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The Department of Community and Justice (DCJ) SafeCare Newsletter and update of the DCJ NSW SafeCare Trials. 

Strengthening Families


May 2020

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Welcome to the first NSW SafeCare Trial newsletter

As the DCJ SafeCare trial enters its third and final year of implementation, the program is well underway across the state.

In this first issue of the SafeCare newsletter we celebrate the first 100 families to complete the SafeCare program and congratulate the SafeCare trainers, coaches and providers who have received their SafeCare Certification.

We also look at innovative practice that providers and caseworkers have implemented, to deliver SafeCare remotely and support families during this challenging time of COVID-19.

First 100 Families Celebration

First 100 Families Celebration
SafeCare Program Course Modules 

SafeCare Module - Child HealthSafeCare Module - Parent Child InteractionSafeCare Module - Home Safety

SafeCare Celebrates the First 100 Families

On 9 March 2020, providers and partners of the NSW SafeCare trial met to celebrate an important milestone – the first 100 families to complete the SafeCare program in NSW.

From Doltone House overlooking the waters of Pyrmont Bay, representatives from the eight SafeCare trial sites across the state – Barnardos (Orana Far West), CareSouth (Illawarra), Catholic Care (Manning), Mission Australia (Wagga Wagga), Samaritans (Lake Macquarie-Newcastle), SDN (Sydney), Wesley Mission (Western Sydney), and Wandiyali (Newcastle-Hunter) – along with staff from DCJ, key trial partners – the Parenting Research Centre (PRC),  the National SafeCare Training and Research Centre (NSTRC) and the trial evaluator, Siggins Miller, came together in recognition of the success of the trial and of the positive impacts SafeCare is having in the child welfare and family preservation areas in NSW.

On the day, representatives from the trial sites received a Certificate of Appreciation from DCJ in acknowledging the many hours of training and consultation that go into providing and delivering an intensive parental skills training model such as SafeCare. The program is an important instrument in addressing some of the NSW Premier’s Priorities including protecting some of the state’s most vulnerable children, and striving to achieve ambitious life and quality of care outcomes for children, young people and families in NSW. In total, as of April 2020 there are now 58 active SafeCare providers along with 18 coaches and trainers, with 122 families having now successfully completed the SafeCare program in NSW. 

The event was also a chance to hear from the trial evaluator, Siggins Miller, on some early findings of the evaluation as they relate to program implementation and family engagement. The data and feedback proved positive, with initial findings suggesting that some early outcomes for families include improved confidence, safety behaviour, health awareness and improved parent-child interaction and relationships.

Overall, the 100 Families Celebration event was a huge success. Many thanks must go to Aunty Anne Weldon for her moving Welcome to Country; our special guests - the SafeCare families who attended on the day; and of course to all the staff and representatives from the trial sites and key trial partners, for making the day such a memorable one.

NB: Unfortunately due to health reasons the Minister for Families Communities and Disability Services, The Hon. Gareth Ward MP, was unable to attend on the day.

Meet a SafeCare Provider

DCJ recently caught up with Sarah Lipu, Casework Specialist and SafeCare Senior Coach with Mission Australia, to gain an insight into her ecperience working with families and the positie outcomes she has seen as a result of the SafeCare program. 
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about who you are and your role at Mission Wagga including your role in the delivery of SafeCare? I work as the Casework Specialist for Brighter Futures in Wagga, Tumut and Cootamundra. I’ve been in this role for about 2.5 years, and I was a Brighter Futures Case Manager prior to this. I never intended to work in this field, however, since starting, I have developed a keen interest in helping families to achieve meaningful, sustainable change. In particular, I am passionate about minimising the trauma children experience so that they can grow into happy, healthy young people and adults. When I heard about SafeCare and the supporting evidence around it, I was enthusiastic to see if it would help the families we work with. I trained as a SafeCare provider in 2017 and I am now the senior coach for Mission in Wagga. I still choose to provide SafeCare to families because I believe in the program.

