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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Services (FWS) are community-controlled family support services that seek to build the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to care for and nurture their children where multiple or complex needs are present.
FWS provide intensive family support that includes:
- practical services to address a specific need in the family, such as transport to medical appointments, or establishing daily routines related to meals or getting to school
- personal support and development in areas such as parenting skills, budgeting and household management
- clinical or therapeutic services including case work, counselling, emotional support, family mediation, anger management, domestic violence intervention programs and the development of social supports
- enabling services to link the family to other supports such as housing, child care and education, emergency relief payments and rental assistance.
Determine eligibility for a referral
FWS work with a range of families across the child protection continuum. The referral criteria is as follows:
- the child or the child’s parent identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
- one or both parents consent to the referral, or, for an unborn child, the mother consents to the referral
- the child is 0–18 years of age, or the pregnant woman consents to the referral when the concerns relate to an unborn child
- the family would benefit from access to the FWS
- the family has multiple or complex needs.
A family can be referred to a FWS:
- for early intervention, including a child who is not currently in need of protection and who is at risk of entering or re-entering the statutory child protection system
- when a child is assessed as being in need of protection, or an unborn child is assessed as in need of protection after birth, and the provision of service may reduce the need for the child to enter care
- when the child is in care and the goal of the case plan is reunification within 12 months.
When considering a referral to a FWS, the definition of a parent includes:
- the child’s mother, father or someone else having or exercising parental responsibility for the child
- a person who, under Aboriginal tradition, is regarded as a parent of the child
- a person who, under Island custom, is regarded as a parent of the child.
A parent does not include a foster carer. Kinship carers providing a care arrangement should receive support in the first instance from a funded foster and kinship care service.
However, kin who are in a caring role for a child are generally eligible to receive support from a FWS. This may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult siblings and cousins.
Engage with the family to seek consent
While the Child Protection Act 1999 allows referrals to occur without consent, it is considered best practice to obtain consent whenever possible to share a child’s or family’s information and refer them to a service.
If consent from the family for the referral cannot be obtained, the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159M enables particular prescribed entities to refer to intensive family support services, including a FWS, without a family’s consent. This is to ensure a child and family receive the services they need to decrease the likelihood of a child becoming in need of protection.
The exception to the information above is in relation to unborn children. A referral to a FWS cannot be made in relation to a pregnant woman and her unborn child without the woman’s consent.
If, after the referral is discussed with the family that has been assessed as benefiting from family support, the family:
- do not wish to be referred to a FWS
- do not choose to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, speak with them:
- to try to understand their views, what support they believe would be appropriate and to ensure they fully understand the purpose of the referral
- about referring them to an intensive family support service or other local support service if they still do not wish to be referred to a FWS. (Refer to Procedure 1 Referral to another agency.)
Complete the referral
To complete a FWS referral, complete the online referral form in the Family and Child Connect portal.
The form will provide options to refer to Family and Child Connect, an Intensive Family Support Service, or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander FWS. Select the option to refer the family to a FWS and complete all other details required on the form.
Attach a copy of the completed referral in the relevant event in ICMS.
Referrals for early intervention
If a referral is completed for early intervention for a child who is not in need of protection, Child Safety will have no further involvement once the referral is made.
Respond when a family does not engage following an early intervention referral
If Child Safety refers a family to a FWS and the family does not engage with the service, or cannot be contacted, the service must advise Child Safety. In these circumstances and where no new concerns are raised:
- In ICMS in the same event that the referral is recorded, record the information:
- in a case note (if verbal advice is provided)
- as an attachment (if written advice is provided and the event remains open)
- in a case note (if verbal advice is provided)
- email the senior team leader responsible for the event to advise them that the family has not been engaged.
If new or additional concerns are reported by the service, assess the information in line with usual intake procedures. (Refer to Procedure 1 Receive and respond at intake.)
Referrals for a child in need of protection
If a referral is completed for a child in need of protection or for an unborn child who is assessed as in need of protection after birth, Child Safety retains case management responsibility for the child and their family and continues to meet case planning and case management requirements.
As part of ongoing intervention, Child Safety will engage with the FWS on a regular basis, including for any case planning or review processes, to share information about:
- the type of support services provided to the child and family
- the outcomes achieved from the support services provided
- the issues or worries that still need to be addressed.
In addition to involving a FWS during ongoing intervention, if the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Child Safety will:
- Apply the 5 elements of the child placement principle.
- Give the child and family the opportunity to have an independent person to help facilitate the child’s and family’s participation in any significant decisions.
- Give the child and family the opportunity to participate in family-led decision making facilitated by the Family Participation Program, when relevant. (Refer to Procedure 5 Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the Family Participation Program).
Respond when a family is eligible for a family wellbeing service and intensive family support service
If the child and family are eligible for both the FWS and another intensive family support service, before making a referral:
- Contact both the FWS and intensive family support service to:
- obtain information about the level of support each agency could provide to the family, giving consideration to the family’s needs
- determine the likelihood that a referral would be accepted.
- Discuss both services with the family and seek their opinion as to which service they would prefer.
For further information, refer to Procedure 1 Referral to another agency.
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