Families to receive earlier support to keep children safe

At-risk families in need of support to better care for their children will receive specialised help thanks to a new program, which aims to keep families together.

The $1.6 million Family Group Conferencing pilot program is expected to help more than 200 South Australian families and is being delivered by Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA) in partnership with the Department for Child Protection.

RASA facilitators will run the conferences and support at-risk families to develop a plan that has the safety and care of the child or young person at its core.

Previously, family group conferences were only convened by the Youth Court of SA and the new model will target families as part of an earlier child protection intervention strategy.

“Family group conferences bring together family and the extended network in a positive environment where they can make the best – and safest – plan for their child or young person,” said Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson.

“Ultimately, the aim of this program is to keep children and young people safely in their own families, wherever possible, and connected to their own cultures and communities, because we know this gives them better outcomes in life.

“We recognise that everyone’s family situation is different and that’s why for some children, their extended family may be able to help protect and care for them.”

Minister Sanderson said the new program will also focus on empowering Aboriginal family and community members to identify strategies to keep Aboriginal children and young people safe.

“The family group conferencing model provides children, families and community members with an opportunity to make decisions that are family and community led, and built on the strengths of the family, to bring about change for safe and stable care arrangements for the child or young person,” said Minister Sanderson.

RASA Chief Executive Officer Claire Ralfs PHD said a key principle of family group conferencing was giving families the opportunity to develop their own solutions and encouraging families to support each other and take back responsibility for themselves.

“There is increasing evidence that family group conferencing has immediate and long-term benefits for families engaged, or at risk of being engaged, with the formal child protection system,” said Ms Ralfs.

“Relationships Australia South Australia is excited by the opportunity to be part of the implementation of family group conferencing with the Department for Child Protection."