PARENT PEER SUPPORT PROJECT

 

The Parent Peer Support Project (PPSP) is a trial research project, evaluating peer parent support for parents who have had children removed from their care. The project aims to support, educate and empower parents who have children subject to care and protection matters in Broadmeadow Children’s Court to participate in legal proceedings and to stay connected to their children. Education and support will be delivered by trained and supervised peer parents (parent partners) who have successfully navigated the child protection system themselves and can use this experience to help others. The aim of the research is to evaluate the value to parents of contact with parent partners and an induction to the care and protection system workshop, information and online learning resources. Online resources can be found here by scrolling down.


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PARENT PARTNERS

Parent Partners are paid peer workers that will receive training and supervision in their roles supporting parents in the project. The parent partner role includes working as part of a team, meeting with and providing support to parents at court, and running workshops for parents new to the system. See the recruitment flyer below. Applications are now closed.

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PARENT PEER SUPPORT PROJECT TEAM 

 
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Lyn Stoker

Project Coordinator

Lynette is a lecturer in the Master of Family Studies and has experience and interest in out of home care, child welfare and child-focused practice. She is also a foundation member of FISH. She has been a practitioner in health and community services, a consultant with nonGovernment organisations and is interested in exploring early intervention and organisational responses to support better practice.

 
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Tammy Prince-Doyle

Parent Leader

Tammy is a parent leader and Vice President of Family Inclusion Strategies in the Hunter. She is also a child welfare worker who supports and cares for traumatised children and young people in our care system. Tammy is the mother of three children. One was never removed and the other two children spent periods of time in care and have now been reunified with her and with each other. Tammy uses her own lived experience to help other parents and workers in the system navigate and build a more family inclusive and relational approach. Tammy is a regular speaker and facilitator with groups and at events about family inclusion and is dedicated to systemic change in the interests of children. 

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Jessica Cocks

Project Team

Jessica was a founding member of FISH in 2014. Jessica is a researcher and practitioner in out of home care with over 25 years experience. In 2016 Jessica was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research family inclusion initiatives in child welfare.

 
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Dr Nicola Ross

Project Team

Nicola is an academic who has practiced as a lawyer and social worker. She undertakes sociolegal research. Her experience and research interests encompass child protection, family and criminal law with an emphasis on children’s participation, lawyers’ work with children and family violence. She has previously interviewed lawyers and children about their experiences of family, child protection and criminal proceedings. Ms Jessica Cocks, Practice Lead, Children, Young People and Families,

 
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Lou Johnston

Project Team

Lou is an academic and practitioner with interests in organisations, systems and worker development. Recent research includes perspectives of parents and carers of children with a disability and the NDIS, and her PhD study is on developing supervision practice. As a consultant, Lou has worked extensively with managers in statutory and non-government child protection services.

 

"I got a phone call from my Mum saying my son’s been removed from her care. I ran into the school to my children and I got to speak to them in the office for a little while”. 

"I had to walk away before the police and DOCS turned up.

"The kids were crying and saying they’d be good. I didn’t know what to do. As soon as they were taken, I walked round the corner from the school and just collapsed in the road. My sister and a neighbour had to come get me and I was just screaming. I didn’t know what was happening and didn’t understand why. I thought I was doing everything right." 


You are not alone

Family Inclusion Strategies in the Hunter has created this space to link you with the information you may find helpful.

No matter how long your child is in care there are services in NSW and in the Hunter Valley and Central Coast that can provide information and services that will help you with:

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Going to court
 

Working with FACS
 

Getting help for yourself

Being there for your kids


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Need support?

If you are experiencing challenges with mental health, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, homelessness or money, and would like some support, visit our Get Help section.

Culturally-specific services

If you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you can find culturally-specific services in our local Indigenous support services section. 

“I remember just standing at the lights before the court and my stomach started getting really sore, I wanted to vomit and I was sweating heaps. I was having a panic attack. I was so nervous”.

"Every time I went, I felt like that. It was just awful.

But going to court, I never knew what I was going in for. I didn’t know what was happening, I just followed the lawyer.  People started telling me questions I need to ask the lawyer. The biggest one was to ask when I didn’t understand and getting to know my rights. It’s easier now because I know my rights, I know a lot of information now, I know questions I can ask the lawyer and I don’t have to agree with the lawyer.”

– Parent


Information to help you when preparing for and going to court

The following links to Legal Aid and Community Services will help you find information about:

> What is Childrens Court?

>  Going to the children’s court

>  What is an Independent Children’s Lawyer?

>  Information for parents attending care and protection hearings

>  Your children’s rights: Charter of rights- Kids rights in care (ages 7-12)

>  Your children’s rights: Charter of rights- Kids rights in care (ages 13-18)

>  Your rights as a parent while your child is in care

> Kids In Care (Watch videos ‘What’s happening with my family?’ and ‘Me and my lawyer”

>  Things have changed and I want my kids back: what can I do?

