Department of Human Services

Start of main content.

Roadmap for reform

Roadmap for reforming the Child and Family Support System 2021–2023 outlines the steps that the Department of Human Services is taking that will improve early intervention services for children and families with complex needs. These steps are in line with the whole of government strategy, Safe and well: Supporting families and protecting children.

Download print version: Roadmap for reforming the Child and Family (PDF 1.7 MB)

A more detailed version of the roadmap is available for Child and Family Support System practitioners.

The case for change

The case for change

One in three children born in South Australia is reported to the Department for Child Protection by age 10. We know these relate to matters of genuine concern.

Many families have multiple and complex needs that can impact on parenting, including:

  • domestic and family violence
  • parental alcohol and other drug abuse
  • unaddressed or poorly managed mental health needs
  • homelessness
  • financial stress and long-term unemployment.

When children are removed from their families and placed in care, this is a traumatic experience that can continue to impact health and wellbeing throughout their lives life and across generations.

For Aboriginal families, this is made worse by the intergenerational trauma from children being forcefully taken from their communities and culture.

The continuing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care demands major changes to the governance, design, practice, and workforce of early intervention services. We need to work together to address the impacts of intergenerational trauma from experiences of colonisation, the Stolen Generations, and other past discriminatory government policies.

Our reform provides an opportunity to create a better alignment between the needs of children and families and the services that aim to support them.

We will do this by developing a more sophisticated understanding of what these children and families need through studying causes and better measurement of outcomes.

Adopting this approach will improve our visibility of cumulative harm, an important recommendation made by the Nyland Royal Commission, and support our capacity to monitor equity in access to services.

By building new data systems and implementing new tools to measure family complexity and service impact, we will be able to reach new levels of understanding to inform system-wide planning.

Through our contribution to the implementation of the Safe and well strategy, child and family support services will be strengthened to work with higher levels of complexity and risk, providing the right service intensity over the right duration, according to the level of complexity faced by families.

We know that positive outcomes for families will be assisted by delivering an interconnected system dedicated to child and family support, working alongside families, the Department of Child Protection and other key agencies including Health and Education.

The new child and family support system

The new child and family support system

Many services and programs are playing a role in supporting families to keep children safe and well at home and reduce the need for children to be removed from their families to ensure their safety.

The Child and Family Support System is made up of a spectrum of services are able to respond to different degrees of complexity and safety concerns of children and families. These services span from community capacity building through to intensive case management.

We know that in 2019–20 there were approximately 8,600 families at high risk of continued and escalating contact with the tertiary child protection system. At this stage of the reform, the service system must be strongly focused on these families and be flexible, to enable them to shift between services of varying levels of intensity as their needs change over time.

To support higher levels of complexity and need, we have commissioned new non-government Intensive Family Services and repositioned our government Safer Family Services. Our new approach will ensure our efforts are focused on intervening earlier, and more intensively, to keep children safe in their families and prevent them needing to enter out-of-home care.

Our research has identified four population groups who are likely to experience the most challenges and develop the most complex needs, and therefore require assistance from multiple service systems. As a result, we are focusing our early intervention efforts on these groups and designing services that specifically meet their needs, as we know they have contact with multiple service systems. Prioritising these population groups, particularly at the early stages of parenthood and family formation, is likely to maximise the service impact and disrupt intergenerational vulnerability.

When working effectively with families with multiple and complex needs we must develop and maintain strong connections between the CFSS, DCP, and other key partners in domestic violence, health, education, early childhood and community services.

By working together to strengthen families, and by sharing responsibility for vulnerable children and families, we can ensure the best possible outcomes.

Our priority populations

Our priority populations

Infants at risk

Every year, over 1000 families are reported for concerns about unborn children. Of these families, about one third are likely to have one or more children enter care within four years.

Young parents

A large proportion of children in care have a mother who had their firstborn before they were 20 years of age. Often these mothers are at increased risk because of their own child protection history, with about seven in 10 having a subsequent engagement with the system.

