Intensive family support program improves child safety
A Queensland Government program providing intensive support to vulnerable families is successfully reducing child protection notifications, our evaluation work shows.
The Queensland Intensive Family Support Service launched in 2015 to improve safety for children and families. It does this by providing intensive and extended support and building parents’ skills and capacity.
A Parenting Research Centre and University of Queensland evaluation of the service found it was addressing an important gap in the Queensland service system. This was because it provided intensive, case-managed support for vulnerable families to help them safely care for their children.
The service model involves a lead case manager and a single case plan for each family, practical-in-home support and access to specialist services and resources. As measured by the evaluation, half the families involved received support for between 7-12 months.
Our extensive, mixed methods evaluation looked at outcomes as well as how the service was implemented across 22 Queensland sites. The research team used methods such as rapid evidence assessment, interviews with service staff, a workforce survey, family interviews and data analysis.
Parenting Research Centre Principal Research Specialist and a project lead, Dr Catherine Wade, said the findings were strongly positive.
“We found the program improved life skills, resilience and child safety in the vast majority of families involved,” she said.
In addition, some other key findings were:
- 76% of families had reduced or resolved their needs at exit from the program
- 60% of staff surveyed felt the service was effective in reducing entry/re-entry to Child Safety
- The child protection escalation rate dropped from 12% to 7%.
Dr Wade said the research also highlighted areas for continuing improvement. These included:
- addressing variations in program delivery and staff training across regional areas
- the need for guidelines to improve management of very complex cases
- a need for training, tools and support for those working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
“Generally there were positive findings, but there are challenges to consider in making adjustments to the program in the future,” she said.
Dr Wade and Parenting Research Centre Director Annette Michaux presented the findings at an all-day forum in October, to more than 100 senior Queensland Government representatives, Intensive Family Support Service providers, regional directors and other key stakeholders.
“It was very well received,” Dr Wade said.
“They found the evaluation valuable in terms of the potential to make changes to the way the service is rolled out in future so they can achieve even better outcomes for children.”
The Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women has now commissioned the Parenting Research Centre to conduct further work following the success of the IFS evaluation.
- Read about our approach to evaluation