>  The Children’s Court have made a decision I am unhappy about: what can I do?

>  I think I’ve been discriminated against

The Family Inclusion NSW website has more information about going to court and about legal processes.

 

LawAccess NSW

Free telephone legal information and referrals to your nearest Legal
Aid NSW office, Community Legal Centre, private solicitors and other
organisations.

T:       1300 888 529

TTY:   1300 889 529

W:      www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Family and Community Services (FACS) is the government agency responsible for child protection in New South Wales

FACS has the legal power to remove children from the care of their families but only if they are at risk of significant harm. They must have their decisions looked at by a court. For more information about the legal processes of child removal and for contact details for lawyers who are interested in representing parents check the Family Inclusion Network of NSW website.

Working with FACS
It can be very challenging to work with FACS especially at a time when you are so stressed and worried about what will happen with your child. These are some tips and ideas that other parents have found helpful when working with FACS and FACS caseworkers.

  • Get legal advice as early as possible

  • Have a support person with you to help you in your interactions with FACS. This can be a worker, a friend or anyone you trust. It is OK to have a support person with you and it is also OK for you to ask for this person to speak on your behalf if you are feeling very upset. When someone talks on your behalf they are often called an advocate. This means they may ask for services and outcomes that you feel you need and that are good for your kids.

  • Keep records of all your communications and interactions with FACS. This includes phone calls, emails., letters and meetings. Use a journal to record verbal conversations and ask all decisions to be given to you in writing.

  • Ask FACS to clearly specify the reasons why your child has been removed and exactly what you need to do to have your child returned to your care. Ask for this to be provided in writing.

  • Ask for contact with your child as soon as possible.

  • Provide any information that you feel the foster carer of your child needs to know. If your child is being cared for by someone you know they may still need information that only you have about your child. If you are not able to contact them ask FACS to pass this information on to them.

  • If you don't know who is caring for your child ask FACS to arrange a meeting with them so you can start to get to know one another. They may not agree to this but it is still worth asking. Good relationships between foster carers and parents lead to better outcomes for kids.

  • Ask about decision making processes and how you are to be involved.

  • Come to all appointments and meetings on time.

  • If you are having a really stressful day and worry that you might not be able to speak to FACS in a helpful way, write down what you would like to say and phone later when you are feeling clearer and calmer

The law

FACS is required to comply with the law at all times. The main area of law that governs what FACS does (and many other agencies including OOHC agencies) is the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act, 1998. If this is possible for you, try and spend some time getting to know this Act and how it works. Remember that the law is complex and nothing can replace legal advice about your particular situation. Getting a lawyer is very important. Even if you feel you can trust FACS and you feel there are lots of areas of agreement it is still important to get legal advice and legal representation in court.

Legal Aid NSW can be contacted through their website click here.

The Hunter Valley and Central Coast FACS contact details are listed below. If you want to make a complaint about FACS check our making complaints page here.

Hunter Valley and Central Coast FACS contact details.

FACS website - www.community.nsw.gov.au

Charlestown Community Services Centre (CSC) - 309 Charlestown Road, Charlestown, Tel: 02 4985 1500

Cessnock CSC - 36 Charlton Street, Cessnock, Tel: 02 4993 5000

Edgeworth CSC - 720 Main Road, Edgeworth, Tel: 02 4958 0100

Maitland CSC, - 8 Alfred Close, East Maitland, Tel: 02 4939 3800

Mayfield CSC, - 330 Maitland Road, Mayfield, Tel: 02 4904 8600

Muswellbrook CSC - 6 Market Lane, Muswellbrook, Tel: 02 6542 3444

Raymond Terrace CSC - 29 Port Stephens Street, Raymond Terrace, Tel: 02 4983 4300

Taree CSC - 242 Victoria Street, Taree, Tel: 02 5594 2000

Gosford CSC - 231 - 237 Mann Street, Gosford, Tel: 02 4321 7500

Wyong CSC - 9 Hely Street, Wyong, Tel: 02 4352 6500

 

Parent and Carer Relationships

“Children need their parents in their lives - one way or the other” (Parent, Family Inclusion Strategies Hunter, 2015)

Children and young people in care who have good relationships with their parents and family have better outcomes - no matter how long they are in care.

When parents are able to achieve greater levels of inclusion, especially with workers and carers acknowledgement of parents’ importance, there are good results for them and their children.

