The enhanced maternal and child health service (EMCHS) is one of the service components of the maternal and child health service. The other components are the universal maternal and child health service and the maternal and child health line. The universal maternal and child health service, as well as offering key 'ages and stages' consultations, has a flexible service capacity which may be sufficient to meet the needs of child protection clients. Where this is not the case, the EMCHS may become involved.
The aim of the EMCHS is to improve the health and wellbeing of children by providing focused and intensive support for vulnerable families experiencing significant early parenting difficulties and children identified as being at risk of harm.
Its objectives are to provide:
- a comprehensive and focused approach for the early intervention and prevention of physical, emotional and social issues affecting young children and their families and ensure appropriate and timely referral for children and support for families.
- flexible models of service delivery and service activities utilising an appropriate multidisciplinary approach to meet the needs of families based on the identified needs and characteristics of the family or community, including inclusive services for fathers.
- integrated service provision across all early childhood services including maternity and neonatal services, the universal maternal and child health service, early intervention, family support, child protection, child care, preschool and parenting services.
- integrated service provision for high-risk families including assertive outreach and liaison with relevant services such as antenatal services, domestic violence, drug and alcohol and mental health services, Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The EMCHS is directed towards families who are experiencing significant risk issues or present with multiple risk factors given the potential for a significant impact on the health, development and wellbeing of children within these families.
The primary focus of service delivery is vulnerable families with one or more risk factors including:
- drug and alcohol issues
- mental health issues
- family violence issues
- families known to child protection
- unsupported parents aged under 24 years
- low income, socially isolated, single parent families
- significant parent and baby bonding and attachment issues
- parents with an intellectual disability
- children with a physical or intellectual disability
- infants at increased medical risk due to prematurity, low birth weight, drug dependency and failure to thrive.
A particular focus for the service is Indigenous families who are not linked into, or require additional support from, the universal maternal and child health service.
Priority will be given to vulnerable families with a child aged under 12 months. However families with children aged over 12 months may be included as a strategy to link children and families with other primary or secondary services for longer term intervention and support.
The service is provided through local government with an average of 15 hours service delivery per family. The length and intensity of contact with a particular family will vary depending on the complexity of the family’s needs and the need for efficient and effective service provision to children and families.
Flexible models of service delivery will be utilised depending on local demographics and identified needs such as home based services, group activities, day stay programs, community-based services where culturally appropriate, and service provision integrated with other relevant service providers, including child protection.
A multidisciplinary approach is encouraged, in addition to maternal and child health nurses staff may include Indigenous workers, early childhood workers, family support workers, or specialist workers such as drug and alcohol or mental health workers.
Referral to the EMCHS is only made from within the maternal and child health service. When liaising with the maternal and child health nurse the child protection practitioner should establish whether such a referral has been made and make contact with the relevant EMCHS nurse where applicable. Where such a referral has not been made and the child protection practitioner believes involvement of the EMCHS would be beneficial for a client, contact can be made with the coordinator of the maternal and child health service for the area in which the family resides. In some circumstances further involvement with the universal maternal and child health service may be more appropriate. Availability of EMCHSs varies. The coordinator will be in a position to appropriately allocate services.