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In this issue:

Interview with Meredith Shannon - Barnardos

Meredith Shannon

Thank you Meredith for agreeing to feature in our third edition of the SafeCare newsletter.  Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about who you are and your role at Barnardos, including your role in the delivery of SafeCare?

Hi everyone, I am originally from and grew up in a rural community in New South Wales (NSW) and have a background in early childhood, approximately 25 years…. my goodness, where did that time go! Throughout my career I have worked and lived in large cities, overseas, rural and remote communities, and am now settled in the beautiful town of Mudgee, in Central West NSW.

I have been with Barnardos for just over three years, starting in the Family Support program and moving to the Brighter Futures program in 2018. I became a certified SafeCare provider in December 2019, and as of August this year, I am a certified SafeCare coach. I absolutely love both roles, working with wonderful families and amazingly talented SafeCare coaches and providers.

This issue features an article about sustainability of the SafeCare program and ways that providers are supporting families to complete the program whilst also providing ongoing support to families.  What strategies have Barnardos implemented to keep families engaged and could you highlight those that have been most successful so far?

I think first and foremost, one of the key successful ways to keep families engaged is, by keeping the focus on and always bringing it back to how SafeCare benefits their children, supports their development, and how SafeCare skills will continue to enhance their connection with their children.

Also, being well prepared as a provider and having clear discussions around the process and structure of the program before and throughout the program.

Some of the ways we at Barnardos have supported families to complete the program has involved incentives. By exploring supports that the family may need, such as grocery vouchers, working off a Work and Development Order (WDO) debt or even pool passes, we’re able to provide a stable position for the family so they can focus on the SafeCare program and really take it in.

Addressing other issues, such as ensuring the family has stable housing, before starting the SafeCare program always seems to allow for successful completion.

Having a separate SafeCare provider and Brighter Futures caseworker can also allow for more meaningful SafeCare engagement and timely completion.

Providers have been known to take lunch or make a meal with the family for their dinner (along with provision of a crockpot), as part of the program and giving choices about which module the family would like to do, how and where delivery occurs, often helps.

We have found that, regular checking in with the family to see how they are feeling about the topic, module or session, and being mindful to be present and monitor for signs the family might be dis-engaging, assists greatly with supporting families to complete the program.

Allowing time before and after sessions for meaningful engagement and not rushing a visit with a family helps with building rapport and families feel supported.

And of course, always being non-judgemental, flexible and understanding, especially when it comes to rescheduling.

What do you perceive to be the barriers to families initially engaging, and remaining engaged with the SafeCare program?

I think the initial barrier is the fear of the unknown, even with clear explanations. Until you’ve started the program, the families just don’t know what it looks like. I think for many the idea of being recorded is off putting and knowing they are being observed can lead to feeling they are being judged. The distances some providers travel to deliver SafeCare can be up to a four hour round trip, so modules can take a lot longer to complete, especially when it comes to cancellations and rescheduling. Since traveling these distances means we must reschedule, it will nearly always have to be for the following week, therefore momentum is lost and it can feel very drawn out.

Other priorities such as housing issues, specialist appointments, or on a not so good day, mental health issues, can mean a planned session does not go ahead, in some cases for several weeks.

Starting the program too early or too late in the case plan has also been known to lead to disengagement.

As a SafeCare coach what strategies have you and/or Barnardos, established to overcome these barriers?

We always focus on promoting SafeCare and its benefits for the family and their children, often revisiting and referring to the engagement chapter in the SafeCare manual.

During coaching sessions where there seem to be barriers with engaging, we will really explore and dig down to what the possible barriers might be, then brainstorm ideas together that might work to move past these barriers. This could include a different way/type of asking open ended questions that allow for further understanding of the family’s situation.

We will use the Explain Model and Practice Feedback (EMPF) model in our coaching sessions, going over the session together and role playing, incorporating strategies discussed. I have found drawing on some of my own experiences and strategies has helped in collaborating with providers on ideas.

We have explored ideas around putting the recorder out of sight, so it is not obviously in front of the parent during delivery, which seemed to work well.

Sometimes having a small break (usually in-between modules) and or revisiting at a later date has also helped, along with splitting or combining (where possible) sessions.

