PeakCare members were treated to four terrific presentations at the first meeting of the Research Group for 2016. The group meets each month in Brisbane to hear and discuss presentations from academics, researchers, PeakCare members and others. Yesterdays meeting was on the intersection of child protection, family support and disability services, with a particular focus on supporting families with a child with a disability. The topic was considered from research, policy and program, and operational perspectives.

The meeting was facilitated by Morrie OConnor from the Community Living Association. The first speaker, Dr Kathy Ellem (QUT) spoke to qualitative research undertaken in 2011 with Prof Jill Wilson (UQ) and Prof Lesley Chenoweth (Griffith University). Through in-depth interviews with mothers who had relinquished care of their child with a disability to the child protection system, the authors found that although relinquishing provided some reprieve from daily caring responsibilities, the mothers had feelings of guilt, anxiety and grief, and were concerned for their childs behavioural and emotional adjustments post relinquishment. The accounts highlight the socio-political nature of caring for a child with a disability and the need for coordinated responses and expertise in supporting family members, and the distinction parents made that relinquishment does not equate to giving up care.

Noting the interface with the Queensland Governments response to recommendation 4.12 from the Carmody Inquiry about Disability Services allocating sufficient resources to families who have children with disability to continue to care for their children, the second presentation was from Disability Services, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. In the absence of Prof Karen Nankervis from the Centre of Excellence for Clinical Innovation and Behaviour Support, Liz Steel from Disability Services presented on theevidence-based, family-focused, strengths-based Early Intervention Response model that has been developed. Core components are collaborative approaches, across family support and disability services, to working with families of children with disability; targeted supports to build the familys capacity, knowledge and skills; and screening and assessment tools, case management and coordination across mainstream and specialist services. The model firmly sits in the early intervention space, consistent with the NDIS. Utilising out-posted Disability Services workers in the first Family and Child Connect and Intensive Family Support services in the Departments North Coast Region, the tools and other aspects of the model are being piloted.

Reflections on learnings so far and case examples from the North Coast trial were presented by Kay Aldridge, one of the out-posted Disability Services workers. Kay talked about how important joint home visits by service workers and the out-posted worker and offering a specialist consultancy role have been to building the capacity of the services, and therefore families capacity.

Finally, Brent McCracken, Regional Executive Director, North Coast Region spoke about the regions experiences of a collaborative departmental response across Disability and Child Safety ? for a Communities response – to support children and young people with disabilities and their families. As Brent said, administrative decisions about who pays take a back seat to experienced Child Safety and Disability Services practitioners properly listening to and understanding the familys journey and working with the family to put practical, emotional and therapeutic supports in place that (re)build and maintain relationships between family members, irrespective of the setting/s in which the child receives daily care. A case example illustrated seemingly endless challenges, responsive interventions, and a happy ending.

Planned Research Group meetings in 2016 include presentations on worker resilience and self care, ethical practice when researching with children, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of a child-focused model in a womens refuge.

If you work in an organisation thats a PeakCare member and are interested in the groups activities, contact Tracey Smith, PeakCares Principal Policy Officer, for further information.