Family Participation Program
What is the Queensland Family Participation Program?
The Queensland Government department of Child Safety, Youth and Women has established a Family Participation Program (FPP) to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to participate in Child Protection Decision Making.
The focus of the program is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families with children and young people under the age of 18 years old. The program seeks to engage with families where there is a risk of child protection notification and involvement with the family or where there has already been an intervention by the government child protection system.
Family in this context doesn’t just mean mother and father. It includes people who have kinship relationships and also significant people from the child or young persons community.
Part of the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017.
The purpose of the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017 to make changes to the Child Protection Act 1999 to improve outcomes for children, young people and families where the intervention of child protection authorities is needed.
The Supporting Families Changing Futures approach to helping families in difficulties is focused on providing the right services at the right time to support families and keep children safely at home in line with the following vision.
The Family Participation Program is based on the principles that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have the right to self-determination. The implementation of the 5 elements of the Child Placement Principle if they are having difficulty in providing adequate care for their children and young people for whatever reason.
The 5 elements are:
- Prevention – a child has the right to be brought up within the child’s own family and community.
- Participation – a child and the child’s parents and family members have the right to participate in an administrative or judicial process for making a significant decision about a child.
- Partnership – Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander peoples have the right to participate in significant decisions under the Child Protection Act 1999 about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children, including the design and delivery of programs and services.
- Placement – if a child is to be placed in care, the child has a right to be placed with a member of the child’s family group.
- Connection – a child has a right to be supported to develop and maintain a connection with the child’s family, community, culture, traditions and language.
Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Bill 2018 has increased the focus on alternative dispute resolution in NSW to support a goal of safely keeping young people with their families.
The special focus provided by the Family Protection Policy is necessary due to the extremely poor outcomes that have been experienced by indigenous families in the past.
Studies show that there are many reasons for this. They include poverty, assimilation policies, intergenerational trauma and discrimination, and forced child removals which have all contributed to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care. The other factor is cultural differences in child-rearing practices and family structure that have confused welfare authorities in the past.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Led Decision Making (ATSIFLDM)
In an effort to implement the reforms to the child protection system and improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families the Queensland Government has introduced the facilitation of independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Led Decision Making (ATSIFLDM) by Family Group Conference Facilitators.
This process is one where a properly trained facilitator works with child protection representatives and the family members to help parents, families and children to work together to solve problems and lead decision-making in a culturally safe space.
This process was developed in New Zealand with Maori Families and is slowly being adopted by child protection authorities throughout Australia.
There is great potential for the process not just after child protection have become involved with the family but also before there is a crisis or urgent need in a truly preventative model that will achieve the vision of the government to support families proactively.
Training and Membership Support
Mediation Institute strongly supports this approach and provides training for Family Group Conference Facilitators as independent practitioners and also as employees of indigenous and non-indigenous organisations who work in the area of child and family welfare.
Self-Determination is a basic human right
The stolen generations and colonisation are examples of where the right to self-determination has been compromised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The legacy of those government policies are still being felt so the Family Participation Program (FPP) is a welcomed initiative that will hopefully see indigenous families more empowered and able to exercise their right to be involved in decision making regarding how to keep their children and young people safe and connected with family and culture.
Key functions of the Family Participation Program process includes:
- – Assisting families to communicate with the department and understand the Child Safety processes and safety concerns (where needed)
- – providing support for families to enable them to have a decision making role in decisions that affect them
- – conducting cultural mapping to ensure that family members who can provide support or cultural connection are part of the process
- – Facilitating family planning sessions and family led decision making such as Family Group Conferencing.
- – Linking families to support services that they need to implement and sustain the family development plan