HELPING HAND: Jen Williams, Lisa Lane and Scott Green from UnitingCare Queensland.
HELPING HAND: Jen Williams, Lisa Lane and Scott Green from UnitingCare Queensland. Chloe Lyons

New program takes impressive steps in helping children and families

WHEN it comes to child and family safety, UnitingCare Queensland is proving prevention is better than cure.

UnitingCare's Family and Child Connect (FaCC) is a community based referral service that supports vulnerable children and their families to connect with the right service, at the right time.

These services can help parents with addiction issues, parenting skills, budgeting money or accessing housing, health care and community services.

While FaCC is in its early stages, having only been around for a year, it has an impressive 80% engagement rate when it comes to helping families.

Program manager at UnitingCare Queensland Scott Green said while families can be apprehensive about the service at first, his skilled staff are able to get the conversation flowing and connect with the families that need their support.

"It's a voluntary service, so it's about our staff having the skills to engage families and quite often get over that initial hurdle of 'who are you? why are you ringing me? who's referred me? Are you child safety?,” Scott said.

"I've got skilled staff here that can get their way in and progress that conversation around, 'someone's obviously worried about you and your family, could you use a hand? what are your issues?'.”

Practice Lead Jen Williams said these skills transfer into real results, with families rarely being referred to the program a second time.

"We strike up a conversation... and build that supportive, empathetic kind of conversation with them,” Jen said.

"They can hear that you want to listen to their story.

"The re-referral rate is low, so early intervention is working.”

The FaCC program UnitingCare provides isn't about judgment or punishment, it's about helping families by pointing them in the right direction of support.

"We're here to try and help you, we're not child safety,” Scott said.

"We help connect families with the right service at the right time, we don't case manage.

"It's really hard to navigate all the supports out there.

"It could be as simple as giving out some phone numbers.

"This is a real attempt to plug in with families who identify with needing that kind of assistance.”

Previously, families in need of help may have been alerted to Child Safety and with the new system, FaCC is the first point of contact to help families stay together and safe with the help of support services.

"If you go back 18 months ago when these services didn't exist, say you were referred to child safety and you didn't meet the thresh-hold, nothing kind of happened for that family,” Scott said.

"The research shows, you've got to get in early.”

While it's easy to think someone else's family problems are none of your business, Jen urges people to realise the safety of children in our community is everyone's responsibility.

"It's about helping people take responsibility for child protection in their community,” Jen said.

"Child safety is everyone's business.”

"We're trying to promote that message, if you're worried about a family call 13FAMILY and you'll get plugged into the right service,” Scott said.

If you are concerned about the situation of a family or child call 13FAMILY (13 32 64).



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