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Overview of the Quality Assurance Framework

Your key to how a child or young person is going in OOHC

The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) collects key information on how a child is going in out-of-home care (OOHC), to ensure we give every child in care the best possible experience. Regular information comes from children, carers, Department Community & Justice (DCJ), Department of Education and the OOHC Health Pathway program in order to support this.

The QAF provides us with a simple way to continuously review and improve our work with vulnerable children, families and carers, using reliable information about the safety, permanency and wellbeing of children in OOHC.

Play the videos below to hear how implementing the QAF has helped MacKillop Family Services and Key Assets, two of our service provider partners!

The QAF in Child Outcomes infographic.

Text alternative to QAF Child Outcomes infographic

More information can be found in the QAF Executive Summary.

Implementation sites

The four QAF sites have now moved from the trial to implementation phase with approximately 500 children and young people and their carers are participating. Broader state-wide roll is anticipated to commence in 2022 and will be staggered once the systems to support the QAF have been integrated with ChildStory. Currently sites are expanding the QAF within their agencies.

QAF implementation sites are:

Benefits of the QAF

Child and young person is viewed holistically

Traditionally the child protection system was focused on child safety. It is broadly recognised that this is not enough to form long lasting relationships and a positive sense of self that we carry with us though life.

The QAF includes information around safety, permanency and wellbeing which encompasses an individual’s physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual connections.

Regularly updated reliable information sources

The QAF collects information, quarterly, from a range of reliable tools and sources, including:

  • The voice of the children and young people via the Child and Young Person Questionnaire
  • The voice of the carers via the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
  • DCJ administration data via ChildStory
  • Department of Education information via the Child Protection Information Warehouse (CIW)
  • Health via the OOHC Health Pathways program

Helping with case planning – identifying areas of need

The QAF is a continual quality assurance process of collect, review and implement this sits alongside current casework practice. Quarterly Child Overviews give up–to-date information to caseworkers to assist with decision making in activities such as case planning, reviews, transfers and financial planning. The information is not only used to assess current needs, but to assess emerging issues and can be used to track the child or young person’s progress over time.

The QAF in Action

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Assessing our impact

Caseworkers can review Quarterly Child Overviews over time, to help caseworkers assess how decisions and activities have impacted the child’s outcomes in both a positive or negative way.

Consistency across the sector both DCJ and NGO’s

All agencies will have one source of reliable information which travels to different agencies and placements, with the child or young person whilst they are in OOHC. This will enable agencies to gain reliable historical information to build a picture of the child and young person’s life throughout their care journey.

Supporting case planning under the Permanency Support Program

As of 1 October 2017, the Permanency Support Program requires that permanency planning is embedded in each child or young person’s case plan, with a goal for achieving permanency, in most cases, within two years.

The QAF can give practitioners the reliable and comprehensive information they need to set and review case plans, and ensure they’re on track to meeting goals to keep children safe at home, or find a loving home for life with extended family or kin, foster care or through guardianship or open adoption.

Links to standards to support the accreditation process

The QAF demonstrates good practice and provides evidence which will support the accreditation process.

The Child Overview

The QAF recognises that data is everywhere, but that it can often be hard to find, confusing or incomplete.

That’s why the Child Overview gives practitioners regular and timely information to help track how children and young people are going over time to improve their safety, permanency and wellbeing. The Child Overview summarises information relevant to these domains and uses it to show us the link between potential risk factors, protective factors, interventions and outcomes.

Each individual child in the QAF cohort will have a Child Overview produced, stored in ChildStory and provided to caseworkers every three months. Each quarter the Child Overviews includes information on the previous three months the capture and release dates are:

  • Quarter 1: January to March released in April
  • Quarter 2: April to June released in July
  • Quarter 3: July to September released in October
  • Quarter 4: October to December released in January

The QAF Sample Child Overview here.

