The 2017 Family Matters Report has been released, showing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and 9.8 times more likely to be living in out of home care than non-Indigenous children. It is estimated that by 2036 the number of Indigenous children in care will more than triple if nothing is changed. The reports set out what governments must do to turn the tide on the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care, and improve outcomes for vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

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

Practice Tool, Young People, Client Engagement

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.

Fifth national mental health and suicide prevention plan

Mental Health

The Department of Health has released its fifth national plan to improve the mental health system and outcomes for people with mental illness. The plan outlines a set of priority areas and actions that are designed to achieve a more efficient, accountable and integrated mental health system. Initiatives outlined in the plan include strengthening regional mental health services, strengthening programs to prevent suicide and the launch of the 'Head to Health' website.

Financing mechanisms for reducing adversity and enhancing resilience through implementation of primary prevention

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

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.

Five Year Mental Health Youth Report

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

Education

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.

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

Out of Home Care (OOHC), Safety and wellbeing, Practice Tool, Young People

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

Safety and wellbeing

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.

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

Education

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

Quick Guide

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.

Gray Poehnell – ‘A Better Story’ Presentation

Conference Presentation, Young People

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.

Gray Poehnell – ‘Connections’ presentation

Conference Presentation, Young People

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.

Gray Poehnell – ‘Mattering’ Presentation

Conference Presentation, Young People

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'.

Design

Guidelines for Consulting with Children & Young People with Disabilities

Disability, Young People

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

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Safety and wellbeing

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.

Healthy beginnings: Applying all our health

Safety and wellbeing, Practice Tool

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

Education

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.

Design, Implement, Evaluate

Hello Insight – Using real-time data analytics to work with Young People

Evaluation, Young People, Video

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

Safety and wellbeing, Report

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

Education, Early years, Mental Health

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

Education, Youth Justice, Early years, Mental Health, Safety and wellbeing, Practice Tool

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.

Hospitalised assault injuries among women and girls: fact sheet

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.

Household Financial Comfort Report

Poverty, Report

Member’s Equity’s (ME) latest Household Financial Comfort Report shows that income cuts, record-high job insecurity and high rates of underemployment are putting stress on households’ financial comfort. Australian households’ ‘comfort with income’ remains at its lowest level since the Household Financial Comfort Report began in 2011. While 46% of households with incomes over $100,000 reported income gains, lower-income households experienced record low income gains. This highlights the growing gap between the rich and poor in Australia. Financial discomfort is further exacerbated by job insecurity and underemployment.

How do schools compensate for socio-economic disadvantage?

Education

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 improve student educational outcomes: New insights from data analytics

Education

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.

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’s 100 Inspiring innovations in Education

Education

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

Families and parenting

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.

Implement

Implementation Stages Action Plan

Practice Tool

This action plan from the National Implementation and Research Institute provides a handy way to identify the next steps in implementing your program.

Implement

Implementing Evidence-Informed Practice: A Practical Toolkit

Practice Tool, Evidence Informed Practice

This toolkit contains practical insight, strategies and resources for the planning phase of implementation. It couples theory and research findings with practical strategies and real-life experiences from the field that may be relevant to your organization.

Implement

Implementing evidence-informed practice: a practical toolkit

Mental Health, Practice Tool

This toolkit by the Ontario Centre for Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health provides a comprehensive framework and tools to kick start the implementation process.

Impossible? Beyond access: Getting to university and succeeding there

Education

Education charity Teach First has found that children and young people in the poorest geographical areas in the UK have only a one-in-five chance of progressing to university. In contrast, half the young people born in the wealthiest areas go on to higher education. Disadvantaged young people are also almost twice as likely to drop out of university as their wealthier peers. Teach First proposes a series of recommendations to encourage more young people to access university. The recommendations focus on better targeting of support towards young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enable them to access and remain in higher education if they choose.

Improving data collection to better support children in out-of-home care at risk of offending

Out of Home Care (OOHC)

This short article focuses on the need for better data collection to inform how to best support children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC) at risk of offending. Research has clearly identified the link between living in OOHC and involvement in the criminal justice system. However, more work is needed to have an in-depth understanding of this cohort’s background, demographics, experiences and outcomes, and the different ways that vulnerable children become offenders.

