports will add to, and expand on, these findings.
Family and community predictors of comorbid language, socioemotional and behavior problems at school entry
The University of Warwick has produced a longitudinal study on language and problem/prosocial behaviour in the early years. The report examines the association between language, gender and behavioural, social and emotional difficulties and prosocial behaviour during the toddler years and at school entry. It shows that children growing up in families experiencing multiple, complex needs are at risk of experiencing developmental difficulties that are likely to affect their experiences at school. The early identification of these children provides an opportunity for professionals to arrange timely interventions that improve health and learning outcomes.
The most recent issue of Family Matters presents a range of articles based on research presented at the AIFS Conference 2016: “Research to Results – Using evidence to improve outcomes for families”. The collection of articles discuss how evidence is being used to inform practice in the current policy and program context, and the importance of quality research to improving the lives of children and family members. Authors explore research in areas of school achievement, Indigenous program evaluation and supported playgroups for vulnerable young families, among others.
Issue 99 of Family Matters builds on the 2016 Australian Institute of Family Services (AIFS) Conference theme of ‘research to results’. It discusses current debates in Australia about the use of evidence to improve policy and practice in child and family services. It explores issues in the sector from different perspectives, providing a voice to all those affected by the pressing debates. In addition to articles from researchers and experts, the edition contains a series of ‘practitioner perspectives’ on the use of evidence, and departmental updates on significant child and families programs.
Fathers who use violence: Options for safe practice where there is ongoing contact with children
In situations of family violence, women and children are not always in a position to separate from an abusive partner. Separation itself may cause increased violence, homelessness or poverty. This paper explores strategies for working with families where fathers who use violence continue to have contact with the children. Whole of family approaches that engage each member of the family are discussed as having an important role to play in promoting the wellbeing and safety of all involved.
Favourite Things Activity – Hope-filled Engagement Tool
An alternative to starting with the question, “What subjects are you good at in school”, recognising that for many disconnected young people this can trigger feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Instead, the activity encourages young people to simply reflect on things they like, not necessarily things they are good at or activities with a strong careers focus or pathway. This helps the young person with the practitioner to open up stories and reflection about favourite things, activities, people, and draw out useful stories and experiences that demonstrate skill, character, connection and competency.
Final evaluation of Independent Family Advocacy and Support (IFAS) pilot
RMIT University has released this report evaluating the IFAS pilot program delivered by Victoria Legal Aid. IFAS provides non-legal advocacy and support to parents and primary carers who are involved in the investigation stage of the child protection system with the primary aim of diverting families from the child protection system. The evaluation found a high level of satisfaction among clients and estimates that 20 per cent of clients are diverted from court. A cost-benefit analysis found that around $3.52 is saved by the Victorian Government for every $1 spent on IFAS.
Final report: Inquiry into homelessness in Australia
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has released its final report into homelessness in Australia. The inquiry examined the causes of and contributing factors to homelessness, opportunities for early intervention to prevent homelessness, support services for Australians experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, and governance and funding arrangements. The report makes 35 recommendations.
Financing mechanisms for reducing adversity and enhancing resilience through implementation of primary prevention
Funding for primary prevention initiatives reducing childhood adversity is highly fragmented across multiple government agencies and the private and philanthropic sectors. This paper reviews the existing mechanisms for funding interventions to reduce adverse childhood experiences and explores emerging and innovative financing methods, such as pay-for-success contracts.
Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute have collaborated to produce a report on youth mental health. The report presents findings from youth survey data collected between 2012- 2016, and comments on the psychological stress experienced by young people and their help-seeking behaviour. One significant finding included in the report was that one in four young people (aged 15-19) who responded to the survey met the criteria for having a probable serious mental illness (PSMI)and that PSMI has increased among young people over the past 5 years, particularly among females. The risk of mental health issues is greater in Indigenous groups than non-Indigenous groups. This report shows that more targeted investment is needed to address the concerning levels of mental health issues amongst young Australians.
Follow up of selected 2014–15 performance audits: Additional school costs for families
Victorian Auditor-General's Office (VAGO) has released a follow up audit report on ‘Additional school costs for families’, focusing on whether DET and government schools are managing parent education costs economically, efficiently and effectively. The report identifies some improvements since the initial findings from 2014-15, however, it also found inconsistent compliance with the new Parent Payment Policy and suggests that more needs to be done to address the underlying economic and efficiency issues identified in the 2015 audit.
