24 April 2024


Life Without Barriers joins sector and government leaders to explore how best to incorporate the findings of recent groundbreaking research, originating in the Hunter, into improving the experience of children and families in the child protection system.

Research led by the University of Newcastle and supported by Life Without Barriers shows parents and families are not effectively included in NSW's child protection and out-of-home care (OOHC) systems. Despite numerous reports in NSW advocating for measures to intervene early for families to prevent entry into care, an increasing number of families are vulnerable to entering child protection with a sustained over-representation of First Nations children.

The roundtable today, brings together sector leaders, government, the not-for-profit sector, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and parents and family with lived experience to discuss how to embed family inclusion practices in NSW’s child protection system.

Alicia Pigot, Executive Director of Child Youth and Family Services for Life Without Barriers said entry into child protection should always be a last resort and if it does occur, then children and young people taken from their parents’ care have better health and wellbeing outcomes where their family is included throughout the child protection process.

“We are supportive partners of Family Inclusions Strategies Hunter (FISH) and The University of Newcastle (UoN) research and practice that backs what we know needs to happen in child protection practice – parents and family, must be involved in the design and responses within the out-of-homecare system as much as possible, “Ms Pigot said.

“Change in the child protection system requires not-for-profits partnering with government, community and families to drive the change that’s needed to better serve vulnerable kids and young people.

“The Hunter is really leading the charge in this essential and historically overlooked part of the child protection system. Our organisation started in Newcastle, so it feels vital to us that this push to create change in the system is happening locally.”

Life Without Barriers has partnered with FISH since 2014 to uplift and amplify the experience of parents when children are removed and research how the child protection sector can work with parents to see better outcomes for children in care.

Jessica Cocks, Manager for Design and Innovation at Life Without Barriers and co-founder of FISH said the findings of the research conducted in 2023 are the main driver for our roundtable conversation with child protection stakeholders across the Hunter region.

“We found that there are inconsistent understandings within the Child Protection system as to what family inclusion is and what it looks like, which makes it hard to implement into policy and practice across NSW.

“This roundtable brings together leaders across the Hunter and the state to align on the current evidence about the growing need to fundamentally change the foundations of child protection and out-of-home care practice and policy.

“Evidence also suggests parents and families feel powerless to influence the system as individuals in their cases, in the legal system, or as a stakeholder group in the broader system, so that’s why our partnership with FISH is so important.”

In 2019-20 there were 16,160 children in care in NSW and 14% were from the Hunter. Of these, only 553 children returned home to their parents, 59 of whom were from the Hunter.

Family inclusion is the active and meaningful participation of parents, family, kinship networks and communities in the lives of children. It is a process and lived experience over time that helps ensure children’s family relationships are not lost.

Research into Family Inclusion can be found here:


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