Children and families

In the early years of a child's life the foundations are laid for their future development, health and wellbeing. Children have the right to safety, loving care, and the services they need to succeed. But, for a range of reasons, not all receive these. Concerns include the number of children subject to abuse and neglect, the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection and out-of-home care systems, and the poor long-term outcomes for children who have been in out-of-home care.

The national framework for protecting Australia’s children recognises that, while parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children, protecting Australia’s children is everyone’s business. While the majority of parents will raise happy and healthy children with the support of the community and general services, others will need more help. In some cases, intervention will be required.

Protecting children is about promoting the safety and wellbeing of children, not just responding to abuse and neglect. To support children and families, governments fund services—like health, education and family support—for all families, prevention and early intervention programs for vulnerable families, targeted services for ‘at risk’ families, and statutory child protection services as a last resort.

 


Project examples

Click on any of the following projects for more information.

Evaluation of the Resilient Families Service

(NSW Treasury, 2013)

Evaluation of the Resilient Families Service

(NSW Treasury, 2013)

In November 2013, ARTD was engaged by NSW Treasury to evaluate Resilient Families, an intensive support service delivered to families in greater Sydney by The Benevolent Society as part of the NSW Government’s Social Benefit Bond scheme (TBS)

The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the implementation and outcomes of the service over its first three years of operation from 2013 and assess the appropriateness of the measures place for the purpose of bond payments. Throughout the three-year study the service has moved to a more established stage of implementation, providing a flexible service, responsive to client needs.  ARTD’s recommendations have focused on further development of the service to optimise outcomes for families. The Preliminary and Mid-term evaluation reports can now be viewed on the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet’s website.

Evaluation of the Focus on Early Childhood Inclusion project

(Early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW Chapter) Inc., 2014-15)

Evaluation of the Focus on Early Childhood Inclusion project

(Early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW Chapter) Inc., 2014-15)

The Focus on Early Childhood Inclusion project was a capacity-building project for the early childhood sector, which aimed to improve the inclusion of children with disability in their home, early childhood services and the community. ARTD was engaged to develop an evaluation framework and plan for the project, working closely with ECIA NSW, the project steering committee, and representatives from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (the funding agency). We first agreed on a program logic, identifying the project’s short- and long-term outcomes, then developed an evaluation framework and plan based on this.

ARTD was subsequently commissioned to undertake a formative and impact evaluation of the two-year project. The evaluation included interviews and discussions with key stakeholders, including early childhood intervention services, early childhood education centres, pre-schools, program staff, regional representatives from ADHC, and families of young children with disability. We also undertook two state-wide surveys of early childhood intervention services. Their report supported ECIA NSW to review and improve its delivery of the program as required and support ECIA and ADHC to assess the extent to which the project met its objectives.

Monitoring and reporting of Families Mental Health Support Services

(Department of Social Services, 2014)

Monitoring and reporting of Families Mental Health Support Services

(Department of Social Services, 2014)

Families Mental Health Support Services aims to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people, and their families. ARTD was engaged to develop a performance framework and monitoring system for the family mental health early intervention program. We designed and implemented an online data transfer and reporting system for all funded services. Initially, the Department used the system to monitor progress with implementation; later to establish outputs and client outcomes. As it was designed to be flexible, the system allowed DSS to effectively monitor the new program with emergent models of service delivery.

Monitoring and reporting for Families NSW

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2009-16)

Monitoring and reporting for Families NSW

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2009-16)

Families NSW is the NSW Government’s overarching strategy to enhance the health and wellbeing of children up to eight years and their families. Services funded under the strategy fit into six types: supported playgroups, parenting programs, family worker, community capacity building, partnerships and networks, and volunteer home visiting.

In 2011, ARTD was engaged to design a monitoring framework and system to support reporting requirements for all service types. We reviewed existing research tools and worked with key stakeholders to develop an outcomes-based framework, data collection tools, and an online data collection system. We piloted the system and made adjustments.  Then we oversaw data collection and provided and six-monthly reporting at the individual service and statewide level to support ongoing management of the program.

Evaluation of Aboriginal Intensive Family-Based Services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2012-13)

Evaluation of Aboriginal Intensive Family-Based Services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2012-13)

Four Aboriginal non-government organisations were funded to deliver Intensive Family-Based Services with a step-down component under Keep Them Safe, the NSW Government’s response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW. ARTD was engaged to conduct a process and outcomes evaluation of the services in two stages. The process component identified how the services could be more effectively delivered to meet the needs of families and other stakeholders. The outcomes component assessed the services’ impact on the number of substantiated risk of harm reports and out-of-home care placements for children and young people in participating families.

Online monitoring system for domestic violence services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2010-14)

Online monitoring system for domestic violence services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2010-14)

Staying Home Leaving Violence and Integrated Domestic Violence and Family Services are part of the broader response to domestic violence in NSW. In 2011, ARTD worked with key stakeholders to develop, pilot and refine an online performance monitoring system to ensure all services systematically provide data against performance measures. Since then, we have supported ongoing data collection and provided six-monthly reports at service and statewide levels. The Department uses these reports to manage the program across NSW, while individual services use them to guide planning and improvement.

Evaluation of the Community Services Clinical Issues Unit

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2013)

Evaluation of the Community Services Clinical Issues Unit

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2013)

The Clinical Issues Unit is a team of expert staff based in Community Services who provide specialist advice to caseworkers and managers around drug and alcohol, mental health and domestic violence. It was expanded from the former Drug and Alcohol Expertise Unit in 2009 through Keep Them Safe funding. The Office of the Senior Practitioner in Community Services commissioned ARTD to evaluate the CIU to inform strategic decisions about its future resourcing and functions. The focus was on assessing take-up of CIU services and the effectiveness and efficiency of the CIU in improving caseworker knowledge, skills and practice around the three clinical issues. The evaluation used mixed-methods: an online survey of 540 casework staff, semi-structured interviews with caseworkers and managers across six sites, interviews with senior stakeholders, analysis of administrative data, case studies and a cost efficiency analysis. The evaluation provided evidence about the use and value of clinical expertise within the Department and the most efficient and effective model for delivering the service to caseworkers.

 

Evaluation of first stage family case management project

(NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2012)

Evaluation of first stage family case management project

(NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2012)

Family Case Management—a twelve-month integrated case management intervention for families identified by government and/or non-government agencies as high-level service users—was a strategy in Keep Them Safe, the NSW Government's five-year plan to improve the safety and wellbeing of young people in NSW. ARTD was commissioned conduct a process, outcomes and economic evaluation of the pilot.  We used a mixed method design, drawing on interviews with participating family members and primary contacts, a staff survey, and an analysis of pre- and post-data on family functioning and key agency administrative data (including child protection reports, accident and emergency presentations, school non-attendance, and public housing arrears and complaints). The incremental costs of the pilot were assessed against the demonstrated reductions in government services where it was possible to quantify these in monetary terms. We also conducted a sizing analysis to estimate the size and geographic distribution of the potential target group by looking at families that were the subject of multiple reports to the Child Protection Helpline and other human service agencies. The report was used to inform the development of a statewide approach to integrated case management and any further rollout of the model.

Review of NSW child protection and sexual assault counselling services

(NSW Ministry of Health, 2011)

Review of NSW child protection and sexual assault counselling services

(NSW Ministry of Health, 2011)

NSW Health provides specialist counselling responses for adult and child sexual assault and child abuse and neglect through Child Protection Counselling Services (CPCS), Sexual Assault Services (SAS) and Child Protection Units (CPU) across the state. ARTD was commissioned to map NSW Health funded and delivered domestic and family violence counselling responses; review existing counselling service delivery models and assess whether realignment was required; and develop draft key performance indicators for the services. To do this, we reviewed the national and international literature on best practice, analysed service data and documentation, and consulted with service providers through an online survey, forums, and meetings. We also visited CPCSs and SASs in all of the then Area Health Services to gain an understanding of their operating contexts and the counselling services they provided. Our mapping and review of NSW Health’s child protection and sexual assault counselling services supported the Ministry’s efforts to increase consistency and best practice in service delivery.

Monitoring for Family Relationship Services

(Department of Social Services, 2009-2011)

Monitoring for Family Relationship Services

(Department of Social Services, 2009-2011)

The Family Relationships Services Program consists of early intervention and post-separation services intended to improve family wellbeing. In 2008, ARTD was engaged to consult with the sector (through an online survey and in-depth face-to-face interviews) about the extent to which they currently collect intermediate client outcomes data (3-6 months after finishing services), and opportunities and barriers to collecting this data. After finding that existing data was limited, we worked with the Department and the sector to develop an appropriate methodology for collecting intermediate outcomes data and the ethics guidelines to support implementation. We pilot tested the methodology before implementing it with all service providers in all states and territories on three separate occasions. As a result of this research, the Department has been able to establish to what extent client benefits are maintained over the medium term.