Forced Adoption Support Services: Establishing and building networks
This resource aims to guide Forced Adoption Support Services (FASS) on best practice approaches to building networks. Local networks are important to creating a continuum of care for those affected by forced adoption and family separation. The paper outlines the service types that are integral to meeting the needs of those affected by forced adoption, and provides practical tools to promote collaboration with practitioners from the broader health and mental health sectors whose primary role is not post-adoption support.
Foster and kinship carer recruitment and retention: Encouraging and sustaining quality care to improve outcomes for children and young people in care.
Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Child Protection Studies (ICPS) has released a qualitative study aimed at identifying new and effective approaches to the recruitment, support and retention of kinship and foster carers. The report identifies some of the key approaches currently being used across Australia’s states and territories. The report shows that there is growing recognition that different approaches are required to find and support kinship carers, opposed to foster carers.
Frameworks for supporting Client Participation in Victoria
The Victorian Government has several frameworks that support organisations in their consideration and implementation of a client participation process. This document, published by CFECFW, explains how these government frameworks support organisations in embedding the client voice in practice, as well the opportunities and challenges in these frameworks for participatory processes.
Free from Violence: Victoria’s Strategy to prevent family violence
The Victorian Government has launched the next step to build a state free from violence, with the release of a Primary Prevention Strategy as part of the Family Violence Rolling Action Plan. The strategy focuses on the social structures, norms and practices that prevent or reduce the risk of violence. The strategy outlines a plan to develop more evidence-based programs and to establish the first Victorian Prevention Agency.
Friendships for all: A ‘how to’ guide to help children in care have more opportunities to make friends
Children in care often find it difficult to make and keep friends due to multiple home and family disruptions. This how-to guide by The Children's Society guides practitioners on how they can help children in care to build and maintain friendships - which can improve their wellbeing and reduce their isolation.
Funding effective implementation of evidence-based programs in child welfare
This briefing paper proposes eight strategies to help child welfare agency administrators and partners fund and sustain evidence-based programs that benefit children and families. The paper includes accounts from agency leaders in nine jurisdictions across the United States. It is clear that for child welfare agencies to be successful, adequate and well-directed planning and resource allocation are critical at every stage of the intervention.
Future-proofing safety: The organisational case studies report
The Centre for Family Research and Evaluation at Drummond Street, Good Shepherd and GenWest have released this interactive report detailing three organisational case studies that explore family violence service data before and during COVID-19 in 2020-21 to increase understand of how family violence presentations changed in the context of the pandemic. The report presents findings relating to demographics, comparisons to pre-COVID and organisational response. A key finding was that Good Shepherd experienced a 51 per cent increase in the number of clients receiving family violence case management.
Generation stalled: Young, underemployed and living precariously in Australia
The Brotherhood of St Laurence has published an analysis of youth employment trends in Australia, which uncovers some concerning statistics. Youth underemployment is now the highest it has been since 1978 when the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) first started collecting the data, reaching 18 per cent in early 2017. The report shows that 650,000 young people in total were unemployed or underemployed in February 2017.
Girls future – Our future: The Invergowrie Foundation STEM report
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is important in developing young people’s skills for the future of work. This report examines the reasons that girls have not pursued study and careers in STEM to the same extent as their male peers and recommends initiatives to encourage girls’ participation in these subjects at school. The report is based on a comprehensive review of the international literature, and consultations with representatives from education, government, and industry.
Good Practice Guide: Managing complaints involving human rights
The Victorian Ombudsman has compiled a good practice guide to help employees effectively manage complaints related to human rights. The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (the Charter) is an Act of the Victorian Parliament that sets out the rights and freedoms shared by everyone in Victoria and protected by law. This guide outlines important roles and responsibilities under the charter, and explains how organisations can integrate transparent and accessible complaint processes. It also emphasises that an effective human rights culture is not simply about handling complaints, but taking a human rights approach to all work.
These publications from the Department of Health and Human Services share the complexities of work with children, youth and families and some of the innovative practice approaches being used to address them. This is an annual publication shining a spotlight on examples of good practice and the variety of practice approaches available.
This presentation - part of a workshop delivered by Gray Poehnell - shows how we can help disadvantaged young people to craft a better life story through hope-filled engagement. This is an important method for engaging hard to reach young people, and can help them to think about their career options as a part of their broader life story.