Barnardos have purchased a library of laptops to assist where needed with remote delivery, and incentives can help. Basically, the toolbox of strategies mentioned earlier, are the ones we discuss during coaching. It’s these strategies that we use and implement to assist overcoming the barriers.

Working with a service provider where so many families are situated remotely must have a unique set of challenges. Could you share some of the innovative strategies that Barnardos has adopted to provide support to families who are located remotely?

Flexibility is most definitely key, but we have also explored and used provision of phone credit to allow for FaceTime and facilitate remote delivery (where service allows), also the option for use of laptops for families when needed.

Delivery of SafeCare in safe spaces for the families, be that outdoors or on their verandah, if it works for a family when they are coming to town for the day we can organise to meet in a park, library, at a childcare service, or any environment that is comfortable (and safe) for the family.

Since COVID-19 restrictions have eased and as our remote communities have not had close contact with the virus, families have been able to be a little less vigilant about the rules around social distancing, and so, as SafeCare providers we continue to discuss, model and provide resources to ensure the program is part of the everyday practice.

We also talk with families about accessing emergency services, depending on where they live which may involve meeting an ambulance on the road or air ambulance. We link Aboriginal families with local Aboriginal Health Services where possible and available. There are often different types of hazards on farms like livestock, dams, machinery and chemicals, so it is important to ensure there is a focus on supervision addressing on farm safety hazards for the children.

In delivering SafeCare to so many families, has there been a moment or memory that stands out for you?

I think it is always so exciting when you go back to see a family for the next session, and they are obviously using the SafeCare skills, not because they are trying to impress, but because they have literally needed or wanted to use them.

For example, one young couple that I had delivered one session of the Health Module to, were concerned about a continuous rash that appeared on their son and weren’t sure what to do. So, mum showed me how she had completed several health recording charts to monitor how he was tracking, she had also used the manual and the Sick or Injured Child Chart/Parent (SICCP) form, which led to making a medical appointment where their son was diagnosed with eczema.

She also showed me how she used all the materials during periods where he had a slight temperature and as a result, was comfortable to care for him at home. She stated that she really loved the Health Manual, calling it her ‘bible’, and said she was planning to show it to her cousin to help her with concerns for her babies also.

I just love that an indirect result of SafeCare is that, families will often pass on the information they have learnt to assist their families and friends.

I understand that, Barnardos have created a video about the SafeCare program, could you please tell us a bit about the video, how the idea came about, what you’re hoping it might achieve, and perhaps a link to where we can view the video?

As the Barnardos’ Brighter Futures team was part of the trial, it was important for us to share with the rest of our organisation all of the exciting things we are doing out west in relation to SafeCare. The video was created to inform our colleagues about SafeCare, its benefits, and to showcase the positive outcomes and impacts the program has had for families.

Actually, when this video was created, I was not yet part of the SafeCare team, and although I was aware of the program, after viewing the video, I knew I definitely wanted to be a part of this and do the SafeCare training.

­Watch the Barnardos SafeCare Video

Lastly, what inspires you?

I love to travel and as part of that I really enjoy getting to know and understand people, from all cultures and walks of life - so I guess people and connectedness inspires me!

Thank you Meredith, this has been such an inspiring and insightful interview, we really appreciate the time you’ve taken to chat with us!

SafeCare Interim Evaluation Report

In February 2018, as the result of an open tender process, Siggins Miller Consultants was engaged by DCJ to evaluate the NSW SafeCare trial. Essentially, the purpose of the evaluation is to assess:

  1. how well SafeCare has been implemented and how this affects delivery of the program (Process Evaluation);
  2. whether delivering SafeCare is reducing abuse and neglect (Outcomes Evaluation);  and
  3. the costs and benefits of the program (Economic Evaluation).

Earlier this year Siggins Miller submitted the final Process Evaluation report (the Report) to DCJ. The process evaluation looks at whether the SafeCare trial was implemented as intended and whether there were any unintended outcomes observed as a result of SafeCare implementation in NSW.

The Report assesses how the SafeCare program has been adopted by service provider organisations that are part of the trial, as well as how the implementation of SafeCare by these service provider organisations has achieved outcomes for clients. The Report covers four main topics: 1) staff training; 2) program implementation; 3) program reach and family engagement; and 4) program fidelity.