During the time you’ve been delivering SafeCare (including your experience as a Coach), has there been a moment or memory that stands out for you? This is a challenging question because I have a lot of good memories about SafeCare, both as a provider and a coach. One of my favourite moments was with the very first client I delivered SafeCare to, she was a 17 year old mum with a baby and a two year old toddler. When I observed their play session at baseline, the mum sat on a chair with the two year old on the floor and they silently placed blocks into a bucket. There was no interaction or warmth in their play. The two year old had no language and was quiet throughout the activity. By the time we completed the Parent-Child Interaction module, they were both seated on the floor engaging in a warm, joyful game and they “talked” to one another. It was humbling to observe such a profound change between a mother and her child.

This young mum had a long child protection history of her own and never had access to positive role models herself. Once she learned the skills, she completely changed the way she parented. She even referred her pregnant 16 year old sister to us and encouraged her to do SafeCare; and so her sister completed the program as well.
What has been the best thing about delivering SafeCare to families in Wagga? The best thing is being able to observe meaningful, positive changes in families in a relatively short period of time. Delivering SafeCare to an engaged family is very rewarding. I love it when clients tell me how they used their new skills between sessions and when they have learned something new. I also feel that SafeCare fills a gap in Wagga (and probably elsewhere) in that it is a structured, evidence-based, intensive parenting program that is continuously monitored for quality assurance. There is nothing else like SafeCare available in Wagga and surrounds.
What has been the biggest challenge for Mission Wagga in delivering the SafeCare program? The biggest challenge for the team as a whole was working out how to incorporate SafeCare into Brighter Futures so that it is “business as usual”. Since it is a long program that requires weekly appointments, the timing needs to be right. Families need to be ready for change and they need to be stable. We have had most success with families who have received case management for a few months to address other needs such as mental health or domestic violence. Once some stability is achieved, SafeCare can be delivered more effectively. It has taken us some time to shift our collective mindset from SafeCare being separate from Brighter Futures, to SafeCare being a normal component of Brighter Futures.
How did you overcome these challenges?  We have worked together as a team to overcome this disjointed view of SafeCare and Brighter Futures. We added SafeCare to our Client Handbook which we review with clients in their initial appointment with us. We also take out a SafeCare flyer in the initial appointment.

This has helped us to see SafeCare in our everyday role rather than as an extra role. Sharing positive experiences about clients who do well in their end-of-module assessments and how they utilise their new skills in their everyday life has also helped. And finally, our experience has helped. We are now competent and confident in “pitching” SafeCare to clients and in selecting the right client at the right time. New providers are able to tap into the experience and knowledge of more experienced providers.

In overcoming these challenges what was most surprising to you? I suppose because it felt much more challenging in the beginning, I am surprised to look back and see that we have achieved our goal of making SafeCare a normal part of Brighter Futures. All our team members – even those not yet trained – are very familiar with SafeCare and are incorporating it into case plans. SafeCare now feels easy and it is clearer now how it actually fits in perfectly with the Brighter Futures program.
What have you learned during the trial of the SafeCare program?  I have learned so much that I couldn’t list it all here! I believe my own skills and knowledge in parenting has developed because I learned some new things when I first came across the content of SafeCare. I learned that many clients actually thrive on the challenge of learning new things every week and showcasing their new skills to their SafeCare provider, family and friends. And I have learned a lot about data collection and the implementation of a new program!
What would you say to families who are considering participating in the SafeCare program? I am yet to meet a person – client or provider – that hasn’t got anything valuable out of SafeCare. I have heard so many parents say that they wish they had access to SafeCare when their children were younger! We’ve only received positive feedback from clients in the Parent Satisfaction Surveys. It is a practical, evidenced-based program that really does have the potential to change how families function and interact with one another. I honestly believe in SafeCare and have seen firsthand how it can help parents to keep their children safe, healthy and happy.

