Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) established in Australia in 2006 are seeing parents from increasingly complex backgrounds including families where child protection matters may be of serious concern. These matters have required practitioners to shift their thinking about what responsibility they have for hearing the voices of children and their role in child protection. Many of the safety issues that present at FRC's fall below the statutory threshold for child protection intervention and this paper argues that FRC's are well placed to act as a referral and assessment point for families who might not otherwise be assessed or referred to services. This paper outlines a model of child inclusive practice (CIP) used in Anglicare WA's FRC's which is child inclusive but does not proceed to family dispute resolution. Where a risk factor such as family violence, mental health issues, or drug and alcohol issues is identified on intake with parents, children are routinely seen for an interview in order to obtain information about their needs and wellbeing. Literature indicates that many victims minimise violence and the risks associated with it; many parents maintain child contact with perpetrators for fear of retaliation; and many children protect their parents by not disclosing violence or other issues, because they do not want to “add fuel to the fire” or “be disloyal” to a parent. Case studies are provided to underline the importance of safety assessment.
Keypoints for the Family Court Community
- High numbers of complex child protection matters that present at Family Law services
- Importance of undertaking a safety assessment with children as well as parents where indicated
- Importance of referral to support services even if cases do not reach child protection threshold