Infant-led Research: Privileging Space to See, Hear, and Consider the Subjective Experience of the Infant

Early years, Journal article, Evidence Informed Practice

In this article, Wendy Bunston, Margarita Frederico and Mary Whiteside present a novel “infant-led” qualitative research methodology which foregrounds the subjective experiences of infants, rather than those their parents and carers. This methodology is nonintrusive and has much to offer social workers working with infants in high risk situations in community, health, and mental health settings.

This collection of infographics published by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University features accessible infographics accompanied by explanations and links to further resources. These resources will be particularly relevant to practitioners working directly with families and children, as they explain a number of related concepts- including toxic stress, executive function and ACEs (adverse childhood experiences). These infographics can help you identify how these issues might be effecting families, and some approaches you might use to improve their outcomes.

Inpatient care for children and adolescents with mental disorders

Mental Health, Safety and wellbeing

This Evidence Check from the Sax Institute synthesises the best available research evidence about when inpatient care is the most effective and appropriate form of care for children and adolescents with moderate to severe mental disorders. Indicators such as risk of self-harm or suicide, poor physical health and family-related characteristics are considered. The report emphasises that developing a comprehensive range of mental health services for children and adolescents should be an important policy focus for Australia.

Inquiry into funding and delivery of programs to reduce homelessness

This Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report investigates the funding and delivery of programs to reduce homelessness in Australia. It finds that the current level of investment is not enough to meet demand. There is evidence of funding diversification in Australia. The paper asserts that alternative models of funding such as social impact investment and social enterprise revenue are likely to influence the funding of homelessness services in the foreseeable future.

Instrumental learning and cognitive flexibility processes are impaired in children exposed to early life stress

Early years, Mental Health

This research project aims to understand the impact of severe early stress exposure on learning and cognitive flexibility during adolescence. The results show that adolescents with histories of early stress were impaired in both instrumental learning and cognitive flexibility. Early stress can also have a profound impact on learning, attention and working memory. These finding may be used to guide early intervention programs with at-risk youth.

Inter-parental relationships, conflict and the impacts of poverty

The Early Intervention Foundation has published research exploring the role of parental relationships in families experiencing poverty. The study looks at 13 interventions across the UK aimed at addressing inter-parental conflict to improve child outcomes. It highlights the greater psychological stress that can be experienced by families under economic stress or in poverty, and how this can affect long term outcomes for children. The report argues that embedding relationship support in mainstream services, such as children’s centres or within early intervention systems, has the potential to improve access for families who could benefit most from these interventions.

Intergenerational disadvantage: learning about equal opportunity from social assistance receipt

Disability

This Melbourne Institute working paper explores the factors underlying intergenerational disadvantage in Australia. The study looks at the extent to which children are more likely to receive social welfare payments if their parents received welfare payments. The paper finds that young people are 1.8 times more likely to receive social assistance if their parents have a history of receiving social assistance themselves. The intergenerational correlation is particularly strong in the case of disability payments’; highlighting that childhood disadvantage stemming from parental disability is linked to a broad spectrum of adult disadvantage.

Investing in communities not prisons

Youth Justice

The Victorian youth justice advocacy coalition, Smart Justice for Young People (SJ4YP), has published a report aimed at strengthening the understanding of a justice reinvestment approach and exploring how it might be implemented in Victoria. Justice reinvestment is an approach to the criminal justice system that redirects funding away from incarcerating people in youth detention and towards community-based initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of crime. This report looks at case studies of justice reinvestment in the US, New Zealand and Europe.

Action for Children in partnership with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness has released a report exploring the impact of loneliness in children, young people and families. The study shows some people who are more at risk of experiencing loneliness, such as young carers who often feel isolated from their peers, and children in care who have moved away from their family networks. The report looks at the kinds of strategies that can be put in place for those children and young people – from what individuals can do to how government can ensure provide the most effective services into the future.