Monaro Family Support Service

Question 1 – How have you adapted service delivery in response to the bushfires, floods and Coronavirus pandemic? When has it worked and when hasn’t it worked? How will this affect how you deliver services in the future? Have your service adaptations included better integration with other initiatives?

In reponse to the impacts of stress and anxiety, trauma and adversity experienced as a result of the 2019-2020 bushfires, ongoing drought, and Covid 19, we have adapted the mode of delivery of our services and activities considerably. For many vulnerable families, the issues and challenges which they were already facing, have escalated as a result of these experiences. MFSS seeks to complement the uptake of core exisiting programs through trauma-informed practices and additional therapeutic work. In response to the challenges experienced by families during this time, MFSS has shifted focus from talk-based education and skill programs to significantly expanding the range of therapeutic, trauma-informed programs we offer. This includes evidence-based programs as well as some of our own exciting new programs, which we will seek to develop our own evaluation for. We have worked on expanding our range of trauma informed therapies for children, young people, parents and families to express their feelings, form connections with others, develop coping and communication skills and learn regulatory strategies. These include expressive therapies, music and mindfulness, animal assisted learning, and adventure therapy. Our Equine Assisted Learning Program pilot was extremely well received and the program has a waiting list. There is a need to continue to expand these offerings.
During Covid-19, supported playgroups and parenting programs were delivered online or by closed group facebook with weekly video content, distribution of craft packs and songs, and phone contact with families. Some online content (such as videos online) will be retained to be mixed in with face-to-face content. Many of the playgroup members continue to use this fb page to stay in contact with one another, share ideas and resouces, etc. Online options for programs may be offered when relevant, now that staff are confident in this delivery format.

Question 2 – Are the proposed key outcomes for the families and children programs the right ones? Are there any major outcomes missing? How can we include strengths-based outcomes that focus on family or child safety?

In the face of so many challenges, we would like to see an increased focus in outcomes measurement on resilience and coping skills. i.e Individuals, families (relationships) and communities are resilient. We currently use the CD-RISC tool across all of our programs to measure service-wide, how our programs and activities contribute to increasing resilience across these levels.

Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?

We have partnered with researchers during a number of opportunities to build our organisational capacity to report outcomes under the Partnership Approach (including funding from DSS under the Expert Panel Project). These opportunities have been essential to make sure all staff understand the importance of evidence-based service delivery, data collection and use.

I would like to emphasise that implementing a consistent, meaningful data management system from the ground-up is a long journey, and is not as simple as inserting program logics for each program. There are a large number of steps involved, particularly for small-medium sized providers who do not have in-house data specialists.

It is critical to develop the knowledge and build understanding and buy-in from all staff who will be working with, obtaining, and using outcomes data. This ensures that all stages from the manner in which data is collected to closing loops and making results available to practitioners themselves, are considered.

In the last 12 months, MFSS has worked hard to operationalise a custom designed database, which uploads data directly to DEX and has a custom outcomes measurement platform built in. This database can also be used to generate reports for each program. Staff have received substantial online and face to face training in the use of this database, including in how to mobilise data which relates to the programs they deliver. Presenting needs (issues) data also informs the design and planning of what we do, as well as being used in advocacy and lobbying efforts. Other data collected (including satisfaction data) is incorporated into ongoing service improvement and quality assurance efforts. This work has only been possible through opportunities which have been funded outside normal service delivery.

Question 4 – Do you already have a program logic or theory of change outlined for your program? Did you find the process useful? If you do not have one, what has stopped you from developing one? What capacity building support would assist service providers to develop program logics and theories of change?

Please see previous response.

Question 5 – If longer-term agreements are implemented, how can the department work with you to develop criteria to measure and demonstrate performance? How can the Data Exchange better support this?

The capacity of the Data Exchange for the inclusion of qualitative data, including client case studies and stakeholder interviews, would be useful. It would be great if the performance measures took into account the relative size and capacity (also relevant to funding amount) of each organisation, as clearly the capacity of larger organisations to demonstrate performance will be greater than small-medium orgs.

Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?

We include quality improvement questions in our questionnaires, which are used by practitioners to review and improve their program delivery.

Case studies and recorded comments by clients and other partner stakeholders are used by our service with permission for advocacy, reporting and ongoing service design/planning/development.

A key part of the development of our outcomes measurement framework has been to develop some Service-wide objectives/outcomes, as well as individual program outcomes. As we deliver a wide range of programs and activities it is useful to be able to say across all of these, how much we contribute to high level outcomes such as resilience, connectedness, wellbeing.

Question 7 – Do you currently service cohorts experiencing vulnerability, including those at risk of engaging with the child protection system? If not, how does service delivery need to adapt to provide support to these cohorts?

Yes, in our rural/remote region, families frequently cycle in and out of tiers of vulnerability, including engagement with the child protection system. Flexibility and responsive practice is required to deliver the best support to these cohorts. By this, we mean the capacity to adapt service delivery beyond conventional methodologies such as educational groups programs (parenting programs for example), and use methodologies and modalities which reflect the needs of the family, are aligned to the strengths of the service, and are based on trauma-informed approaches.

Question 8 – If you are a Children and Parenting Support or Budget Based Funded service provider, do you currently link with a Communities for Children Facilitating Partner or other regional planning mechanism to understand what other services are provided in the community and what the community identifies as their needs? How does this work in practice? Would you value the increased support of being attached to a local Facilitating Partner?

Yes, we would value the opportunity to be linked with a CFC partner however this is not available in our area.

Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?

Local place-based community organisations are often required to facilitate entry of new programs delivered by larger (external, national or large regional) organisations, or are overlooked in the funding of new initiatives. The unique strengths of place-based community organisations are critical in the delivery of family support responses which require local knowledge, long term investment, and tried and trusted relationship which break down access barriers by building on existing connections. Building the capacity of these local assets when opportunities arise, should be a priority and their unique role in the delivery of critical early intervention and family support work should be recognised.

Question 11 – Aside from additional funding, how can the department best work with you to support innovation in your services while maintaining a commitment to existing service delivery?

Ongoing research partnerships are critical for small-medium size organisations to enable them to fully grow into an ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of what they do. Whilst we have taken up a number of time-limited project opportunities to partner with research institutions, each time the researcher must spend time getting to know the service etc. The support offered by research partners can often not be found in-house, and/or time-poor senior staff lack the capacity to lead service development fully (with the requisite evidence base). For our service, research partnerships have enabled us to build team capacity, engage in more systematic outcomes reporting, and have the confidence to pursue innovation and creative approaches to service delivery.