1) Staff Training: Evidence suggests that staff training for the SafeCare program has been implemented successfully. As of May 2020, there were a total of 42 active certified providers (including coaches) delivering SafeCare in NSW. These providers and coaches reported that the training enhanced their knowledge and skills and improved overall service delivery of the SafeCare program.

2) Program Implementation: Evidence suggests that the SafeCare program has been successfully implemented into the existing Brighter Futures program. Some service provider organisations have established successful strategies and frameworks to assist the integration of SafeCare into Brighter Futures. Other successful aspects of SafeCare implementation include support provided by the intermediary, the Parenting Research Centre (PRC) and the SafeCare purveyor, the National SafeCare Training and Research Centre (NSTRC), for staff training and data analysis as well as the establishment of central and local implementation team meetings.

3) Program Reach and Family Engagement: Evidence suggests that families are being successfully engaged in the SafeCare program. As of May 2020, 129 families had completed SafeCare across NSW. Family engagement was supported by the flexibility of SafeCare providers and their ability to work collaboratively with families to align SafeCare to their specific needs.

When the report was written the Health module had the highest completion rate, followed by the Safety and then the Parent-Child Interaction module. Preliminary outcomes for parents include improved confidence, safety-conscious behaviours, increased health awareness and positive parent-child interaction.

In terms of program reach, or whether the trial was reaching the target population, relevant data for family demographics and complexity was not available at the time of the Report; however, this will be explored in the Outcomes Evaluation report due in April 2021.

4) Program Fidelity: Finally, evidence suggests that program fidelity was achieved throughout the implementation of SafeCare. The findings suggest that program fidelity was supported by the clear structure of the SafeCare materials, the regular processes built into program delivery to assess program fidelity, and the support offered by coaches and intermediary agencies to implement and deliver the program as intended.

In addition to the targeted implementation issues mentioned above, the Report also looked at whether there were any unintended outcomes as a result of the SafeCare trial. The findings suggest that positive unintended outcomes were observed as a result of SafeCare implementation, which included an increased interest in education among participating parents and an increased sense of achievement and recognition for parents. This will be explored in more detail in the final report.

The NSW SafeCare trial continues until March 2021.

Read the SafeCare Interim Evaluation Paper

Sustainability of SafeCare - Embedding into Practice and Business as Usual (BAU)

Embedding SafeCare within service provision is a fundamental element of ensuring that SafeCare is part of the Brighter Futures program and is essential for the delivery of SafeCare to families that service providers are working with.

This was the topic of conversation at the recent SafeCare Central Implementation Team (CIT) meeting which is the main governance structure for implementation of SafeCare in NSW and is held every six weeks. The purpose of the CIT is to serve as a focused, accountable structure for planning, progressing and assessing the implementation of SafeCare in the trial sites.

At the October 2020 meeting, service providers engaged in robust discussion about the sustainability of SafeCare and shared ways in which they are embedding SafeCare into practice and business as usual (BAU).

From the preliminary stages of introducing families to SafeCare, through to working with identified issues with families, SafeCare providers are bolstering support for families by delivering SafeCare to address risk of significant harm concerns.

For example, some service providers are using the Safety module to address issues of hoarding and substance use. Others are using the Parenting and Child Interaction (PCI) and the Parenting and Infant Interaction (PII) modules to address issues of neglect and hygiene as well as to address issues around domestic violence, building families’ insights into the impacts of domestic violence.

By embedding SafeCare into practice and placing the importance of children’s health and wellbeing at the centre of all decision making, Brighter Futures service providers are reporting that families have expressed that positive outcomes are achievable and this is fostering further interest and commitment to the program.

Some of the shared current practices and materials that service providers are employing to introduce and engage families with SafeCare include the client handbook and information packs which include relevant information about other parenting programs that form part of the Brighter Futures suite of programs.

Agencies are working collaboratively with other services such as the Language Community Migrant Resource Centre, to engage additional support for Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families.

Referrals to Brighter Futures and then to SafeCare are also being provided from programs such as ‘Beyond Barbed Wire’, a program that supports and provides assistance to women who have left incarceration and entering the community as well as through other community referral pathways.

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Last updated: 09 Dec 2020