More information can be found in QAF User Guide - Chapter 1 – Child Overview

What information is in the Child Overview

Information is collated from the Child and Young Person and Carer Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) Questionnaires, administrative data from DCJ and administrative data from other NSW agencies such as Department of Education.  Examples of the types of data represented in the Child Overview are:

  • Risk of significant harm (ROSH) reports received, substantiated issues, child assessment tool (CAT) scores, days in placement, placement type and stability.
  • NAPLAN and school attendance, mobility and suspension from the NSW Department of Education.
  • Health information from the OOHC Health Pathways program
  • Information from the children and young people themselves around safety, multicultural and Aboriginal cultural identity from the Child and Young Person Questionnaire

A child friendly app called Viewpoint is used by the carers, children and young people to complete the Questionnaires.

More information can be found in the QAF User Guide - Chapter 2 – Viewpoint for Caseworkers.

How is the Child Overview used

The Child Overview has multiple applications within OOHC casework practice. Types of use are:

  • At Home visits with carers, children and young people
  • Planning – case planning, work load planning, cultural care planning, behavioural support planning, leaving and after care planning, Group Supervision, rationale for decision making, Life Story work, referrals, placement requests, case transfers, and meetings with local representatives of the Department of Education and local Health Districts.
  • Aboriginal consultations
  • Reviews – carer reviews, s163 to parents, financial reviews, training and recommendations for additional placements

More information on Child Overview applications in casework can be found here.

The Child Overview is designed to provide meaningful information to support decision‐making and good practice, rather than replace professional judgement and expertise.

Child Overview information over time

Over time, a caseworker will be able to compare past Child Overviews to understand the progress a child or young person has made, what has improved and what requires additional attention. Managers and agencies will be able to identify across their cohort, areas of need and implement new initiatives such as training or workshops for carers, children and young people around behaviour, culture, mental health or self-harm.

Download the QAF Child Outcomes Infographic
A text alternative to the Infographic is available.

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for Carers

The QAF recognises that listening to carers is essential. Carers have first-hand experience of what a child or young person is experiencing, and can provide valuable insight into their social functioning, emotional and mental health.

The SDQ does not provide a diagnosis of a child or young person’s mental health, it can be used as a screener, to reliably flag a concern that may require further attention.

The SDQ was developed by Dr Robert Goodman, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, the SDQ is a short behavioural screening questionnaire.

A primary carer will complete the SDQ in Viewpoint, for children and young people (aged 2 to 17 years) who are in their care with final orders. The carer reads statements, and selects an answer that describes the child or young person in regard to:

  1. emotional difficulties
  2. conduct problems
  3. hyperactivity or inattention
  4. peer relationship problems
  5. pro-social behaviours

Once a carer has completed the questionnaire, the system automatically generates an easy-to-read report.

More information can be found in the QAF User Guide - Chapter 3 – Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for Carers.

Children and Young Person Questionnaire (CYPQ)

As part of the QAF design process, we asked young people ‘What young people thought about the QAF’.

They told us they want to feel connected to their friends and family, have people they can trust, have opportunities to reach their full potential and have a voice that is heard.

The Child and Young Person Questionnaire is a set of questions for children and young people in OOHC to tell us, every 6 months, how they are going in the areas of safety and permanency and cultural and spiritual identity.

Questions are automatically organised so they are age and culturally and situationally appropriate. The Questionnaire comprises of three sections:

  1. Safety and Permanency for 7-17 year
  2. Multicultural for 12-17 year olds who identity as Multicultural
  3. Aboriginal Cultural Connections for 9 to 17 year olds who identify as Aboriginal

More information can be found in the QAF User Guide – Chapter 4 – Child and Young Person Questionnaire.

Safety and Permanency Questions

The Child and Young Person Questionnaire incorporates questions from the 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Survey of Children in OOHC, that measure:

  • feelings of safety
  • the presence of safe adults with whom a child or young person can communicate
  • the presence of behaviours that expose a child or young person to potential

We’ve looked at the relevance of the NSW FACS Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS) to QAF objectives, and selected some of its questions for inclusion in the QAF Child and Young Person Questionnaire.