What do you think other people should know about both the SafeCare program?  My first impression of SafeCare was that it is very rigid and it wouldn’t suit many of our clients. I now know that SafeCare can be flexible and adaptable. We don’t have to trade in our client-centred, collaborative and individualised approach for the sake of program fidelity. I have come across many creative ideas from the SafeCare community about supplementary materials and different strategies to help deliver the program to a diverse population. As I get more comfortable and familiar with the program, I am able to sound more natural when reading parts of the Provider Manual and I can help the client to connect the information to their individual circumstances. I think this is important to know, particularly for new providers who might feel a little robotic at first.

Lastly, what inspires you?  The SafeCare community – the National SafeCare Training and Research Centre (NSTRC), the Parenting Research Centre (PRC), DCJ and other agencies – inspire me! I love hearing about how other providers are delivering the program, about their innovations, the ways they have overcome challenges and their success stories. I have found the SafeCare community very supportive.

Our clients also inspire me. When a client uses their skills between sessions and when I can observe meaningful change from week to week, that really inspires me. The last client I completed the program said to me, “I’ll be the first parent in three generations to keep my children and not have them placed into out-of-home-care.” I felt so motivated to continue on my SafeCare journey and I get a great sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.  
SafeCare Remote Delivery Webinar

On 22 April, 2020, DCJ held a SafeCare remote delivery webinar for agencies to share and discuss innovative practice and creative ways that caseworkers and providers are employing to deliver SafeCare remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.

We were very fortunate to have Ms LeCole White - State Manager for SafeCare Arkansas, present at the webinar along with, Ms Emma Robertson - Team Leader CareSouth, Ms Kate Beasley from Wesley Care and Ms Nikki Reece from Catholic Care along with their colleagues. 

A common theme throughout the session, was the importance of maintaining a flexible and family focused approach in developing strategies for delivering SafeCare remotely. 

With many families now engaging in Health, Safety and Parent Child Interaction (PCI) modules via virtual home visits, some of the strategies discussed in the webinar include, the development of a remote SafeCare practice and procedure manual, pre-arranged delivery of resources and module packs to families prior to conducting sessions, the colour coding of provider and family modules in resources, arranging sessions after hours and around the family's meal times, setting rules and clear expectations with families prior to sessions and maintaining contact  with families every 5 -10 minutes during a session. 
One of the main challenges highlighted for family participation in virtual home visits, was access to a phone, computer, or data. CareSouth advised that they had been providing families with phones and collaborating with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for the provision of iPads, data and the purchase of software, in an effort to keep families connected and engaged.  

For agencies continuing with house visits and maintaining face to face contact with families, there was a mix of strategies discussed, with some agencies conducting risk assessments prior to visiting. Others have been preparing meals and activity packs and delivering to families to enable the sessions to run more smoothly. With some agencies managing service continuity by maintaining social distancing measures and meeting families within an open space at their homes, keeping visits inside the home to a maximum of 15 minutes and in some cases, bringing chairs to allow providers and family members to sit outside and additional equipment to ensure continuity of the delivery and maintaining fidelity of the program.

Additional information about delivering remote practice, can be found on the DCJ website:
SafeCare Implementation Update
The SafeCare Central Implementation Team (CIT) provides oversight and governance of the implementation of the SafeCare program across the eight trial sites within New South Wales (NSW).

The latest CIT data released in April 2020, reports the overall progress of the program since commencement of the trial in October 2017. Of the 437 families originally engaged with the trial, a total of 122 families have now successfully completed the program, with 76 families currently engaged in SafeCare.

The succession rate for families completing each of the SafeCare modules shows a reduction as the families progressed through the program, with a total of 210 families reaching completion of the first module. From this group a total of 137 families progressed to completing the second module, with 122 families completing all three modules (Module 1 - Parent-Infant /Child Interaction, Module 2 – Health Care Skills, Module 3 – Home Safety).

There are a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and families who have completed or been involved in the NSW SafeCare trial. Wandiyali, a specialist Aboriginal community and children's organisation is delivering SafeCare in NSW as part of the trial. There are also three Aboriginal staff working in non-Aboriginal Brighter Futures agencies where SafeCare is being delivered and delivering SafeCare. Two of these staff members are also SafeCare coaches.

