Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland. Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.
Child Aware recognised that children and families often don’t seek mental health support due to common barriers, such as the logistics of getting to the appointment, the need to obtain a referral from a general practitioner, the risk of missing out on school, and a lack of awareness about the funding available through Medicare.
A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school. Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.
The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.
Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service. Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.
In-school counselling sessions were provided by Child Aware as a way to reduce or remove these barriers for children and families. The support was welcomed by the school. “The KidsMatter School we contacted was keen to jump on board... keen to be a part of it”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware.
Child Aware sought to offer families affordable, accessible and high quality counselling services for children who were ‘at-risk’ of developing mental health difficulties. The focus was on helping children to manage their symptoms, emotions and behaviours, and to make sure that children were getting the best out of their learning environment.
These in-school counselling sessions were successful at enhancing collaboration between schools, GPs, KidsMatter and Child Aware. They also improved outcomes, efficiency and overall awareness of the ATAPS Child Mental Health Services program.
Tools for schools:
A partnership between KidsMatter and Mindful from the University of Melbourne has enabled the first facilitator training for Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ in the Northern Territory. Ann Harley, parenting educator and co-author of the Tuning in to Kids™ program, travelled to Darwin to facilitate the training with 18 delegates.
Tuning in to KidsTM is an evidence-based parenting program that focuses on the emotional connection between parents and children. In particular the program teaches parents skills in emotion coaching; how to recognise, understand and respond to children’s emotions in an accepting, supportive way. This approach helps the child to understand and manage their emotions.
Tuning in to KidsTM was developed by Dr Sophie Havighurst and Ann Harley in Melbourne, and has been evaluated in multiple randomised controlled trials that have shown the program leads to positive outcomes including improving parenting, parent-child relationships and children’s emotional competence and behaviour. The program has been particularly effective with children with clinical-level emotional and behavioural difficulties.
The KidsMatter and Mindful partnership aims to improve quality of life, mental health and the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families. This collaboration has led to better access to parenting interventions in the Northern Territory and more options available to families.
There are many health and community professionals engaged with KidsMatter in the Top End. These professionals support schools to implement KidsMatter, help keep a focus on mental health and wellbeing in schools and assist to deliver mental health support to children and families in school settings. These professionals were supported to attend the Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ training with discounted registration.
Tools for universities:
Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students. Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.
Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".
Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:
- The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
- KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
- School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
- KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students
Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies. He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”
The aim of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life.
However there were other benefits too. The program also included education of parents and carers on these important topics and support for them to have a better understanding of their children’s current mental health state. Additionally, the schools benefited from having this program in their schools due to the ability to easily integrate social work skills into their environment without any budget outlay. The students who had placements within the KidsMatter schools benefited immensely too as many had a desire to work with children, but were not often given the opportunity.
Mary Duncan saw the benefit for the children. “Compared to a student teacher on placement, a social worker has a different and perhaps broader perspective on things. They are taught to see relationships within a systems framework, which is in line with the KidsMatter framework. So they are well placed to implement the principles of the framework.”
Robby Drake, UNi SA agrees. “If a teacher is concerned about a student’s wellbeing, having a social work student in their class is like a direct line that they can ask all those kinds of questions that can be clarified quickly.”
Tools for universities: