2021 – year in review
At the end of 2020, few of us would have anticipated another full 12 months dealing with COVID-19. Yet that is what transpired, and again we can be proud of what we have achieved under these challenging circumstances.
Over the course of the year we continued to make a contribution to the community’s effort in navigating the pandemic through the Raising Children Network, with 200,000 pageviews of our COVID-19 and families content during 2021. The Raising Children Network also launched Raising Healthy Minds, a new app filled with tips and practical ideas to help parents and carers raise confident, resilient children aged 0-12, and to help the professionals who support them.
And our work in telepractice expanded, supported by the Victorian Government Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. This year saw new telepractice resources developed by the NGO (Non-Government Organisations) Telepractice Venture, led by the Parenting Research Centre and Karitane with input from leading NGO agencies and peak bodies, as well as government support and representation from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.
Throughout the year, we continued to support the implementation of a range of parenting support programs, impressed by the commitment and ingenuity of our partners who have continued to support families through the pandemic. This work included:
- Promoting our free online Reframing Parenting course for policy makers, service providers and practitioners
- Partnering with Nous Consulting Group on the NDIA-commissioned work to help shape reforms to the Early Childhood Early Intervention approach the NDIS will take into the future
- Contributing to the development of the National Disability Strategy focused on the need to provide tailored, evidence-based information and supports to parents who have cognitive and learning difficulties
- Participating in high-level advisory groups guiding the development of Australia’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and the next iteration of the National framework for child safety and wellbeing
- Being a part of the establishment of the Parenting and Family Research Alliance (PAFRA) – a new organisation that brings together Australian family and parenting researchers to address common issues and advocate for evidence-based parenting support
- Establishing a new practice leadership initiative that brings together senior personnel from our partner organisations and funding agencies to explore leadership issues in practice design and development.
We worked to advance evidence-based policy, services and systems
Helping organisations to evaluate their parenting and family support initiatives is a key way that we support the sector in building and using evidence. Examples of this work for 2021 include:
- With funding from the NSW Government, and in partnership with the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre of Australia and Deakin Health Economics at Deakin University, leading an independent evaluation of the LINKS Trauma Healing Service, which found the service is having significant effects on placement stability for children and young people in out-of-home care
- Conducting an independent evaluation of the HIPPY Age 3 program, on behalf of the Brotherhood of St Laurence
- Evaluating the Association for Children with Disability (ACD)’s Teens & Beyond program, which is designed to support families of adolescents with a disability using a peer-support model
- Being funded by the South Australian government to partner with CIRCA and Deakin University to evaluate the implementation, outcomes and costs associated with two intensive family preservation programs for children at imminent risk of placement in out-of-home care
- An evaluation role with the Emerging Minds National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health to understand uptake of and satisfaction with elements of the Emerging Minds strategy, including conducting focus groups with eLearning participations, interviews with staff and leading three implementation case studies with organisations using Emerging Minds resources
- The NSW Ministry of Health funded us to examine the delivery and reach of SMS4dads, a novel text messaging approach to engagement of perinatal fathers
- The completion of an evaluation of CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes’ Skillbuilders program, a NSW-based after-school program for remote and rural children to promote safe and secure relationships with adult role models.
We drove innovation in parenting support
This year saw us continue our work in designing and implementing evidence-based practice frameworks. Key pieces of work include:
- Being part of a consortium awarded a $9.44 million grant from the Australian Government to develop the Connect and Care program – an Australian-first nationally coordinated triage service, focused on the mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents
- Developing an overarching model of care for the Tasmanian Child Health and Parenting Service
- Partnering with NOUS Consulting Group to support the co-design of a consistent, evidence-informed approach to identifying, assessing, and responding to children exhibiting problematic and harmful sexual behaviour for the NSW Ministry of Health
- Identifying and articulating a consistent approach to assessment and safety planning across the Family Connect and Support service (NSW)
- Collaborating with researchers at Western Sydney University and the University of Wollongong to contribute to their review of the policy, guidelines, and training of Safe Start, a NSW Health initiative
- Assisting with the design and implemention of the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training’s evaluation of the Play, Learn, Grow SMS text-based program.
In addition, our three-yearly Parenting Today in Victoria survey continues to demonstrate its value with the release this year of interesting insights into parental use of technologies and parental self-care and self-compassion.
We continued to drive practice leadership in our sector, with a focus on the role of senior leadership in effective implementation, as well as on the role of Continuous Practice Improvement.
Continuous Practice Improvement is a systematic, data-driven approach to driving improvement in practice and thus improved client outcomes, and is a key feature of our PracticeWorks process. Our PracticeWorks methodology helps to define good child and family practice, support it, and continually improve on it.
This year we continued our work with a range of agencies in designing and implementing evidence-based practice frameworks utilising our PracticeWorks methodology including Windermere, The Smith Family, Wanslea Family Services, Barnardos Australia, Churches of Christ Family Services in Queensland and OzChild.
We increased reach and impact of evidence-based parenting support
We advanced the adoption of evidence-based approaches to parenting support through a range of knowledge translation and implementation activities, including:
- continued support for the implementation of the SafeCare program in NSW
- expanded the implementation of smalltalk across Victoria
- coordinated the MyTime program across Austraila.
Fond farewell and warm welcomes
We farewelled Julie Green who retired after nearly 10 years at the helm of the Raising Children Network, and welcomed Derek McCormack into the role of Director.
We also welcomed Heather Finlayson to the Parenting Research Centre board.
Adapting and learning as an organisation
It’s important that an organisation like ours remains agile and adaptive, and this year has been no exception. We continued to work effectively remotely, adding to our learnings about how best to use tools like video conferencing.
Despite the additional challenges staff faced in working remotely through lockdowns, our staff engagement survey indicated continuing high levels of staff wellbeing and engagement. Indeed, we were proud to receive a Best Workplace Award from Voice Project.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of our staff, many whom have had to navigate very challenging situations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as juggling work with home learning.
With best wishes for a safe and relaxing festive season,
CEO, Parenting Research Centre