Overall, implementation of the program has progressed significantly with an increase in the number of SafeCare certified active providers (including coaches) currently reaching 58, with 18 new providers completing their training and progressing towards SafeCare certification.

Further, following the SafeCare training for coaches held in March, NSW now has seven certified coaches trained to deliver the SafeCare program, with seven trainee coaches currently progressing toward certification.
NSW Trainers
NSW Trainers

DCJ have partnered with the National SafeCare Training and Research Centre (NSTRC) to roll out SafeCare training and accreditation. NSTRC is the purveyor of SafeCare and delivers training and support for child protection systems and agencies around the world, so that they can deliver SafeCare to families.

In March of this year, one of the NSTRC senior trainers travelled to Australia to certify two new trainers in New South Wales. We now have seven trainers as part of the trial: three with Wesley Mission, one with CareSouth and four trainers with the Parenting Research Centre (PRC). 

Please click on the link below for further reading:

A hearty round of congratulations to all the new SafeCare coaches who recently received their Certification! Here's to you;- Amanda Jeffrey (Senior Coach - Barnardos), Meredith Shannon (Coach - Barnardos), Emma Van Seumeren (Coach - CareSouth), Tori Gammell (Coach - CareSouth), Emma Robertson (Trainer - CareSouth), Lauren Pengelley (Senior Coach - CareSouth), Bethany Granger (Senior Coach - CareSouth), Samantha Cassell (Senior Coach - Samaritans), Jackson Porter (Senior Coach - Samaritans), Sarah Lipu (Senior Coach - Mission Australia), Peta Tindall ( Coach - Mission Australia), Nicki Reece (Coach - CatholicCare), Anna Burman (Coach - SDN Children's Services), Tanya Tregillgas (Coach - SDN Children's Services), Sophie Varvell (Trainer - Wesley Mission), Louise Vincin (Trainer - Wesley Mission), Kate Beasley (Trainer - Wesley Mission) and Alexander Wagner (Coach - Wesley Mission). Well done everybody, and may this be the beginning of a very fruitful journey for you all!

Also, a round of congratulatory cheer to the providers who received their certification during April. Here's to Rebecca Burns (Barnardos) and Suzie Mannis (Samaritans).

A cheer of support and shout out to Wandiyali who recently delivered their first SafeCare session, great work team!

SafeCare Evaluation
Evaluation of the SafeCare three year pilot is being undertaken by Siggins Miller Consultants who have completed their preliminary report of the progress in implementing SafeCare so far. 

Overall, the evidence suggests that families are successfully engaging in the program and achieving positive outcomes including, improved confidence, safety-conscious behaviours, increased health awareness and positive parent-child interaction.

The feedback from families who have completed the program has been very positive, with families reporting that SafeCare has helped them with their parenting-;

 “Everyone that has a baby should do this course, it would make things so much easier… especially for me, I don’t have parents to say ‘do this, don’t do that, this is normal’ so I thought, I don’t know what to do, someone tell me what to do.” (SafeCare Participant)

"I’ve been through drug abuse and domestic violence since I was 13, you sort of lose yourself, being with someone who is emotional and violent towards you, you lose all of your self-esteem…. My [SafeCare provider] has really helped me, just having someone to talk to and always supporting me, it's really helped me find me again.” (SafeCare Participant)

“I just want my kids to grow up happy, safe and healthy…[the SafeCare program] showed me a lot that I was actually doing right and some things I could improve on… it felt very good to learn that I was doing so much” (Department of Communities and Justice- "Protecting our Kids")
"[The program] helped me and I'm thankful that I've done it. I think that every parent, even couples should do it, because it's really good." (article 10/3/2020 -the Illawarra Mercury, Wollongong).

"Doing the course is helping me... (It's) helping [my child] to stay in my care, and for me to be able to care for her in the best way possible," (article 10/3/2020- the Illawarra Mercury, Wollongong)


DCJ is currently in the process of planning SafeCare training. Further information and details will be released in the coming months. 


SafeCare In the Media
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