From the OzChild CEO: 10th Anniversary of the National Apology
13 February 2018
Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to First Nation Peoples. I would like to sincerely and humbly encourage you all to pause for a minute of silence and reflection.
In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, said sorry on behalf of the government of Australia. Some of the most moving comments from the former PM’s speech were:
"I MOVE that today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
"We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.
"It is not sentiment that makes history; it is our actions that make history.
"The truth is: a business as usual approach towards Indigenous Australians is not working. Most old approaches are not working. We need a new beginning…."
There are many great initiatives occurring across Australia, but sadly, 10 years on and all markers of disadvantage show that our First Nation Peoples still fare the worst when compared to other Australians.
The statistics are overwhelming:
- Infant mortality rates are 2-3 times higher
- Children and Young People are seven times more likely to receive child protection and support services
- Youth are 31 times more likely to be detained in a juvenile correctional facility
- Literacy and numeracy levels and the school completion gap remains 30 per cent lower
- Women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised for a violent act against them
- People are dying at least 20.7 years younger. That rate has not changed since 1989
- Full-time prisoner population is at 28 per cent
- Suicide rates are 2-5 times higher
- People aged 15-64 are 3 times more likely to be unemployed
As a mark of respect let us as an organisation reflect on those statistics which remain national challenges and on what part we can play in making a difference. Part of that difference is to help build responsible relationships that value, thrive and flourish with principles of respect and reciprocity, to work together in collaborative and meaningful ways, that will improve the health, wellbeing, education and economic empowerment of our First Nations Families. These are an essential element of all practical reconciliation solutions.
OzChild supports First Nation Peoples’ right of self-determination
Today, let’s all reflect, commemorate and move towards a mechanism that is underpinned by self-determination, that would work towards righting the wrongs and moving forward in a meaningful way for our First Nations People to have brighter futures.
After the recent marches on Australia Day, it is quite evident that many First Natiion Peoples are once again calling for a treaty as they believe it is THE best mechanism to provide meaningful dialogue for structural and systemic change…for their betterment.
As Kevin Rudd said 10 years ago:
"The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future."
On that note, perhaps a Treaty is the right place to start.
Find out more about OzChild’s Indigenous Services.
Opinion: Complex issues being addressed in the child protection sector
9 February 2018
The approach to dealing with mental health issues within the child protection sector in Australia is in a state of inertia. It’s been that way for some time now with few significant improvements in approaches or practice. All the while the number of children and young people being taken into care continues to grow, rising to over 46,500 in 2016.
This is not good enough.
Mental health issues are linked with a range of adverse outcomes including family stress and breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment and associated poverty and homelessness.
These factors can have devastating impacts on the health and wellbeing of children and young people and increase the likelihood of abuse, neglect and the need to enter out of home care (OOHC).
As the Chief Executive Officer of OzChild, part of our strategic plan is to ensure everything we do is informed by evidence so that we can make a conscious and measurable impact.
Let’s face it, treating mental health issues is complex.
We need to take a more holistic approach and provide context specific services that address this complexity to deliver gold-standard services and break the cycle of disadvantage and improve outcomes.
For families who are at risk of their children being removed from their care, evidence based programs from leading international organisations such as The New York Foundling demonstrate context-specific and tailored services provide families with the best hope for family preservation or restoration.
In fact, the 2011 New York City Independent Budget Office Fiscal Brief showed that evidence based interventions saw a 50 per cent reduction in the number of children in foster care over a 10-year period.
Enter Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) and Functional Family Therapy - Child Welfare (FFT-CW). These are two models which have proven to be successful internationally and locally in targeting the causes of harm, including mental health issues that put children at risk of entering the OOHC system.
Both FFT-CW and MST-CAN models have built solid research over time, across different countries. The results from culturally diverse populations widely support the models’ efficacy in working with children and families with multiple and complex needs, including family violence, mental health, and parental drug and alcohol abuse.
The NSW Government has committed $90 million over four years, to July 2020, as part of Their Futures Matter, to implement these new family preservation and restoration models that aim to reduce children entering and increase exits from OOHC.
Each year, up to 900 vulnerable children and their families will receive the service, with half of the places dedicated to Aboriginal children and their families.
OzChild is thrilled to partner with the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) and our sector partners to deliver evidence-based models and be part of this commitment for real change.
Last November, we introduced the FFT-CW model in Victoria and have observed significant benefits for families, their children, our staff and the sector in general.
The model’s strength lies in its ability to address current issues within a family and understand underlying contextual issues.
FFT-CW operates on the basis that the onus is on the practitioners to engage with the family rather than on the family to engage with services. This means practitioners work relentlessly to engage families and provide tailored support that meets their specific needs. This is critical for when there are underlying mental health issues as a ‘one size fits all’ model would not adequately meet the complex needs associated with mental health. In addition, strengthened engagement and strong clinical oversight has seen practitioners core skills flourish.
Families with underlying mental health issues are more likely to have a higher degree of self-blame, shame and the presence of negativity. FFT-CW and MST-CAN work to reduce these issues, recognise individual strengths and build a relational understanding of the issues impacting upon families through targeted behavioural plans tailored to cater to the individual family.
This shift in perspective has resulted in families being empowered to action positive change in their lives so that their children can remain in their care.
