This is a positive result that reflects the pro-active approach taken by both NSW Family and Community Services and the non-government social services sector, which have been working collaboratively to deliver early intervention services that seek to keep families together.
Targeted early intervention child protection programs assist vulnerable families to develop parenting capacity while mitigating child protection risks. CatholicCare’s family preservation service in the Upper Hunter and Brighter Futures Safe Care program in the Manning, both funded by NSW Family and Community Services, centre on this premise and are achieving outstanding results for the families and their communities. A key focus of these programs is addressing vulnerabilities such as: domestic violence, neglect, alcohol and other drug abuse to ensure children can remain at home and live in a safe and loving environment.
Of course, the success of any early intervention program is not reliant on government and non-government agencies alone. Rather, the safety and protection of children is the responsibility of everyone. It takes vigilance, care and a sense that we all have a part to play in our local community to keep kids safe. To do that well, it is essential we connect and enquire about each other’s well-being and maintain a certain curiosity about the welfare of those who live near and around us. The earlier we can offer our neighbour informal support the more likely it is that services offered by agencies such as CatholicCare can be offered to societies most vulnerable.
In 2015/16 entries to care in NSW were 2.3 children per 1,000 dropping to 1.2 children per 1,000 in 2017/18. While the data is certainly encouraging, the fact remains there are still over 18,000 children and young people currently living in out of home care in NSW. It also does not reduce the need for foster care agencies to recruit new carers who can provide restorative care or permanency through open-adoption, guardianship or long term care for those children who, through no fault of their own, cannot live with their family.
That said, the data does demonstrate that early intervention services play a pivotal role in ensuring vulnerable children and young people are able to continue to live with their families after child protection concerns have been mitigated and parents have shown a willingness to change and are supported to do so.