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1.2.6 Parent Support

Last Modified: 26-Jul-2018 Review Date: 02-Jan-2018

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in the delivery of the Parent Support service.

Practice Requirements

For referrals and intake to the Parent Support Service:

  • Referrals must be considered and accepted based upon referral the eligibility listed below.
  • All referrals and cases must be entered on Assist.
  • Child protection workers delivering Parent Support services should complete training in accordance with the Learning Pathways for IFS teams.  
  • Concerns about the safety of a child or young person must be discussed immediately with the IFS team leader to determine the most appropriate action.
  • Aboriginal families should be given priority

For delivery of the Parent Support service:

  • Workers must complete the First Session Outcome Form within the first few visits with the family.
  • All relevant information, including completed matrices and questionnaires, must be recorded on Assist and relevant documents, including the signed Responsible Parenting Agreement (RPA) and the completed Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (if used) must be scanned into the client file.
  • For referrals from within the Department of Communities (the Department) for open cases, a Signs of Safety assessment must be completed before the referral (see Chapter 2.2: Signs of Safety - Child Protection Practice Framework).
  • A Responsible Parenting Agreement, a Child Behaviour Matrix and a Child Environment Matrix must be used in all cases.
  • Workers should make reasonable efforts to obtain the parent's consent before sharing or requesting relevant information. Where reasonable efforts have been made, and it is in the best interests of the child, information may be shared. See Chapter 4.2: Working with other agencies - memoranda of understanding and information sharing.
  • Continuing or ceasing work with families who have moved outside the district boundary must be done in accordance with Chapter 2.2: Case allocations, management, transfer, requests for co-working or services and case closure.

At closure of the Parent Support Service, workers must:

  • Finalise the RPA.
  • Make sure that all matrices have been completed.
  • Update the Child Behaviour Matrix and use the matrix scores to inform the outcome recorded on Assist.  Close off the service screen and case file.
  • Record the outcome shown on the Closure Report on Assist. Ensure the closure is discussed with the parent, the referrer (if appropriate) and key agencies involved in the implementation of the RPA.
  • Enter data from all completed forms, matrices, and questionnaires on Assist and scan all up to date documents to the case file.
  • Close the file.

Process Maps

Parent Support Process Flowchart

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Eligibility
  • Referrals
  • Intake and allocation
  • Establishing contact and first visit
  • Home visiting
  • Matrices
  • Tools
  • Responsible Parenting Agreement
  • Information sharing
  • Collaboration with agencies
  • Engagement and case management resources
  • Data collection
  • Child protection concerns
  • Closure
  • Overview

    ​The Parent Support service is delivered by child protection workers in the IFS Team.  Parent Support involves up to six months of home visiting support to parents who would not typically access mainstream services and who are having difficulty managing their children's behaviour.

    References to 'parents' includes individuals (responsible person) who have day-to-day care of the child, reflecting that RPAs can be signed either by a parent or by another responsible person.

     

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    Eligibility

    ​The Parent Support service works with 'hard to reach' parents of school aged children up to 18 years, where the children are involved in:

    • antisocial behaviour
    • criminal activity, and/or 
    • truancy (only if in combination with one or both of the above behaviours).

    Parent Support is targeted at parents who find it hard to ask for help, or who have had trouble working with other services.

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    Referrals

    ​Referrals are accepted from within district offices, other government agencies and the community sector.

    External referrals are made to us through the Central Intake Team / Regional Child Safety teams via Form 441 Child Protection Concern Referral Form (under the 'Parent Support services' section in the form) or telephone referral.

    If additional information provided in the referral indicates harm or risk of harm, these concerns will need to be assessed before Parent Support services are delivered.   

    Referrals from within the Department should be discussed with the IFS team leader.

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    Intake and allocation

    ​External referrals for Parent Support services will be considered by the Central Intake Team / Regional Child Safety team and assessed in accordance to the Parent Support criteria and the Duty Interaction Tool.  

    Where additional child protection concerns are identified through the Duty Interaction Tool, these need to be assessed prior to Parent Support services being delivered.

    If no additional child protection concerns are found following the application of the Duty Interaction Tool and the criteria for Parent Support services is met, the case does not require an intake to Initial Inquiry. The Central Intake Team / Regional Child Safety team opens a Case Support Service for Parent Support services and allocates the case to the IFS team leader of the relevant district.

    The IFS team leader will then either accept or reject the referral. Reasons for rejecting referrals need to be recorded on Assist and a rationale provided in the case file. This is to be undertaken by the IFS team leader. 

    The referrer must be advised of the outcome of the referral.

    Refer to the Assist User Guide for recording processes. 

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    Establishing contact and first visit

    Upon allocation of a case the child protection worker must contact the referrer to clarify expectations, and where appropriate, discuss opportunities for a joint visit of introduction with the family.