This presentation - part of a workshop delivered by Gray Poehnell - shows how we can help disadvantaged young people to think about who they are, and who they feel connected to. This strengths-based approach is part of helping a young person form a hope-filled story about themselves, which allows them to think about what they might want to pursue as a career.
This presentation, part of a workshop delivered by Gray Poehnell, shows how we can help disadvantaged young people to build resilience through helping them feel visible and recognised - ensuring that they feel they 'matter'.
The Guide to Support Children in Residential Care during times of Crisis was released in June 2020. The guide has been developed to support young people during times of distress with a consistent approach that recognises their trauma, and aims to minimise their involvement in the justice system. It was developed in partnership between East Division Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice and Community Safety, Victoria Police, Residential Out-of-Home Care providers and other members of the young people’s care team.
Guidelines for Consulting with Children & Young People with Disabilities
It is vital to recognise children and young people with disabilities as experts on their own situation, and as capable of contributing to the decision-making processes that affect their lives. This paper offers practical guidance to professionals who work with children with disabilities, including tips for working with children with specific impairments, and case study examples of effective consultation.
Healing Foundation Report – Looking Where the Light Is: creating and restoring safety and healing
This report from the Healing Foundation offers a cultural framework for addressing child sexual abuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It views sexual abuse holistically exploring impacts on children, families and communities as well as exploring processes for healing, wellbeing and safety.
Public Health England (PHE) has updated their Healthy beginnings guidance sheet to include the most up to date research about neurological development, including the impact of stress and anxiety in pregnancy, and the importance of bonding and attachment. It provides snapshots of information about important periods such as pregnancy and the early weeks of life, as well as examples of good practice in service delivery.
Held back: The experiences of students with disabilities in Victorian schools
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has released a report detailing the experience of students with disabilities in Victorian schools. The report assesses the progress made by the Department of Education and Training (DET) on the Commission’s recommendations in its 2012 research report. Though there is evidence of improvements since the 2012 report, disability discrimination is still occurring in schools and students with disabilities continue to face significant barriers to achieving equal educational outcomes. Barriers include lack of funding, lack of specialist support and lack of training for teachers about disability.
Hello Insight – Using real-time data analytics to work with Young People
This video provides an overview of the online platform Hello Insight, which helps youth development programs evaluate and respond to what young people need through online surveys and real time data analysis. The overview is provided by the founder of the platform, Dr Kim Sabo Flores, who has a long history conducting and championing youth participatory evaluation practice.
Help-seeking Needs and Gaps for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
This report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse explores the service needs and help-seeking behaviours of professionals, parents and community members in relation to child sexual abuse. The report evaluates the effectiveness of existing services that respond to the needs of these groups and makes suggestions for improvement. It concludes that there are limited programs and services targeted to these particular groups, and those that do exist are not well coordinated. It also suggests that programs are often unregulated, under-evaluated and that there is a lack of understanding of child sexual-abuse related issues within the community. A whole of community response and a focus on primary prevention would do much to improve our response to child sexual abuse.
Helping young children who have experienced trauma: Policies and strategies for early care and education
This report from Child Trends and the National Center for Children in Poverty includes a review of the prevalence of early childhood trauma in the US and its effects on the child, family and wider society. The report discusses promising strategies for ECEC providers that aim to support children who have experienced trauma, and presents a number of recommendations for policymakers. It highlights the need to develop an integrated, trauma-informed culture for young children.
Helping young children who have experienced trauma: Policies and strategies for early care and education
This National Centre for Children in Poverty (NCCP) paper presents an overview of early childhood trauma, the impact it has on young children and brain development and promising strategies for trauma-informed care in early care and education. Along with high quality programming, strong policy is crucial to meeting the emotional and early learning needs of children who have experienced trauma. The NCCP makes a series of recommendations to better support access to quality, trauma-informed early care and education.
This fact sheet examines cases of hospitalised assault perpetrated against women in the period 2013–14. Women aged 15-19 and 50-54 years experienced the highest rates of assault. Fifty-nine percent of all these women were assaulted by bodily force. Where information about the perpetrator was available, a spouse or domestic partner was the most commonly reported perpetrator, evident in 59% of cases.
