22 June 2023

Life Without Barriers has partnered with the Reily Foundation and DS Consultancy to amplify the voices of parents and families with experience of the child protection system.

Image: A woman sitting on a couch on a Zoom call.

Life Without Barriers has entered a partnership with the Reily Foundation and DS Consultancy to establish the first-ever Lived Experience Group to provide policy and practice advice to the Minister for Child Protection in South Australia, aiming to drive system changes and improve outcomes for children and families in the state.

The Lived Experience Group will provide a regular platform for parents and families with direct experience of the child protection system in South Australia to provide policy and practice advice to the Minister and the Department for Child Protection. Parent and family insights can then be used to drive system change, contributing to policy and practice development and better outcomes for children and families in South Australia.

The lived experience expertise of parents and family is urgently needed. In South Australia, one in three children is reported to child protection by age 18, and the number of children in care is growing. Many families cannot find services to help them or face long waiting lists. Even when services are available, they may not properly address family needs and often are not there at the time families need them.

If Government can learn directly from the experiences of families, we can address these challenges and make changes.

"The work of the Lived Experience Group will help ensure South Australian families are better supported and that children’s rights to family, community and Country are upheld,” said Simone Mather, Executive Director, Child, Youth and Family.

“We know that when policy and practice is informed by parents and family with lived experience, we see better outcomes for everyone involved."

Life Without Barriers has partnered with parents and families with lived experience in the child protection system for almost a decade. We have listened to and utilised their insights to train our staff and carers, design our services and inform our research. We know that advice from people with lived experience improves our practice and our processes.

Our CARE practice framework also recognises the importance of family participation and involvement across the spectrum of our services with children and families – from early intervention and family support to out-of-home care.

“Through our research, innovation, and our practice every day, we have learned that parents and family themselves hold the solutions in child protection," said Jessica Cocks, National Manager for Research and Innovation.

"This is true at every level in the system, from casework to policy and law reform. We look forward to establishing this group in South Australia and ensuring these voices get heard.”

Partnership and collaboration are crucial to ensure the Lived Experience Group is culturally safe, supportive, and inclusive.

Dana Shen is the principal consultant at DS Consultancy. She specialises in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, service providers and those with lived experience to create change and improve services.

“It is particularly important that Aboriginal parents participate in the Group due to the unacceptably high numbers of Aboriginal children in care," said Dana Shen, DS Consultancy.

"The development of this group is an important opportunity for the Department to listen and learn from parents and to refocus on the family and the community as a solution to child welfare problems.”

Reily Foundation is a community organisation providing practical support, education, and advocacy to parents navigating the child protection system.

“We know that South Australian parents caught up in the child protection system want to be good parents, but many face barriers and lack support." Said Nadia Bergineti, CEO of the Reily Foundation.

If parents are isolated, face discrimination or have experienced trauma and grief, it can be especially hard."

"We will work on the ground with parents with lived experience and the community to develop the Group and ensure the Department can receive urgently needed policy and practice advice.”

Life Without Barriers believes this is a profoundly important opportunity to make a difference for children and young people in South Australia. We commend the Minister for Child Protection, Katrine Hildyard, and her Department for their leadership in funding this Group.

We Put Children First

Our stance on child safety and wellbeing.

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