Key Practice: Creative connection

Maintaining consistent connections with family is a crucial part of Our Way Home, especially when a child is in a care system that has all too often disrupted or severed those connections.

What is Creative Connection?

At Parkerville, we’re committed to maintaining connections between children and their families and communities, with the ultimate goal of getting kids safely home to their families wherever possible.

Everything we know about children’s development shows that lasting and consistent attachments to caring adults are critical for a child to develop into a healthy and well adult. Maintaining consistent connections with family is a crucial part of this, especially when a child is in a care system that has all too often disrupted or severed those connections.

That’s why the ‘Our Way Home’ model of care makes connections between children and families our default position and takes a creative, resilient, and genuinely collaborative approach to making that happen. Parkerville staff are committed to working with children and families to find creatively safe connection options so that every child can maintain a consistent and meaningful relationship with their family.

What does this look like?

Below are the principles that guide us in our creative connection work. These principles emerged from the co-design process undertaken by Parkerville in developing the Our Way Home model, and reflect the input of people with lived experience of care, families, and carers, as well as other professionals.

1. Connected as a default

Deliberate, planned connection with family for every child is our default position.

2. Planning connection together

Children and their families are meaningfully involved in connection planning.

3. Bouncing back and trying again

Staying resilient in the face of setbacks to make sure connection happens.

4. More and deeper connections

Every child should have the chance to move toward deeper connection with family.

5. Using creativity to manage risk

Shifting from a risk-averse approach to creatively safe connection.

6. Creating the conditions for quality time

Enabling a variety of connection activities that create memories and meaning.

Produced in collaboration with our partners at Innovation Unit, the ‘Creative Connection and Restoration’ Practice Guide contains more detailed information about creative connection work, including the principles and practices associated with this work, guidance on how to know whether this approach is working, and where the Parkerville team can go for support. This practice guide is being tested internally at Parkerville and will be made available publicly soon.

Tools for connection

To help carers put these principles into practice, Parkerville has developed hands-on tools that assist in the process of planning for meaningful and safe connection between children and their families.

The Connection Map helps us understand the existing connections between a child and their family or other important people in their life, and to plan for how the child would like to improve those connections over time.

The Connection Cards are a tool to help us generate creative ideas for ways to safely connect children with their families, and to move towards more and deeper connections over time.

Cards


Downloadable copies and more information about how to use these tools can be found in the Creative Connection and Restoration Practice Guide.

Tough but important work

Connecting children with their families can be a tough job. Families with children involved in the child protection system can have a lot going on and building relationships can be tense, needing patience and support.

The ‘Our Way Home’ model of care is designed to support the Care Team in connecting children with their families in structured and deliberate ways, from the creation of ‘bridge spaces’ and the role of the Family Link Worker to the range of tools, resources and guidance available.

Working with children and their families takes a committed, caring, empathetic, and resilient approach. Connection work involves a lot of trial and error, setbacks, and sometimes conflict — but when we commit to always trying again and finding another way, we demonstrate the unconditional care that every child deserves.

As carers and other staff start to build trusting relationships with them, each child’s family also becomes a valuable resource to help us understand the risks and plan for creative and safe connection, and eventually for reuniting the child with their family where possible or for developing positive adult relationships after the child transitions from care.

This work is tough but so important, and over time, it helps us to get the best outcomes for the children we care so much about.

Moving forward

Creative connection is one of the core features of the Our Way Home model, closely tied to the principle that all children should be ‘Connected by Default’ (you can learn more about the principles behind the model here). While we’ve provided some principles, tools and resources to the Parkerville team here, we know that this is complex work and that we’ll need to keep thinking, listening and responding as we move forward.

Our goal is that principles and tools like the ones we’ve shared here will be widely used not just at Parkerville, but across the care sector. We know that maintaining connections between children and the important people in their lives is crucial for ensuring positive outcomes, and we’ll continue to work hard to make sure that aspiration can become a reality.