How COVID-19 Is Placing Vulnerable Children at Risk and Why We Need a Different Approach to Child Welfare
In this journal article, Herrenkohl et al. explain how the vulnerabilities for many children that are exacerbated by COVID-19 reinforce the need for systemic change within statutory child welfare systems and the benefits that would accrue by implementing a continuum of services that combine universal supports with early intervention strategies. This article also focuses on promising approaches consistent with goals for public health prevention and draw out ideas related workforce development and cross-sector collaboration.
How do leaders enable and support the implementation of evidence-based programs and evidence-informed practice in child welfare? A systematic literature review
This article, published in Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, explores how leaders in child welfare organisations can best support the implementation of evidence-based approaches to deliver ‘what works’ to improve outcomes for children and families. A systematic review identified 12 articles and finds that leaders achieve this by providing vision, cultivating organisational culture, proactive planning and investment, developing capabilities, and maintaining relationships required to enable implementation.
How do schools compensate for socio-economic disadvantage?
This summary report explores the ways in which we can improve the academic achievement of low performing schools with relatively disadvantaged students. It considers the particular challenges faced by disadvantaged schools and proposes recommendations such as effective learning practices in the classroom, training and professional development for teachers and provision of quality educational resources. Allocating resources more equitably across schools is a key first step to achieving this goal.
How to help parents find the right parenting support for them
This guide from Emerging Minds is designed to assist practitioners in having
conversations with parents regarding the sources of their
parenting information and support. It aims to help you
and the parent identify what type of support the parent
is seeking (their motivation) and the most appropriate
sources for this support. Ultimately, it will help you build
a parent’s capacity to access the best quality information
or support to suit their needs.
How to improve student educational outcomes: New insights from data analytics
McKinsey & Company has published the first of a series of reports tackling some of the big questions in education, including the role of mindsets, teaching practices and technology. The report indicates that student mindsets have a greater impact on student performance than any other factor—and double the effect of socioeconomic background. It also finds that students who receive a mix of teacher-directed and inquiry-based instruction have the best outcomes.
How to Review the Evidence: A Simple Guide to Conducting a Literature Review
This short resource from AIFS provides guidance and links to additional information to step you through
a basic literature review. It is particularly for people working in the community services sector
who want to use a literature review to inform the design, delivery or evaluation of a program,
service or approach to practice. The resource will also help those unsure of how to go about
a literature review. Specifically, this resource outlines the process for conducting a
narrative‑style literature review.
Save the Children has written a short article on how to have open and honest discussions with children about what it means to be a refugee or an asylum seeker. It provides facts and figures, video clips and other resources that can be used to start the conversation about refugee and asylum seeker journeys.
HundrED, a Finnish-born project, has selected 100 inspiring innovations that are changing the face of K-12 education across the globe. Over 1000 innovations were researched and interviewed, coming from more than 40 different countries. You can find out more about each innovation on their website, along with step-by-step instructions on how to implement them at your school.
Identifying early intervention and prevention pathways for child protection concerns raised in pregnancy
This research project seeks to understand the concerns and identify the risk and protective factors for child abuse and neglect during pregnancy. It highlights two clear target groups for child abuse prevention and early intervention efforts in pregnancy: first time parents who have their own histories of abuse or neglect as children; and parents who had at least one child who was known to child protection. These families have the most to gain from early intervention and prevention efforts.
Identifying the key components of a ‘whole family’ intervention for families experiencing domestic violence and abuse
This article in the Journal of Gender-Based Violence outlines the shift in knowledge and practice that is driving new approaches to domestic violence and abuse. As the name implies, whole family approaches aim to engage with all family members living with domestic violence rather than focusing only on women as victims. This article describes findings from an evaluation of a pilot in one town in Northern England over 18 months. The pilot shows how, in a children’s social care setting, where additional resources and organisational support are made available, practice can be shifted away from a blaming approach to one that emphasises the potential for recovery and change for all family members. The article is available free of charge until the end of June.
Impact of maternal age on children coming into contact with the child protection system
The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Communities and Justice has released this Evidence to Action Note investigating the impact of maternal age on the likelihood a child will be known to the NSW child protection system. The department used linked child protection and Australian Bureau of Statistics data to conduct the analysis. It found that young maternal age is a risk factor for child protection, with these families more likely than average to be in contact with the system until the maternal age of 27.
Implementation and Performance of the Cashless Debit Card Trial — Follow-on
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has released its follow-on report on the implementation and performance of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) Trial. There were many findings found through the audit and two recommendations were also made.