Watch this space for weekly to fortnightly updates over the next couple of months as I blog about my Churchill Fellowship research into family inclusion initiatives and programs about child welfare. I’m sitting in the airport in Sydney as I type this and I’m reflecting on the reasons why family inclusion in child welfare is so important and why this Churchill Fellowship is also very important.
The Australian child welfare system faces many challenges. We are often told that the main challenge is finding safe and caring foster carers to look after children who can’t live safely with their families. In fact, Australia now has more foster carers available to care for children than ever before. The real challenge is not in recruiting foster carers or in finding alternate families to care for children. The pressing challenge we face as a community is in supporting children to stay safely at home in the care of their families and in supporting children in care to have enduring relationships with their families. This is what children want and need and this is what my Churchill Fellowship is all about.
My Churchill will explore three main areas.
Firstly I'll be looking at peer support programs. Child welfare "experienced" parents helping parents who are just starting their time with child welfare including parents who have just had their children removed. For example, peer workers in the US work with social workers and lawyers to help parents navigate the system. Parent partners, as they are sometimes called, have become leaders in service delivery in some places.
Secondly, I'll look at programs that involve and include parents and family in children's care, after children have been removed. For example there are initiatives that build relationships with carers and that involve families in decision making. Good relationships between carers and parents is great for kids and leads to higher rates of restoration.
Finally I'm looking at initiatives which amplify the voices of parents and family in the policy discussion and debate about child protection and work towards reform in the system in the interests of kids.
Heading off now as they are calling my flight! Keep in touch on the FISH Facebook page to link to this blog!