Where it is believed parental relationship problems are impacting on the safety and wellbeing of a child protection client, practitioners should identify this in the context of the protective concerns outlined in the case plan. Goals and tasks to respond to the concern may be included in the actions table where parents are seeking to address the issue or be specified as a condition on a Children’s Court order. A referral to relationship counselling may be appropriate.
Positive relationships are important for health and wellbeing. Relationship counselling can help couples:
- communicate more effectively
- develop a more enriching and well functioning relationship
- parent more effectively through developing a more cohesive approach
- rebuild a relationship after a significant loss or change
- enhance personal growth and self esteem
- isolate the matters of dispute between parties through the assistance of a neutral third party, thereby assisting the couple to develop options and alternatives to reach consensual agreement that satisfies each participants needs
- resolve or decrease causes of depression, anxiety, anger, confusion, and insecurity.
The prime consideration for the child protection practitioner is how the parental relationship problems impact upon the family environment, parenting capacity and harm consequences for the children. Relationship counselling needs to be viewed in the context of the permanency objective and actions being taken to address the protective concerns for the child. It is an intervention that may potentially help parents.
The target group for relationship counselling referrals is the parents of child protection clients where it is clear that the nature of the parental relationship is having a negative impact on the children's safety and wellbeing.
Each service will have its own eligibility criteria. Contact the service directly to discuss the eligibility requirements for the service.
- Service appropriateness: Confirm that the service you refer families to is appropriate and relevant to the specific issues identified as needing to be addressed to promote the best interests of the child.
- Cost and funding arrangements: Confirm the cost of the service and arrangements for payment. Before any referral is made to a counsellor the child protection practitioner must confirm the cost (if any) involved and clarify who is responsible for payment. Where necessary, approval for sufficient funding is to be obtained before counselling commences. Consideration should be given to reviewing the funding approval on a regular basis.
- Service accessibility: Consider issues relevant to accessing the service, for example the waiting list, location and directions for public transport, and the referral process. Your supervisor or other senior practitioners will be able to assist with information regarding other services in your area that provide a relationship counselling service.
Parents of child protection clients will generally only be referred with their consent.
Should a relationship counsellor be required to appear as a witness in the Children's Court, the child protection practitioner must alert the counsellor at the earliest possible time that this may be required. In this case the scope of the counsellor’s work with the family and any reporting arrangements must be clarified negotiated and agreed to with the family’s consent prior to the counselling commencing. It is also necessary to negotiate the issue of witness costs, submitting a court report and availability. See Children's Court witness summons - advice for further information.