Adolescents with complex trauma

More than half of all child protection reports are about children and young people aged between 8 and 18 years of age.

Aboriginal families with multiple and complex needs

Aboriginal children are significantly overrepresented in the child protection system and represent approximately one-third of all children in out-of-home care.

Our healing approach

Our healing approach

At the heart of the new system is a healing approach, where all those involved (children and families, practitioners, organisations and funders) are intentionally working together to create a system and practices that support healing and avoid further traumatisation.

This means everyone involved in the system works together to get better at responding to trauma, wherever it is present. A healing approach is critical to creating and sustaining the engagement of families with our services. To build a trauma responsive and healing system, we need to make a number of commitments as individuals and organisations.

Firstly, we must deeply listen to the children and families that are most affected by this system and often have the least control and power in it.

To do this effectively we need to understand our power and privilege in this system and find ways to support self-determination where possible.

We will commit to truth telling, explicitly about the impacts of colonisation. We will acknowledge and work with the strengths and the resilience in children, families and cultures. We will understand ourselves, our privilege and the assumptions within which we live and work.

A Trauma Responsive System Framework has been developed to help build the trauma responsive capacity at all levels of the system.

Our approach to working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities will respect the diverse and unique lived experiences and migratory journeys of individuals and families that may include intergenerational trauma. We commit to seeing the strengths, hopes and dreams of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and know if we support this vision, it will contribute to building a trauma responsive and healing system for everyone.

Designing the system with Aboriginal families and communities

The system will be led by the voices, perspectives and aspirations of Aboriginal peoples. We commit to actively listening to these voices with the intent to work together to shape a system that will work for Aboriginal people. We are to be guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander System Design Criteria and Co-design Principles, developed in the CFSS co-design process.

Embedding trauma responsiveness to create a healing system

The Lived Experience Network and other formal working arrangements will be supported to ensure lived experience insights are in the design and continuous improvement of trauma responsive practice. Participatory processes and qualitative research will be used to engage children and young people to have a voice.

The journey here and road ahead

The journey here and road ahead

Our immediate efforts will be focused on ensuring our new services are targeted at the most vulnerable and at-risk population groups. At the same time the new information we are collecting across the system will enable us to improve our understanding of who the most vulnerable families are, the challenges they face and their needs. We will continue to trial, test, and learn from new and innovative service models and pathways to help us build our evidence base of what works to improve outcomes for children and families, and maximise the impact of the system.

Our next focus will be working in close collaboration with our key government partners to build the service responses to evidence-informed family support services to ensure the system continues to evolve and strike a balance between providing services for high risk families to keep children safe, and support for vulnerable families earlier.

Outcomes Hierarchy

Outcomes Hierarchy

An outcomes framework for the CFSS provides shared outcomes for all services in their efforts to ensure children are safe and well at home in family, community and culture. This includes a focus on improving safety and family functioning. This framework will help align outcome-focused efforts across the system, working for children, young people and parents/caregivers to be: safe and well in families, influencing decisions and reaching potential, and connected and supported in communities and culture.

Work is progressing on the implementation of a CFSS family functioning outcomes measurement tool. Initially the Family Snapshot is being completed within the first 6 weeks of service delivery. This is completed at the start of engagement to capture data about a family’s current circumstances, stressors and strengths. It helps us understand a family’s starting point, build a system-level understanding of the families we work with and measure the impact of our services.  For more information, email the Early Intervention Resource Directorate (EIRD).

Further reading

Building a Coordinated Self-Learning Child and Family System – The Outcomes Hierarchy Working Group Review of Outcomes Measurement Tools (PDF 1.6 MB)
Aboriginal System Design Principles (PDF 312.7 KB)
Child and Family Services Outcomes Measurement: Assessment Tool Summary Chart (PDF 396.8 KB)

Page last updated : 28 Sep 2021

This site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2021 DHS .[sm v5.5.6.6]