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Parenting and family services

SafeCare

Hume region Gippsland region Northern region South Eastern region Western region

Man sitting in hammock with son

SafeCare is an evidence-based, early intervention program that supports parents with children aged 0 to 5 in their own homes. It aims to build parents' positive interactions with their children, keeping their homes safe and improving their children’s health.

It's our experience that every parent wants to be a better parent, and that the child-parent bond is powerful and enduring.

Through programs like SafeCare, parents can learn the skills they need to parent effectively and to stay safely together with their children.

How it works

SafeCare provides in-home training for parents over 18 to 20 weeks. Berry Street trainers work one-on-one with parents in the home, so the program is personalised and convenient for the family.

SafeCare focuses on the multiple risk factors for abuse and neglect across 3 training modules:

  1. Health, including how to provide adequate physical care, and when and how to care for a sick child at home, see a doctor and seek emergency help.
  2. Safety, including how to create physical safety in the home (ensuring it's hygienic, free from hazards, and so on) and the importance of supervising children.
  3. Parent-child interaction, including building connection, affection and loving relationship expression through play and engaging in positive, bonding experiences.

The evidence base

SafeCare is based on social learning theory - that people learn by observing and imitating others, and practising the behaviour. For every practical task, such as bathing a baby, parents are given:

  • clear instructions
  • modelling
  • role-play rehearsal
  • constructive feedback
  • homework exercises.

This helps parents develop skills to provide adequate safety and care to support their child's health.

SafeCare has almost 20 years of research evidence and was listed on the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) in 2006. To read a research paper on SafeCare implementation in Australia, go to NSW Government Department of Communities and Justice: SafeCare Interim Evaluation Report.

Goals of SafeCare

The SafeCare program aims to:

  • strengthen parents' capabilities and skills
  • increase positive parent-child interaction
  • improve home safety
  • improve how parents care for their children's health
  • reduce child protection reports (reduction of harm) and future incidents of child maltreatment
  • keep families together and prevent children from entering care.

Many parents participating in SafeCare have experienced trauma themselves (from family violence or childhood abuse, for example), which can affect the quality of care they provide to their children. They may not have had positive role models to learn from, or access to the right resources to parent effectively.

In building parenting skills, SafeCare can ultimately help break cycles of disadvantage, trauma and neglect.

The need for SafeCare

The number of children and young people in out-of-home care in Victoria has increased by 27% in the last 5 years. The current system is stretched; we know that keeping children and young people out of care is one of the most effective interventions to improving their future outcomes.

Family violence, mental and physical health risks and severe neglect are circumstances that can lead to a family being separated. In some situations, safety is vital and children need to be removed. However, in lower risk situations, early intervention is the better and most effective option.

SafeCare has been proven to empower parents of young children with the skills they need to parent effectively, and supports families to stay together.

Our approach

Berry Street is focusing on and implementing programs that keep families together safely and address challenges before they spiral out of control. As an evidence-based, early intervention program, SafeCare is aligned with one of our key goals to reorientate the child and family system towards early intervention and prevention.

We anticipate that SafeCare will help build the Australian evidence base for more investment in targeted early intervention.

Learn more about how we advocate for change

Contact us

For more information about SafeCare, please contact Tom Bowerman, Director of Innovation at tbowerman@berrystreet.org.au.