Protecting and Nurturing Children:
Building Capacity, Building Bridges
Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges is a three year initiative, which:
- Builds the capacity of practitioners in adult-focused services to better support their adult clients to meet the immediate needs of children in their care; and
- In partnership with Communities for Children, supports the development of strategies that strengthen collaboration between adult-focused and child-focused services to enhance the way in which clients who require multiple supports experience the service system.
The initiative led by the Australian Centre for Child Protection and is funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges is a project funded as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
What is the need for this initiative?
The most common presenting problems of parents involved with child protection services are substance misuse, mental illness and experiences of domestic violence. These are key risk factors for child abuse and neglect.
For clients of adult focused services such as domestic violence, alcohol and other drugs, housing and mental health services, their role as a parent is enormously significant and can be a major motivator for change. It can also be a major source of stress. Exploring parenting issues with an adult client can enhance the services and supports offered in a number of ways, including:
- a more open and honest relationship between service provider clients;
- an increase in motivation to access help;
- an increase in the sense of hope that change is possible;
- an increase in focus on the reasons for seeking help; and
- reducing parenting stressors that have affected treatment outcomes in adult-focused interventions.
Practitioners in adult-focused services have identified two main types of barriers that have prevented them from supporting their adult clients with parenting responsibilities:
- structural barriers such as resource constraints and legislation; and
- lack of knowledge and skills in parenting and children’s needs.
Structural changes are now taking place that are increasing expectations that adult-focused services will support their clients to meet the needs of children in their care. Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges aims to support practitioners in adult-focused services to enhance their knowledge, skills and collaborative relationships so they can fulfil those expectations.
The initiative is made up of two related and parallel streams of activities:
- Building capacity – Enhancing the knowledge and skills of practitioners in adult-focused services to support parents to meet the immediate needs of children in their care.
- Building bridges – Strengthening collaboration between adult-focused and child and family-focused services to change the way clients with multiple needs experience the service system.
Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges is a national trial being conducted in 12 specified Communities for Children or Communities for Children Plus (pdf, 59Kb) geographic areas across Australia.
How will we know if it is effective?
The broad aim of the Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges trial is that there is ‘no wrong door’ for vulnerable families. We want parents and their children to receive the support they need regardless of how they become known to formal services and supports.
The specific goals of the Building Capacity, Building Bridges trial are to:
- Enhance ways of working with children and families in adult-focused services, such as domestic violence, alcohol and other drugs, housing and mental health.
- Strengthen inter-agency collaboration to provide more holistic responses to families with multiple and complex needs.
- Develop best-practice methods for supporting organisations and practitioners to implement change.
An evaluation will help us to know if we are achieving these goals.
To ensure as much can be learned from the trial as possible , the project will include a multi-layered process and impact evaluation, made up of:
- collation and analysis of data from routine progress reports sent to FaHCSIA by Communities for Children and Communities for Children Plus sites regarding their collaborative activities; and
- action research – a methodology for use during trials that focuses on the strengths and limitations of the implementation and informs continuous improvement throughout the trial.
Bromfield, L., A. Lamont, et al. (2010). ‘Issues for the safety and wellbeing of children in families with multiple and complex problems: The co-occurrence of domestic violence, parental substance misuse, and mental health problems’. NCPC Issues, 33. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Scott, D. (2009), ‘Think child, think family: How adult specialist services can support children at-risk of abuse and neglect’, Family Matters, 81, 37-42.
Australian Infant Child Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association (2004), Principles and Actions for Services and People Working with Children of Parents with a Mental Illness, Sydney:
Gibson, C., & Morphett, K. (2010). Think Child, Think Family: Child and Family Sensitive Practice within Specialist Homelessness Services. Adelaide: Australian Centre for Child Protection.\
Trifonoff, A., Duraisingam, V., Roche, A. M., & Pidd, K. T. (2010). Taking First Steps. What Family Sensitive Practice Means for Alcohol and Other Drug Workers: A Survey Report. Adelaide: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Adelaide, Flinders University.
Arney, F., Lange, R. & Zufferey, Z. (2010) Chapter 9: 'Responding to parents with complex problems who are involved with statutory child protection services', in Working with Vulnerable Families: A partnership approach, Arney, F. & Scott, D (eds)