    The child protection worker must contact the parents within four working days of receiving a case by making a phone call to make a first visit appointment. If the parents cannot be reached by phone the child protection worker should visit the home. If parents are not home, leave a card or Parent Support brochure (see related resources) with contact details.  

    The first visit must be undertaken by two staff members. If it can be reasonably assessed that the situation is safe, further visits may be made alone. During the visit the child protection worker must:

    • provide a description of what the Parent Support service does
    • explain their responsibility to establish a safe working environment and the need to share information regarding any child protection issues that may arise 
    • explain the concept and use of a RPA, and
    • begin to discuss the child's behaviour that led to the referral and encourage the parents to think about what they would like to achieve while engaged with the Parent Support service.

    The child protection worker will need to demonstrate patience, persistence and substantial and ongoing effort to engage, even where parents display reluctance. If the family is still resistant the child protection worker should explore if there are other agencies the parents would be prepared to work with.

    If engagement has not been possible, non-engagement must be recorded on Assist as either:

    • unable to establish a working relationship, or
    • parents not available or not engaging at appointments.
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    Home visiting

    The Parent Support service is flexible and visits with the family may be conducted in the home or at agreed locations where parents feel comfortable.  Staff need to be aware of their own safety and can refer to the Dealing with Aggressive Clients – Advice for Employees document available in the Administration Manual entry Dealing with aggressive behaviour by clients. Staff should consult with their team leader as required.

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    Matrices

    The Parent Support service uses three matrices (see related resources) that provide a structured process for goals to be articulated and progress monitored. For details see Using the Parent Support Matrices.

    The Child Behaviour Matrix must be used in all cases. It is used to consider the behaviour for which the child is referred to Parent Support and captures the parent's current activities and their impact on the child's behaviour.  It is a tracking matrix that places the problem for which the family is referred at the bottom, looks at goals at the top, and shows pathways to achieving those goals, along with mechanisms for review, in between.  

    The Child Environment Matrix must be used in all cases. It is developed with the parent to describe the quality of the child's environment in nine domains: physical care, communication of love, supervision, routines/behavioural boundaries, health and wellbeing, parents/carers relationship, home community and culture. Each domain is presented on a continuum (with the worst case scenario at the bottom and the best case scenario at the top). It helps parents gain a realistic picture of their situation, informs the goals of the RPA, and explores with parents what they need to do to score further up the continuum. This matrix may also be used with children as an engagement tool, with the domains serving as discussion points. 

    The Child Environment Matrix – Aboriginal version is an alternative version of the Child Environment Matrix for work with Aboriginal families.

    Use of the Parental Wellbeing Matrix is optional. The set includes four matrices: self-esteem, family and domestic violence, substance use and management of a chronic condition. This matrix can be used to capture the current situation, look at how it can be improved, and track the impact of specialist interventions on the parent's capacity to function. The child protection worker should consult with the parents to decide which of the four matrices is the most suitable to use.

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    Tools

    ​An Eco Map or Kinship Circle, completed with the parents as part of the First Session Outcome Form,  explores who is in the child's family; who can provide support; who is important to the child and why; and what events may have or may in future impinge on the child/family. 

    Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire may also be used by the child protection worker to identify specific behaviours that parents may want or need to address.

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    Responsible Parenting Agreement

    A RPA underpins the work of the Parent Support service and is required for every case. It can be developed by us or by other authorised agencies, or as a multi-agency agreement with the family.

    The RPA is a written agreement between the parents and an authorised officer of any or all of the following agencies:

    • the Department (usually the child protection worker, district director or team leader)
    • Department of Corrective Services
    • Department of Education.

    In the IFS Team, only a child protection worker can enter into an RPA.

    The RPA provides an opportunity for agencies to work together. Regardless of which agency enters the RPA, or if it is a multi-agency agreement, Parent Support can provide a service to the family as part of the RPA and work with other agencies to address complex issues.  

    The RPA supports the primary role of parents in safeguarding and promoting the wellbeing of their children (more than one child may be included in a RPA); reinforces parents' responsibilities to exercise appropriate control over the behaviour of their children; and outlines and sets timeframes for actions of parents to improve the care and behaviour of their children and actions of the workers to support the parents.

    The RPA template and the completed Child Environment Matrix are used to construct the RPA. At the meeting to construct the RPA, the child protection worker should consider who would be relevant to attend and what their roles and responsibilities are, as well as how the child's voice can be heard in the RPA process. The completed RPA is signed by the relevant parties and a signed copy is given to the parents.

    Reviewing the RPA

    Meetings must be held at least every four to six weeks, or on an as needs basis, to review, monitor progress, or revise the RPA. All signatories to, and participants in the RPA should participate in the review.

    The review considers the aims included in the RPA and the effectiveness of the identified actions. Each time an aim is realised, write "achieved" in the timeframe column.

    If parents enter into an RPA but do not engage or participate, we need to assess the safety and/or wellbeing of the children in the context of the Parent Support Service and consider how to proceed.

