PhD project investigates how parents engage with family services in the Inner Gippsland region

FedUni is working to help improve voluntary family services available in Inner Gippsland

Federation University PhD candidate Mary Randall is undertaking a study into voluntary family services that could contribute to improvements in Victoria’s child protection and family service system.

The study is part of the work being done with the Children and Youth Area Partnerships (CYAP) in reducing the vulnerability of children, young people and their families in Gippsland.

Mary is conducting the research with support from a supervisory team including Federation academics Dr Susan Yell, Dr Tejaswini Patil Vishwanath and Dr Susan Emmett, and industry supervisors Tim Pedlow (Regional Director of Anglicare Victoria) and Rowena Cann (Inner Gippsland CYAP Principal Advisor).

CYAP brings together government, including health and human services, education, and Victoria Police with the welfare sector to contribute to policy affecting the safety and security of children.

Mary’s research asks the question: What key factors influence parental engagement with voluntary family services in Inner Gippsland?

Conducted in Inner Gippsland in the Latrobe, Bass Coast, Baw Baw and South Gippsland shires, the research seeks to address the high level of vulnerability in the region and the strong need for voluntary family services.

It investigates questions such as what influence does the person referring families to these services have on their engagement with the service, what does successful parental engagement with the services look like, and what barriers might parents face and how might these affect their engagement?

The research looks at the voluntary sector in The Child and Family Services Alliance, consisting of​ ChildFIRST – the Child and Family Information Referral and Support Team for Anglicare – and Integrated Family Services, a partnership of agencies that offer case management​.

A review of ChildFIRST’s reports and information systems is being made as part of the research, including how many referrals were made, who referred the family, and whether the family took up the voluntary service or not.

Interviews with parents after they’re referred to family services and practitioners who work with families through the Inner Gippsland Family Services Alliance have been included in the research.

Moving forward, the study could have a significant impact at the local level by informing the training that workers in the sector receive and the policies that underpin it.

The research will contribute to the ongoing work being done at the state and federal level through the Roadmap for Reform: Strong Families, Safe Children 2016 and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-20.