Windermere: Upskilling case managers to set up children and families for success
About the organisation
Windermere is an independent community service organisation working across south east Victoria to support children and families. Since its creation 150 years ago, Windermere has helped many thousands of people to become stronger, more resilient and better connected to their community.
We spoke with
Manager Evidence, Innovation, and Practice
Manager Family Health and Wellbeing Programs
at a glance
Windermere adopted a new approach to Case management, based on a coaching model, to assist parents to develop long term skills for independence.
The program involved upskilling case managers to work with parents to build self-regulation and independent problem solving skills, to strengthen the family system and to increase community connectedness.
Windermere recognised the need for a new approach to supporting parents that would offer more than a short-term, band-aid solution to the challenges they faced. What was missing was the kind of support that would enable parents to develop long-term skills for independence.
Windermere knew that changing their Case management approach would take time and require an organisational culture shift towards Evidence-informed practice but, if designed carefully and implemented systematically, would yield better outcomes for children and their families.
“Building the capacity of adults to care for children is the most powerful way of promoting their child’s development, wellbeing and safety.”
- Building staff confidence — The new approach has removed the pressure that case managers were feeling to ‘fix’ problems. Instead staff can empower parents by giving them the tools to create long-term change.
- Putting the data in the hands of staff — Case managers have benefited from having real-time access to data to continually inform and improve their practice.
- Thinking creatively to re-energise — Thinking outside the square has given the team new energy and excitement about what they may achieve.
- Change takes time — Being flexible with time has allowed for continuous practice improvement, including incorporating the lessons from learning circles into practice and acknowledging that this journey will take longer than initially planned.
Windermere’s journey proceeded through a series of activities underpinned by evidence.
Combining research with
Practice expertise Windermere partnered with the Parenting Research Centre (PRC) to bring together Practice expertise and research knowledge in an explicit and systematic way to develop a locally relevant solution. The partners recognised that to create an effective solution they needed more than evidence from academic journals; they also needed Practice expertise and knowledge of existing community assets.
A design team with diverse skills
Windermere’s design team included representatives from the PRC and a core group of practitioners. Involving staff early in the design process ensured they weren’t caught off guard by proposed changes to practice and were able to voice their concerns and ideas early, building their considerations into the program architecture.
Implementing a new approach
The coaching approach selected by Windermere in partnership with the PRC was a proven model underpinned by family-centred and human development theory, Strengths-based practice, adult capacity building and the practitioner as coach model. After months of planning, creating and adapting, the design team produced an outcomes chain and Program logic to inform implementation and drive the change from outputs to outcomes.
Windermere shifted from collecting data to monitor program compliance to collecting data that would help practitioners reflect on and improve their practice. This includes the completion of the Our Partnership Scale, measuring the strength of the collaborative relationship, and the PRC’s My Progress Scale measuring a parent’s perceived progress. The feedback collected could then be incorporated into the next session, fostering a culture of continuous practice improvement.
Monitoring and evaluating
A monitoring and evaluation framework was embedded right from the start of the project and supported by an evaluator on staff. As they shift to full implementation, this evaluator will also be a part of the learning circles, documenting the learning that comes through this process and supporting its integration into program delivery.
Making time for reflection and review
Through learning circles and regularly scheduled meetings with the design team, Windermere has fostered a culture of reflection, incorporating lessons learned into the design before commencing implementation.
Learning circles provide practitioners with an opportunity to immediately reflect on practice while implementing the framework.
“Practitioners may not always be able to articulate it but they certainly practise with evidence and research backing everything that they do. We’re hoping to take practitioners through a journey where they are able to articulate what they do, why they do it, and where the evidence is to back them up.”
Windermere is now training and coaching case managers to deliver the new model. The pilot stage began with five and a half days of training to thoroughly prepare case managers and ease any fears about taking on a completely new approach.
The first of many fortnightly learning circles has now been held with case managers reflecting on their experiences before and after their engagement with parents. The new model is re-energising staff, providing new tools and a fresh approach to Case management and empowering parents with the tools and resources to problem solve into the future.
- Professional development – Windermere is looking at developing learning modules for staff specific to parent capacity building and trauma informed practice.
- Managing parental expectations – One of the biggest challenges identified has been to shift expectations about the type of service parents will receive when they approach Windermere.
- Maintaining the excitement – Windermere is exploring ways to maintain the energy and enthusiasm for the project after the PRC’s departure at the end of 2018.
- An organisational shift – The CEO and executive will continue to act as champions of change within the organisation and externally to help embed the new approach.