Improving outcomes for children in out-of-home care (OOHC)

TeEACH has a growing program of research which focuses on children who have been removed from their birth families into statutory care. Current projects use a salutogenic approach, emphasising the deliberate and intentional promotion of health and well-being. Current projects are summarised below.
1.A large, multi-stage, mixed methods ARC Linkage project is investigating how to best support culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children in OOHC to remain connected to their cultural identity and community (commenced 2020).
2.A new model of care is being developed which aligns with the NSW Government Permanency Support Program which is designed to expedite decision-making and achieve stability for children in OOHC (commenced 2021).
3.Using a co-design methodology, a model of sustained nurse home-visiting to support foster carers and adoptive parents of infants and young children (<3 years) is being developed (commenced 2019).
4.Several literature reviews are underway, including; the role of nurses in supporting children in OOHC, supports for CALD children in OOHC, recruitment strategies for foster carers of young children (<8 years), supports for children in OOHC with intellectual and developmental disability.
5.Additional projects focus on foster carers with a view to better support them to provide optimal care for children. This includes a mixed methods study (online survey and individual interviews) related to foster carers use of self-care (commenced 2020), a qualitative study related to foster carers experiences supporting the oral health of children in OOHC (commenced 2019), and a qualitative study investigating the challenges of providing care during COVID-19 (commenced 2020).
6.A study focused on how to better prepare health and welfare professionals to work with Aboriginal children in the out-of-home care system through training and mentoring.

Industry partner and research end-users
The industry partners who provide both financial and in-kind support for the projects listed above include: Uniting, Settlement Services International, Key Assets, Barnardos, Wesley Mission, Anglicare, Challenge Community Services, Children Australia, MacKillop Family Services, Adopt Change, and NSW Department of Communities and Justice. Most of the above projects engage in co-design methods with parents, carers and children.

Summary of the impact
TeEACH’s focus on promoting children’s health and well-being aligns with our commitment to research that explores the efficacy of actively facilitating beneficial childhood experiences (BCEs) to mitigate the well-known negative implications of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Our ARC linkage project will trial several innovative approaches to supporting the cultural connection of children in care, including the impact of cultural mentoring and also a therapeutic life story approach to support children in identifying the elements of their cultural background that are important to them. It will culminate in the development of a best practice framework for supporting CALD children in care that will be implemented and trialled by eight industry partners across three states. Pending the success of this trial, we will work with state governments and NGO’s to roll out this framework across Australia.
We are developing a model of care for the NSW Permanency Support Program. This will be the first PSP framework to be co-designed and implemented in the Australian context. The model will be trialled by our industry partner, Uniting, who have co-funded a PhD scholarship to support this work.
The nurse home-visiting program for infants and young children in OOHC has gained in-principle support from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.  This project has the capacity to: improve child health and well-being; reduce placement instability for children in OOHC; increase the rate of successful reunification of parents and children; increase carer and satisfaction through the provision of targeted in-home support; and minimise the practice gaps between health and social services.

Summary of approaches to impact
As TeEACH is a relatively new SRI, much of our work is still in progress. However, our expertise in co-design methodologies is particularly well-received in the OOHC space where many of the key stakeholders (e.g. children, carers, case workers) feel their voices are not well heard. Individuals report these experiences to be both therapeutic and empowering. Our service organisation partners value this approach, which supports the direct and meaningful translation of research findings into practice.