About the Program
The Communities for Children (CfC) program has operated in East Gippsland since 2004 and it is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) to improve outcomes for children and families. Initially the program had a strong early childhood focus targeting support to children aged 0-5 and their families across East Gippsland.
Since 2009, CfC has been funded under the Family Support Program (FSP). The FSP is a national program that aims to provide intensive, targeted and coordinated support for parents and children who are vulnerable, at risk or in disadvantaged communities, to improve child development, child safety and family functioning. As part of the FSP reforms the Australian Government broadened the target group to children 0 – 12 tears and is seeking to make family support services easier to access and more supportive for Australia’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged families including Indigenous families and their children.
Communities for Children is aimed at increasing child safety and wellbeing, by addressing known risk factors that impact on the parenting capacity of families, parents, grandparent carers and other carers. Services support the wellbeing of children by building strong parenting skills and stronger and more sustainable families and communities. Key objectives are to improve the health and wellbeing of families and the development of young children, from before birth to school age, paying special attention to;
- Healthy young families – supporting parents to care for their children before and after birth and throughout the early years;
- Supporting families and parents – support for parents to provide children with secure attachment, consistent discipline and quality environments that are stable, positive, stimulating, safe and secure;
- Early learning and care – provide access to high quality, affordable early learning experiences in the years before school; early identification and support for children at risk of developmental and behavioural problems; and assisting parents with ways they can stimulate and promote child development and learning from birth;
- Creating strong child-friendly communities that understand the importance of the early years and apply this capacity to maximize the health, wellbeing and early development of young children as the local level;
- Link universal services with specialist support services and adult secondary services to ensure vulnerable children who are identified as being at high risk receive appropriate referral and case management in the family context.
The program strives to build upon existing services, improve service access for families and young children, promote improved early years service coordination/integration and increase family and community level understanding of the critical importance of the early years in influencing children’s future development. The program has a strong community development focus. Around 20 major strategies and over a 100 smaller scale ‘grass roots’ projects have been supported through the program.
In 2010, the Government announced a further commitment to continue the CfC program under the FSP from 1 July until 30 June, 2014.
CfC Target Groups:
The FSP has a focus on ensuring services are available for families and children who are vulnerable to poor outcomes because of multiple or complex needs or who lack resources (financial, physical, personal or social) to support their wellbeing and positive family functioning.
Some families are vulnerable to poor outcomes due to current circumstances (e.g. high conflict separation or divorce) or because they lack things like parenting and relationship skills, safety, income, health and time as well as human, social and psychological capital. It is the lack of these types of resources, rather than family type or characteristic itself, which increases the likelihood of poor outcomes for these families.
There is evidence that some family groups may experience greater difficulties accessing and/or using resources and services needed to support wellbeing and positive family functioning.
These families include:
- Indigenous families;
- single parent or blended families;
- young parent families;
- families living in areas of locational disadvantage;
- those experiencing housing instability or high mobility;
- families where violence or significant trauma is an issue;
- families involved with the child protection and/or family law or justice system;
- families experiencing financial hardship or disability; grandparent or extended family carers, mental health or substance abuse issues;
- families affected by eligibility changes to Parenting Payments to increase their participation in the community, in their education and in employment;
- and many culturally and linguistically diverse families particularly refugees.
CfC Guiding Principles:
The following principles underpin the implementation of CfC Activities within the FSP:
- Intervening early to support families improve life opportunities and reduce the barriers to effective parenting;
- Place based, community development approaches: local provision, driven by local needs, with flexible and responsive services working together to provide the complete range of services needed – thereby building more connected, resilient communities;
- Strengths based with a focus on building capacity and confidence;
- Professional, high quality services delivered by qualified and skilled workers, including access to appropriate development and supervision as applicable;
- Services that are accessible to target groups, including Indigenous families and children
- Adult focused services linked to child-focused services, so that regardless of entry point, families and children are able to be assisted. Families are linked to relevant services with seamless referral pathways;
- Building sustainable services including alternative funding sources, ongoing participation of clients and engagement of the community, outcomes for children and their families, community capacity and system development;
- Developing the evidence base in regard to what interventions and strategies work and promote best practice; and
- Outcome focused with reduced red tape – requirements of funding recipients are consistent, relevant and streamlined.