Telepractice a viable option for families
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for child and family services to complement many of their in-person services with online and digital methods of delivery.
This rapid change has highlighted a range of issues, in particular how to adapt services and programs originally designed with in-person delivery in mind. Other challenges faced by child and family services include meeting the needs of all families; connectivity, accessibility and affordability issues; and concerns about how effective existing telepractice models are for use by child and family organisations, their staff and clients.
The Parenting Research Centre recognises there is a need to systematically build evidence around the advantages and challenges associated specifically with telepractice in child and family support, and to provide support to organisations in adopting good quality telepractice delivery.
While the use of digital technology to deliver services has existed for some time in health and related sectors, telepractice in the community sector has been slower in its establishment and use. The key is to better understand how telepractice can help to offer a continuum of services to meet the needs of families for all services.
What is telepractice?
Telepractice is the use of telecommunication technology to deliver professional services at a distance, using synchronous (client interactive, real-time) and/or asynchronous (“store and forward”, e.g. SMS, email) approaches.
In the past decade, barriers to using video conferencing technology has been reduced, access to broadband has improved, and digital literacy has increased. Young parents and families are increasingly confident in the use of digital technology and accessing services in this way.
When can telepractice help?
Expanding service options via telepractice gives child and family services the potential to reach more families who have traditionally been thought of as “hard-to-reach”. It provides a way of offering easier-to-reach services for isolated or transient families, those who have members with special needs, or those who have no viable transport options.
Service providers and practitioners may also benefit where multidisciplinary care or access to specialists is a priority.
PRC’s telepractice work
The Parenting Research Centre is undertaking four projects in 2020-21 related to telepractice in the community sector.
Telepractice in Parenting Support
This project, funded by the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, aims to increase our understanding of how quality and effective telepractice can support services and programs that may be:
- more effective for some issues
- more suited to some families
- more suited to some issues or challenges in parenting support.
Parental experience of telepractice: Qualitative research study
This qualitative research project, funded by the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, will examine families’ experience of services delivered using telehealth modalities.
Delphi study: Expert consensus on good practice in tele-practice
This project, funded by the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, draws on the expertise of a panel of experts to build consensus on contemporary best practice in telepractice.
Non-Government Organisations – Telepractice Venture
This collaborative project, funded by an Investor Group of seven agencies (Association of Child Welfare Agencies, Key Assets, Life Without Barriers, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, Social Futures, The Smith Family and Uniting) is focused on building capacity across the community sector to confidently deliver a suite of telepractice interventions alongside in-person services.
In collaboration with Karitane, NGOs and peak bodies, we aim to build the skills and knowledge of the existing workforce to deliver quality, effective telepractice. This is happening via a process of developing, testing and trialling resources within a community of practice. A telepractice development framework provides guidance and methods for this process. By June 2021, the collaborating agencies will have trialled at least one resource each and shared findings with the CoP, with a greater aim of sharing this more broadly within the sector.