The aim of Jessica’s Fellowship project was to research innovative parent/family inclusion and partnership approaches in child welfare. Jessica’s travels took her to the United States, Norway and England. Jessica explored a range of initiatives and programs that aim to build a family inclusive approach to child protection and out of home care (child welfare) practice especially when children have been removed by statutory child welfare agencies and placed in care.
The project focused on three key areas:
• Peer work in child welfare – Peer workers are defined as parents who have had personal experiences with the child welfare system and offer advocacy and support to parents currently in volved in the system.
• Child focused relationship building between birth parents and foster or other types of carers when children are in care.
• Parent leadership – in the interests of children. The project explored initiatives within the system, direct service provision and coalitions and activism aimed at improving the system. Many agencies and programs provide direct services to help child welfare involved parents and their children and they also lobby and advocate for systemic change to improve the system overall.
The project revealed a range of practical ideas and strategies to be considered for implementation in Australia. Many of these strategies can be implemented within current resources and have the potential to bring about significant and long lasting positive change for children and families. Jessica’s report provides a description and analysis of her findings in the USA, Canada, Norway and the UK. The report provides background and context to the project and explores why family inclusion is essential to the wellbeing of children. She then provides a summary of some of the elements or components of family inclusive practice that she uncovered overseas. The main part of the report is dedicated to three opportunities for innovation and change – peer work, carer and parent relationships and parent leadership. Finally, Jessica proposes how the range of family inclusion initiatives can be integrated into the Australian system and make recommendations for implementation and change.
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