The majority of these questions are either standardised measures or validated and reliable scales and questions that are used in other surveys such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AHIW), National Survey of Children in Out Of Home Care, Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), NSW School Students Health Behaviour Survey, and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) Survey Beyond 18.

Adopting these questions gives us a valid and reliable means of measuring individual wellbeing over time, and provides benchmarks for the general population.

More information can be found in the QAF Chapter 4 – Child and Young Person Questionnaire

Multicultural Questions

Culture is important to all of us for many reasons and underpins who we are in terms of values, beliefs, customs, traditions and language. Social identity is a critical developmental task during adolescence. As a child matures, cultural identity is crucial to psychological wellbeing. It’s linked to academic success, increased self-esteem, low levels of substance abuse and resilience to prejudice among other outcomes.

The QAF uses the Multi Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) alongside questions about faith and language in the Child and Young Person Questionnaire for young people aged 12-17 years.

The MEIM has been used in multiple studies globally and is designed to assess ethnic identity and is reliable across a wide range of ethnic groups and ages. The MEIM comprises of two key factors:

  • Exploration: Efforts to learn about one’s group and participation in cultural practices
  • Commitment: A positive affirmation of one’s own group and a clear sense of belonging.

The CALD consultation report outlined the initial steps to developing the Multicultural Cultural and Spiritual Identity area of the QAF.

More information can be found from page 11 -17 in the QAF User Guide – Chapter 4 – Child and Young Person Questionnaire.

Aboriginal Cultural Connections Questions

Culture is important to all of us for many reasons and underpins who we are in terms of values, beliefs, customs, traditions and language. We are asking Aboriginal children and young people about their culture to help us understand what cultural support we as casework practitioners need to provide to them.

The Domain is an Australian first and has been a true partnership with Aboriginal people.

Key partners, and leaders, in the development of the Aboriginal Cultural and Spiritual Identity Domain are:

  • Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation leading the development of the Aboriginal Cultural Connections Questionnaire
  • FACS Aboriginal Reference Group
  • QAF Task Team – a project reference group comprising Burrun Dalai, AbSec, DCJ Western Cultural Connections Team, DCJ Aboriginal Reference Group, various Academics where needed, DCJ Aboriginal Outcomes.

View initial conversations held with Aboriginal young people and the sector and documented from the Aboriginal Cultural and Spiritual Identity Forum, November 2016 consultation report.

The Aboriginal Cultural Connections Questionnaire (ACCQ) gives Aboriginal young people aged from 9 to 17 the opportunity to reflect on their knowledge of kin, county and connections. The information provided by the ACCQ allows all caseworkers to support Aboriginal children and young people with their cultural needs no matter what their placement situation.

The questions are based around key things, knowledge and connections that a person who is culturally connected is surrounded by. Some of these questions generally happen in conversations with Aboriginal people in community to firstly establish their family connections and secondly their basic knowledge and understanding of where they come from. There are 16 questions that range from multiple choice to free text. There are no right or wrong answers as the information is used to build the child or young person’s cultural knowledge over time.

The questions are culturally appropriate and have been developed by Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal OOHC agency in NSW and have been tested and reviewed over a period of two years with various Aboriginal children, young people and caseworker practitioners. Extensive consultation with Aboriginal people, services and agencies have occurred and many hours of heart felt discussions around the meaning of culture and how this could be measured have been undertaken.

Please note: Learning about your culture is a life long journey; it is not expected by Aboriginal people or DCJ that non-Aboriginal casework practitioners will teach the child or young person about their culture. As a casework practitioner, you need to access Aboriginal community members who have the skills in providing cultural support or leadership to gain cultural knowledge

More information can be found from page 18 in the QAF User Guide – Chapter 4 – Child and Young Person Questionnaire.

QAF Resources for Caseworkers

QAF Reports and Publications

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Last updated: 16 Nov 2020