The NSW Government’s rollout of FFT-CW and MST-CAN models will provide the tools for practitioners to address the underlying issues faced by families helping ensure family units like the Coopers remain intact.
Rethinking our approach to practice is brave but critical if we are to exit this state of inertia. By employing services that are proven through research and based on evidence, we can all make a conscious impact and reduce the number of children and young people entering out-of-home care, and keep children with family.
Lisa J. Griffiths is the Chief Executive Officer of OzChild.
A version of this article first appeared in the Social Work Focus Magazine.
Counselling service assists kids to shine at school
24 January 2018
With the end of the school holidays in sight, children and their parents are now starting to look forward to the new school year.
For many of the younger children, it is the start of a new adventure: making new friends, sharing, taking turns and settling into a new routine; for others they will be transitioning from being the oldest students surrounded by friends at their primary school to being the youngest at a new high school, where they mightn’t have the support of their friends.
Transitions into school are often tricky and therefore careful preparation goes a long way to easing any anxiety children might feel.
Editas, one of the psychologists who provides counselling support through OzChild’s Shine Assist program, recommends that parents and carers discuss with their children what they might expect in terms of structure of their first day at school
“It is helpful to discuss the layout of the school grounds, who to ask for help when needed, how to form new friendships and how to maintain them,” she said.
“Children together with parents can draw pictures of their expectations of their new school, role play various situations and discuss what some of their worries might be. It is important to teach children problem solving skills as these are one of the pivotal skills required for successful transition.
“If a student is experiencing difficulties such as bullying, depression, attention deficit disorder or bereavement at school it could impact on their lives,” Editas said.
“It is important we find ways to assist them so their experiences at school don’t impact on their lives while at school or in the future when they are out in the workforce.”
OzChild’s Shine Assist program connects families and schools with medical practitioners who are able to help address the mental and emotional well-being of the student in both primary and high schools. It is currently running in 35 schools across Victoria at no cost to either the school or parents.
The program involves counselling for older children and play sessions for the young children in the child’s school. Counselling can be either one-to-one or as a group. During the one-to-one session the child might participate in art therapy, play therapy, clay therapy or even a walk around the school yard, while the group sessions can include yoga, martial arts and drama.
New year, new look: The OzChild Opshop gets a make-over
22 January 2018
The OzChild OpShop in Highett re-opened on January 15, after undergoing a major refurbishment.
Funds, materials and labour were all generously donated by businesses and members of the local community.
Mills Oakley Lawyers, who are also generous supporters of the OzChild Wishing Tree, provided funds to begin work on the refurbishment, after The Bendigo Bank in Highett had provided an initial grant which allowed new shelving and racking to be fitted.
Bunnings Mentone then provided the paint and Kieren Tilbrook, brother of longtime supporter of OzChild and OpShop volunteer Michelle Tilbrook, provided the handy work.
“We really are all so happy to be offered a lovely environment for all walks of life to be able to purchase quality items at a really affordable price,” Michelle said.
Run entirely by volunteers, the OpShop has been a pillar of Highett’s local community for 25 years and plays an important role in helping raise funds for OzChild. These funds are crucial in providing on-going support to vulnerable and at-risk children and young people.
“Before I started [working] there I had so many friends comment on the fact that they just love coming into the shop to hear how much fun the ladies were having,” Michelle said.
“Nobody who comes there feels like it is a job but an absolute joy to be contributing to both the local and extended community.”
The refurbishment has giving the OpShop a new lease of life, making it ready for another busy year in 2018.
“The lovely staff are so excited about what the next 12 months are going to bring at the shop,” Michelle said.
You can check out the new look OzChild OpShop at 356 Highett Street, Highett 3195.
And you never know, you just might find that 'something' you 'just needed'.
SafeCare accreditation success for OzChild
In an Australian first, OzChild has been accredited as a provider of the SafeCare® parenting program. The organisation is also the first international (non-USA) agency to be accredited.
SafeCare is an evidence-based parenting program designed by researchers at the National SafeCare Training and Research Centre (NSTRC) at Georgia State University in the United States. It has been shown to reduce child abuse and neglect. OzChild is currently delivering SafeCare to parents in Victoria.
OzChild CEO Lisa Griffiths said she was proud of the team’s exceptional work ethic and capability to meet all the requirements to become an accredited provider.
“The team is outstanding and have worked so hard, they are getting really positive outcomes for families that are experiencing vulnerability,” Ms Griffiths said.
OzChild began SafeCare training in 2017 with experts from the NSTRC, Georgia State University and the New York Foundling (NYF).
The program runs over 18 sessions and targets three skills: positive parenting, home safety and child health. The NYF Implementation Support Centre and OzChild facilitated the program’s adaption to the Australian context and is supporting the implementation.
SafeCare uses the explain-model-practice-feedback model to help practitioners teach the behaviours, practise them with parents and then give feedback.
The OzChild team is thrilled with the model and its effectiveness with families that experience vulnerability. The first group of parents to undertake the program recently graduated with flying colours.
The evidence-base of SafeCare includes several randomised studies that have shown positive outcomes compared to services as usual or no services on the following outcomes: increased parenting skills, reduced likelihood of child maltreatment reports, reduced parental depression, improved program engagement and completion, and increased program satisfaction.
SafeCare resources are clear and easy to read, with tool kits that help workers keep on track and help parents make better decisions around the health of their children.