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National Homelessness Conference 2012. Assessments with Children in the Homelessness and Family Violence Sector. Michelle Atlas Bright Futures - Children ’ s Specialist Support Service. Bright Futures – Children ’ s Specialist Support Service Pilot program until 2013

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National Homelessness Conference 2012


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    1. National Homelessness Conference 2012 Assessments with Children in the Homelessness and Family Violence Sector Michelle Atlas Bright Futures - Children’s Specialist Support Service

    2. Bright Futures – Children’s Specialist Support Service • Pilot program until 2013 • Based on model developed by MOSS in 2006-2007 • Considers the child as the client Aims of Bright Futures • Provide a flexible and immediate response to improve support outcomes for children • Reduce stress on parents by assisting them to resolve the support issues of their children • Improve access to specialist and mainstream support services • Enhance the capacity of the homelessness service sector to respond to the needs of children • Increase inter-agency collaboration What does Bright Futures provide? • Assessment and development of a case plan (4 - 6 weeks) • Enhanced Case Management (6 months) • Therapeutic Group Work (1 day to 10 week programs)

    3. A child’s experience • Children interpret their experiences differently to adults and many lay blame • for the family’s problems on themselves. This can lead to feelings of guilt, • which can destroy a child’s sense of self and identity. • Given the various stressors, many children exhibit a range of attitude and • behaviour problems which can lead to poor school performance, stress, • depression, aggression or passivity in their world. • Children need to feel safe to explore feelings and emotions related to their • experiences. • - Children can feel alone because they think it’s only happening to them.

    4. Bright Futures assessment Asking the hard questions

    5. Animal Genogram

    6. Self in the family

    7. Home?

    8. Feelings cards

    9. Children’s perspectives on the assessment process • Childrentalked of valuing the opportunity to share their story with workers • They felt that what they had to say was important • They enjoyed engaging through games and play “They were active participants in discussions with staff about specific elements of the plan, such as their preferences for social and recreational contact.” Borderlands Cooperative, HCSSS External Evaluation Interim Report, August 2012

    10. Caregiver’s perspective on the assessment process • Felt cared for and respected • Noted the value of the informative and supportive function of the process • Reflected workers talked with, made time for and had fun with their children • Aware of their role in providing information about their child’s circumstances • Accepted the depth of the process • Identified benefits to having a case plan in their hands – it became a ‘tool’.

    11. Stakeholders perspective on the assessment process • Assessments were done respectfully • Program staff worked collaboratively with families and stakeholders • Staff worked with caregivers (mainly mothers) to develop strategies for attaining and accessing resources • Provided developmental information and ideas to families • Workers were noted to be ‘getting down on the floor’ with children as part of the process • Stakeholders, who were also co case managers, used the case plan extensively in their work with the caregivers • Caregivers realised for the first time, that homelessness itself can, for example, cause regression, ‘I thought it was just my child who is doing that.’

    12. Considerations of the Bright Futures model • Engagement timeframe and capacity limitations • Balancing engagement with the caregiver and child • Definition of early intervention • Accessing the most vulnerable children • Need for co case management • Transience of population • Closing with families who still have needs • Lack of parent participation

    13. Working with children • Be age, developmentally and gender appropriate • Be specific to each child and their experience • Be holistic i.e. health, emotional, intellectual, social, recreational, educational, safety (e.g. risk of child abuse or family violence) • Consider the parent’s involvement and own needs • Consider crisis versus short to long term needs.

    14. Creative tools in case management Textas/Crayons Coloured paper Glitter Colouring sheets Beads Soft Toys Scissors Straws Stickers Trucks/cars/trains Stars Glue Story Books Toy phone Paper shapes Kitchen settings Dress Ups Clay/Play Doh Cars, trucks Blocks Fabric Game Puppets Dolls Colouring books Jigsaws Drawing/painting Journal Bubbles Paper plates Music Jewels Crayons Face paint Boxes Animal toys

    15. Bright Futures Children’s Specialist Support Service Michelle, Shureeka, Suzie and Talia Phone: 9359 5493 michelle@merri.org.au or brightfutures@merri.org.au

    16. Our many selves • Useful to: • Visually depict internal states • Explore the different emotions each person has • Convey that it is normal to experience multiple emotions and feelings every day • Identify that some emotions may be stronger or weaker than others • Consider that each person’s emotions may be similar or different to their family and friends

    17. Children’s perspectives on the benefits of the program "There is no wrong answer.... There shouldn't be a wrong answer when you're just talking to someone..." • Children valued the ‘special relationship’ they had with their worker • They felt acknowledged, cared for and cared about • Some children talked about sharing their feelings with someone • Several implied that support for their parent was given and this was of great value to the child • Some talked specifically of the value to them of the activities • Where school support had been offered, this was valued by the child.

    18. One caregiver noted that her daughter “can tell me how she feels…angry or disappointed and instead of telling her to go to her room, I listen to her….it’s okay for her to express her feelings….I am glad that she’s learnt how to express herself…she’s better than I was at 14yrs…I hope she enjoys her childhood more than I did…..”

    19. A child’s experience • Physical Health • Chronic illnesses, nutrition, hygiene, dental health, limited access to medical services • Mental and Emotional Health • Low self esteem, guilt, behavioural issues, grief and loss, abuse, anxiety, social and family complexities, depression, shame and secrecy, trauma • Education • Lack of support, school refusal, interrupted schooling, bullying, learning delays • Transience • Disconnection from community and extended supports, loss of possessions and security, future instability, separation and divorce.