Key messages from research and practice in support of family inclusion:

  • Children and young people benefit when they can see parents and carers getting along well together;

  • Good relationships between parents and carers lead to more successful restorations and better long term outcomes;

  • Children need their families to have ongoing involvement in their lives no matter what the legal order;

  • Relaxed family time together, including time at each other’s houses and shared events, is very supportive of children and contributes positively to stability for children;

  • Children and young people in care want and need a relationship with their parents and other family;

  • Many children lose connections to their siblings and other family as a result of being in care;

  • Being placed in care is inherently traumatic for children and young people;

  • Many children leave care (no matter what the legal order), lonely and isolated from family and social support;

  • Parents worry deeply about their children in care - getting to know carers and having good relationships with their children can help;

  • All families have strengths;

  • Many parents and family experience disrespectful and abusive practice from the child protection and out of home care system;

  • When carers have judgemental attitudes towards parents this is harmful for children and damages relationships;

  • Children and young people benefit when their parents and family are treated with respect and are actively included in their lives;

  • Family inclusion is consistent with NSW government policy;

  • Family inclusion is consistent with the NSW child safe and permanent care standards;

  • There is no evidence that family contact supervision and written family contact reports adds any value to children’s experience of their time with their family and some evidence that it may make things harder

Making Complaints and Managing Disputes.

It is very difficult and challenging having a child removed from your care. You can feel that everyone is judging you and treating you badly. You already feel bad enough about yourself and the last thing you need is more judgement.

The worker was really aggressive. He brought his past into the situation and believed every allegation that came up.
— Parent
The worker was so judgemental, so unhelpful and constantly told me there was no way I was going to get my son back because of what I’d done
— Parent
There’s only one agency that lets me be part of the case plan
— Parent
When you are acting on high emotions, it’s hard to be professional when the worker is being judgemental.
— Parent

You can complain if you feel you or your child are not getting a fair go. You can complain about a range of issues to do with your child and you including:

  • Family contact decisions

  • other decisions about your child including where they are placed

  • if your children are not able to see their siblings or are not placed together

  • issues to do with their education and healthcare

  • your participation in case planning

  • behaviour by caseworkers or other staff such as rudeness or disrespect.

The first step is to talk to the caseworker. If this doesn't help, ask to talk to the team leader or manager from the agency or FACS.

If this doesn't work then consider making a formal complaint. If you decide to make a formal complaint put it in writing if you can. If you can't put it in writing tell the staff member clearly that you want to make a formal complaint. Your options are:

  • Calling or writing to the most senior person in the agency. This is likely to be someone with the title Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or principal officer.

  • If you are complaining about FACS go to the Family and Community Services website and contact them using the email or postal address they have provided or call them on 1800 000 164.

  • You can also complain to FACS about what agencies do as they receive funding from FACS. Use the same link above to do this.

  • Calling or writing to the NSW Ombudsman on 1800 451 524 or email: nswombo@ombo.nsw.gov.au. You can also submit an on-line complaint here

  • Write to the Minister for Family and Community Services. The current Minister as at March 2019, is the Hon Gareth Ward MP

Some tips for making complaints

  • always keep a record of all your communication with agencies and FACS. This may come in handy if you ever need to make a complaint and for other reasons.

  • communicate in writing so you can clearly explain what your concerns are. Take your time in writing out your complaint to make sure you are happy with it

  • ask for responses in writing

  • always be respectful and focus on the problem or the concern not the person. Eg: if you are complaining about the behaviour of a worker then clearly describe the behaviour you don't like - not the person.

  • offer to take part in alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation. See below for more information about alternative dispute resolution.

Managing disputes.

It can be helpful to get outside support to manage disputes and disagreements when your children are in out of home care. There are a few alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes you can ask for if you are having problems coming to an agremeent with an agency or with FACS. It is fine for you to suggest this - you dont have to wait for the agency or FACS to offer it.

  • Disputes over family contact - you can ask for an ADR process to help come to an agreement. This agreement can then be lodged in court and becomes a legal document.

  • Disputes over where your child should be placed including whether or not they can live with you. A family group conference can be a good way for decisions to be made about who will care for your child long term and what support may be needed. Ask for a family group conference if you think this will suit you and your child.

  • Any other dispute you have about your child and how they are being cared for.

Get legal advice if you need more information about ADR and what process would suit you and your child.

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"At first I didn't know how to look after myself, let alone have the kids home".

"I started doing TAFE, counselling, a lot of programs on myself. I actually found a job for the first time ever. I went to a parenting group someone recommended, and that lead to about 5 more different groups. Three and a half years later I went for restoration and got my daughter and I’m currently in the process of my second daughter coming home and I’m just now getting more contact with my other son. "

– Parent


If you would like support in looking after yourself, follow these links:

>  Counselling and Mental Health

>  Drugs and Alcohol

>  Domestic Violence

>  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support services

>  Parenting Programs