    For more details about the RPA see The Use of Responsible Parenting Agreements in Parent Support.

    Multidisciplinary Case Consultations

    Multidisciplinary Case Consultations are a mechanism for considering different professional perspectives required to engage families with multiple problems. child protection workers may consider a Multidisciplinary Case Consultation for Parent Support cases where:

    • engagement with the family is difficult to establish or maintain;
    • the case is 'stuck' and case drift needs to be avoided; or
    • concerns of harm or risk of harm to the child have presented .

    Refer to Chapter 1.2: Intensive Family Support for further information about Multidisciplinary Case Consultations.

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    Information sharing

    Workers should make reasonable efforts to obtain parent's consent before sharing or requesting relevant information.

    Where reasonable efforts have been made to obtain the consent, and it has not been provided but it is in the best interest of the child, relevant information may still be shared (see Chapter 4.2: Working with other agencies - memoranda of understanding and information sharing). Child protection workers need to refer to section 23 and section 240 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act).

    Information or material that identifies a child or responsible person subject to a RPA should not be published. Refer to Chapter 3.2 Identification of Children for more information about publishing information about children in care or previously in care.

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    Collaboration with agencies

    The Parent Support service relies on the involvement of and engagement with relevant government agencies such as the Department of Education, the Department of Corrective Services, WA Police, Housing, and the Department of Health. Workers should make sure these agencies are engaged, for example via key local groups and committees, to support joint planning and coordination for clients.

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    Engagement and case management resources

    Workers have access to a range of resources that support engagement with families and case management.  The child protection worker may use one or more of the following (depending on the specifics of the case they are working with):  

    Aboriginal Practice Leaders and Youth and Family Support Workers

    To assist in the engagement of Aboriginal families, the child protection worker should consult with the Aboriginal Practice Leader and work alongside Youth and Family Support Workers.  Consultations involving Aboriginal Practice Leaders must be documented on Assist. Refer to Assist User Guide - Case Plan - Case Plan Consultation (in related resources).  For complex issues, staff may consult with a Senior Practice Development Officer, an Aboriginal Practice Leader or a Senior Consultant Aboriginal Practice Leader in the Professional Practice Unit. 

    Parent Visitors

    Parent visitors work with the child protection worker and provide input into development of the family's aims and the review process. They support parents to achieve the aims of the RPA, including: building parenting skills, role modelling, household management, routines, discipline, and linking children and young people into meaningful activities. 

    Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) resources

    When working with CaLD families, staff should consult the CaLD Resource Library (in related resources) or identify local CaLD community members and leaders.  Interpreters should be engaged when working with parents not proficient in English.

    Voluntary or compulsory income management and Liquor Restricted Premises Declaration

    Where appropriate, the child protection worker, either independently or in collaboration with other business units, can consider using voluntary or compulsory income management and Liquor Restricted Premises Declaration. See Chapter 1.4: Alcohol and other drug issues - application for a liquor restricted premises declaration for further information.

    Funding assistance

    Although limited, funding assistance can be used to enhance access to specialist service providers and/or community programs. It may only be considered once all other funding sources have been explored.   The child protection worker must enter the request on Assist (accessible through the cost type Parent Support Costs not case support costs), identify the IFS team, and provide the rationale of why it is required and how it will address the aims of the RPA. Approval must be obtained from the IFS team leader

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    Data collection

    Child protection workers must enter data from the following forms onto Assist:

    • First Session Outcome Form 
    • ​Child​ Behaviour Matrix
    • ​Parental Wellbeing Matrices, and
    • ​Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
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    Child protection concerns

    Child Protection Workers should be open with the family about concerns for the children's safety and wellbeing. The Child Environment Matrix can be used to identify concerns and inform Signs of Safety meetings.

    If workers have concerns about the safety of children they must immediately discuss this with the IFS team leader to determine the most appropriate response.  If it is decided that the safety concerns require a SWA, then the IFS team must also complete the SWA of the new concerns. Parent Support services should be suspended until the SWA has been completed.  

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    Closure

    ​An exit plan must be developed when the family is coming to the end of their involvement with Parent Support services. Exit planning serves to remind the parent that casework will not continue indefinitely, consolidate positive changes made and institute longer term goals.

    The child protection worker helps the family to review, acknowledge and celebrate their journey and success, and plan how to sustain any positive changes into the future.  

    Parents may feel anxious about the impending loss of support provided by Parent Support staff, and these feelings need to be acknowledged and respectfully discussed.

    The child protection worker must consult with the IFS team leader about closing a case.

    Ongoing support options should be considered. The child protection worker may link the family to appropriate community supports and services prior to closing the case.

    The child protection worker must use the final Child Behaviour Matrix scores to inform the outcome recorded on Assist and close off the service screen and case file.

    When concluding contact (irrespective of whether parents have made gains on the identified issues) the child protection worker should contact the referrer and any other agencies that have been involved with the case to notify them of the case closure.

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