In 2018 CareChoice began providing Out of Home Care to two of four siblings, Jenny age 12 and Damian age 13. All four siblings had a history of child protection intervention with 20 previous reports. In 2013 they had been placed in Out of Home Care due to environmental neglect, parental substance abuse, family violence and inappropriate discipline. At the time there were concerns about the siblingâ€™s presentations which included extreme verbal abuse, racist remarks and physical abuse behaviours. The children had also been exposed to their motherâ€™s mental health history and were heavily impacted by her death in 2011.
In 2017, the siblings had been placed in a kinship care arrangement with their maternal aunt and grandfather. However, this had broken down due to regular substance use by the maternal aunt and her inability to provide boundaries and rules for the children. There were also increasing concerns about the friendship group of the older siblings and instances of substance use.
All of the children had challenging and volatile behaviours. In particular, the older siblings displayed anti-social behaviour including absconding, violence, verbal aggression, defiance, property damage and distrust of authority figures. When Jenny and Damian commenced their Out of Home Care placement with CareChoice it was expected to last a weekend but ran for 10 months and was the longest placement the children had ever experienced.
To support the children, CareChoice built a permanent team of staff that included an experienced child protection team leader and support workers. Each support worker was completely committed to improving outcomes for the siblings and truly believed they could make a difference in their lives. They promoted the childrenâ€™s close relationship with each other and ensured they kept in contact with their other siblings.
House rules were established early and included behaviour rules such as not being able to bully people to get what you want. As Jenny and Damian were transactionally motivated the team addressed their behaviour challenges by developing a behaviour change plan based on pocket money incentives. The siblings were also encouraged to save weekly. The consistent approach resulted in beneficial changes over time and the siblings ceased absconding and were soon able to buy things they wanted (Jenny purchased a scooter).
At the beginning of their placement, Jenny and Damian treated their support workers poorly and were often harsh or threatening. But the team were empathetic and remained completely consistent in their responses. Staff worked hard to help the siblings realise that positive behaviour would deliver far better rewards and quality relationships.
Initially, Damian had more challenging interpersonal behaviours than his sister but during the last few months of their 10-month placement, he began to gain greater insight into his behaviour. He started treating staff more respectfully and coached his sister on her behaviour, pointing out when she was being rude.
Initially a 2:2 supported program, the siblings developed greater trust and respect for their support workers which enabled instances of 2:1 support when appropriate. As their favourite support worker was also a personal trainer, the children were set-up with a gym membership and went regularly to the gym with him.
Because the childrenâ€™s father refused to allow the children to attend suggested schools, CareChoice developed an education plan to support them with tutoring. Then in July 2018 a Care by Secretary order was given which has enabled the children to look at a permanent school, both recognising they have fallen behind.
By December 2018 Jenny and Damianâ€™s positive changes were so significant that it was decided they were ready to attend a therapeutic residential setting were their trauma history could be properly addressed. To support their transition, the CareChoice team meet fortnightly with the new team that including some staff who had worked with the siblings at a previous placement.
The siblings were told a month prior to the move to give them time to adjust and transition activities commenced to ensure they felt supported. These included activities with people from the new residence, dinner, phone calls and visits. It was also agreed that their favourite CareChoice support worker/personal trainer would keep in contact with them through their weekly gym sessions.
Today Jenny and Damian are more trusting and respectful. They display significant improvements in their behaviour and have increased insight: Jenny telling one of the new support team who had worked with her previously, â€œIâ€™m not as bad as I used to beâ€. They are also keen to go back to school and both have the capacity to do well.
Key factors supporting the siblings improved outcomes include:
- Support staff who really care about them
- Support staff who never give up no matter how tough the placement may seem
- Ensuring staff establish an interpersonal bond and rapport with the siblings so can develop trust in others
- Demonstrating positive behaviours and discussing the benefits of positive change
- Consistent behaviour and responses from all staff on the program
- Developing plans that support the children and meet them where they are and not the other way around.
CareChoice is a NDIS, DHHS, TAC and Child Protection approved provider of quality services. We support people of any age from birth throughout the lifespan.
CareChoice is experienced with all physical and intellectual capabilities and specialises in complex care solutions including high physical support needs and behaviours of concern.
CareChoice services are available 24 x 7 x 365 across greater Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and key Victorian regions.