Counting family support
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Preventative family support approaches are positioned as central to child welfare policy reforms aiming to address the problems of relying upon investigation and out-of-home care as the main modes of intervention. Extensive claims are made for family support but relatively little is known about its scope, processes and impact. This study examines the provision of family support in one jurisdiction. A census-type survey of family support services in one Australian state was conducted using a performance measurement framework in which inputs, outputs, processes and outcomes were measured. Family support services constituted a minor part of child welfare expenditure. They provided a narrow range of service types, and most families received short duration, low intensity services. Workers had difficulty identifying the specific child and family needs that were met by services. For family support to be a genuinely alternative response to concerns about the care of children, it must be capable of making an observable difference in the lives of families experiencing serious difficulties. The collection of aggregate performance data on family support would assist in understanding the nature and outcomes of service provision, as well as ensure family support is 'counted' in measurement-orientated policy and budget processes.
Child and Family Social Work
Copyright 2005 Blackwell Publishing. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.The definitive version is available at www.interscience.wiley.com