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New early intervention pilot program aims to keep families together

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The State Government will pilot a ground-breaking new early intervention program specifically developed for South Australian families at risk of having their children enter the child protection system.

The $2.8 million program will engage 46 families and about 138 children each year and will be delivered by Anglicare SA over two years from early 2019. 

The program's aim is to ensure children are not experiencing abuse and neglect earlier and to keep families together, if safe to do so. The pilot will be run in Adelaide's Northern suburbs, an area of greatest need as determined by previous State Government funded research. 

Specialist support staff will give families intensive, face-to-face, in-home contact and use evidence-based intervention approaches from across Australia and around the world. 

The service will work with families who have multiple complexities and trauma histories. This may include families with histories of domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child protection notifications. 

The pilot program forms part of the State Government's response to the 2016 Nyland Report. 

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said the new government was determined to do more to prevent child abuse and neglect in South Australia, which included a focus on early intervention.

"This pilot program is about ensuring vulnerable families have the right supports in place to manage complex issues and hopefully avoid seeing their children enter the child protection system," said Minister Lensink. 

"The new government wants to give parents the best possible chance to look after their kids safely at home - keeping in mind that many of these parents have experienced trauma in their lives themselves. 

"Early intervention and prevention is a high priority of this government so we can begin to stem the flow of children entering the child protection system in South Australia."

Minister Lensink has been tasked with leading South Australia's child abuse and neglect early intervention and prevention system redesign. 

"This pilot is part of our broader redesign of the child abuse and neglect prevention system, where we're focused on evidence-based interventions that create sustainable, long-term solutions," said Minister Lensink. 

"Getting into the family home before crisis point and helping South Australian mums and dads will hopefully keep family units together, and we know keeping children in a safe, family environment is the best outcome."

Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson welcomed the pilot program. 

"We know that, while our child protection system is critical, we also need to invest in services that support vulnerable families before they end up in the system," said Minister Sanderson. 

"The State Government is committed to continuing to improve the child protection system in South Australia and protecting the state's most vulnerable children in our absolute priority."

AnglicareSA Chief Executive Office Peter Sandeman said the service would draw on pre-existing, tested programs interstate and overseas, such as the US-based HomeBuilders model. 

"We know that intensive family support is effective and if children can stay safely within their birth family, then that's by far the best place for them to be," said Mr Sandeman. 

"It is clear from our work at AnglicareSA that, faced with the risk of losing their children, many families will work hard to get back on track and this program will help them do just that.

"We believe that we can make significant impacts at a critical time, which will mean long-term positive outcomes for children and their families. It will strengthen our community and benefit our economy."

AnglicareSA, the Department for Child Protection and the Early Intervention Research Directorate will co-design the program over the coming months.