PARKERVILLE CHILDREN AND YOUTH CARE – FAMILY PRESERVATION SERVICE
Working at the cold face with some of our most vulnerable clients, is the Family Preservation Service Team or FPS as they are commonly referred to.
This team is made up of a Program Coordinator, several case managers and a Psychologist and sit under the directorate of Therapeutic Services.
The Department of Child Protection and Family Support refers families to our service when there are child protection concerns and a risk of children going into care. Our role is to work intensively with families to address the concerns and prevent apprehension of the children. This intensive work can include transport to appointments, referrals to specialist services, practical assistance with housing, liaison and advocacy with other services involved, counselling with team Psychologist and other support based on the family needs.
Our main focus is relationship building with families and services to ensure that the above work can be completed successfully.
There were significant concerns from the Department of Child Protection and Family Support regarding ongoing domestic violence incidents between a mother and her partner. The two children were exposed to physical and verbal abuse and ongoing threats of violence. The mother also had several mental health issues often displaying self-harming behaviour, suicidal ideation and episodes of manic and irrational behaviour.
The Department of Child Protection and Family Support concerns focused on the mother’s inability to manage her mental health, which was believed to have led to neglect, in the form of the children not having food or attending school regularly. The mother’s mental health also appeared to impact negatively upon her capacity to acknowledge her children’s emotional needs; on some occasions the mother would ignore her children’s existence, and refuse to recognize that her parenting impacted upon the children’s behaviour. The mother would also frequently invite the perpetrator of domestic violence into the family home, despite a violence restraining order being in place.
Initially the Parkerville Children and Youth Care Family Preservation Service case manager responded to crises regarding the mother’s mental health. During this time several home visits were conducted to observe family interactions. It became obvious that mum was overwhelmed with the behaviours of her younger children, allowing for the eldest child to attempt to parent the younger children in the home. There appeared to be minimal consistency of discipline, and mum would often berate and blame the older children for difficult behaviours of the younger children.
The mother was highly resistant to engaging with formal parenting programmes, believing she was powerless to alter her children’s behaviours. Our case manager conducted several informal parenting sessions with the mother. Parenting strategies, self-regulation tools and components of the “Bringing up Great Kids” programme were introduced, practiced and reinforced during times of stable mental health. Simplified versions of this information were accessible during times of poor mental health.
Our team facilitated several morning routine home visits to introduce rewards charts and behaviour management techniques with the mother and her youngest child. The mother initially had some difficulty being consistent in the new routines and following through, however was able to work with us to modify these strategies to allow for ongoing suitability for the family.
In conjunction with this, our case manager supported the mother to obtain crisis management and ongoing psychological and psychiatric support on a regular and consistent basis. This allowed for the mother to reflect on her parenting style. The mother now clearly identifies her children’s physical and emotional needs, regardless of mental health status.
The case manager referred the children to certain programs they could access through their school or on weekends. There was ongoing liaison to ensure the services were providing suitable support to the children. These services offered camps, counselling, protective behaviours program, and other needs based support.
Safety plans were also developed with the children to ensure they were able to identify then they are in an unsafe situation and know how to seek assistance. The children had a close relationship with FPS Case Manager and were able to discuss any concerns in a safe environment.
The mother also attended a 10 week Family Domestic Violence program, prompting her to consider the impact of prolonged exposure to domestic violence on her children. The mother appeared to have an increased sense of empathy and insight into her children’s behaviours, and began responding to difficult behaviours in a calm and compassionate manner. The impact of these interventions has led to improved parenting capacity and functioning for the mother and a more consistent predictable environment within the home for the children.