Supporting families to build positive family relationships
Protecting children from abuse and neglect is a crucial part of Save the Children’s work, both in Australia and overseas. But we know in order to conquer this issue, we must address the root causes and develop culturally appropriate solutions that meet the needs of the whole family. That’s why we run an Intensive Family Support Service to help parents with complex problems meet the emotional, developmental and physical needs of their children.
Why providing family support is important
Evidence shows that support in the early years can have a positive and long-lasting effect on a child's’ life trajectory. Intensive Family Support helps families facing multiple complex issues to build parenting capacity, skills and knowledge to create positive wellbeing and safety for children aged 0-18 years.
Many families can experience complex issues including financial hardship, family homelessness and precarious housing, mental health, parental drug and alcohol problems, disability, domestic and family violence, and intergenerational trauma.
By addressing these issues and helping parents and guardians to develop positive coping strategies and parenting skills, we can help reduce the risk of childhood neglect or abuse.
Save the Children’s Intensive Family Support Services program
Save the Children family support is an individual response to families’ needs. We believe this approach enables every family to build on their strengths and capacity to achieve successful outcomes in improved family functioning and child wellbeing. We work with families wherever they are most comfortable providing practical assistance, information, and referrals to counselling services as appropriate.
Support Workers help families to develop individual case plans to meet goals as identified by the family, collaborating with multiple services to best meet their needs and enhance their parenting skills. Family Support Workers visit families weekly supporting parents to meet the educational, emotional, developmental, and physical care needs of their children.
Our approach uses an outreach-based method that is culturally sensitive, to work alongside families to build their capacity and enhance family relationships, respond to challenges and ensure children and young people are safe and cared for. Support can be provided for up to 12 months – although extended when needed – so families have the time to make long-term positive change.
The Jones’s story
Most nights, the Jones* family slept on the riverbank. Their four children – aged between 4 and 17 – were often seen roaming the streets late at night, begging for food. They weren’t attending school and there were significant health concerns for the two youngest children.
Complex family issues, including substance abuse by their parents, a significant history of domestic and family violence, and the family’s ineligibility for housing in the Northern Territory, left the children homeless and vulnerable.
Despite the family’s reluctance to engage in Save the Children’s Intensive Family Support Service due to their shame and belief that nobody could help them, our Family Support Team persevered.
We used our strengths-based approach to slowly gain the trust of the parents and children. Over a few months, we were able to help the family become eligible for housing, and soon the children had a home to go to. Our Family Support Team connected the family to a local Aboriginal healthcare service, and the children now receive ongoing healthcare. The three eldest children are back in school and receiving support with completing their school work, as well as attending social and sporting events.
Our Intensive Family Support Service gave the family a renewed sense of confidence and self-esteem, allowing them to feel in control and respected. This confidence enabled both parents to face their biggest challenge of substance abuse and domestic violence. It’s still early days, but right now the whole family is thriving and planning for a safe and happy future where they are in control.
How we know we’re making a difference
Families, like the Jones's, who are involved in the program, receive flexible, practical and intensive support that is tailored to their individual needs, helping to create long-term change in how families support each other. In the last 12 months, we’ve received a significant increase in referrals, reinforcing the value of this program.
How to find support
Our intensive family support services span the country. Families can be referred to the service from the Departments of Health, Education, police, child safety services, legal services or self-referral.
Referrals can be made via our referrals email familysupportreferrals@savethechildren
or via Family and Child Connect Website https://familychildconnect.org.au
For more information on our Queensland Intensive Family Support or Secondary Family Support, please download the flyer here
Funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services in the Northern Territory. Visit www.dss.gov.au for more information.
Banner image: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children
*Name has been changed