Victorian government backs functional family therapy program

By Melissa Coade

August 10, 2021

Victoria’s disability minister Luke Donnellan says he's dissatisfied with inoculation levels for the vulnerable.
Victoria’s disability minister Luke Donnellan says he’s dissatisfied with inoculation levels for the vulnerable. (AAP Image/Luis Ascui)

At-risk families in Victoria will be offered an early intervention program thanks to $2 million funding from the state government for OzChild, each year for the next four years.

OzChild is a community service organisation that delivers personalised support to children, teenagers and families in the Goulburn and outer eastern Melbourne regions. 

Through its functional family therapy program, OzChild experts work with families to help build skills to manage challenging behaviours and situations. 

Luke Donnellan, Victoria’s minister for child protection, issued a statement on Tuesday that said the evidence-based program was just one of many designed to keep at-risk children out of care in the state. 

“Nothing is more important than giving our most vulnerable children the stability, care and support they need,” Donnellan said.

More than 800 families have participated in the OzChild program since it was first piloted in Victoria five years ago. Of the successful participants, 95% of children and young people stayed with their family unit in the last 12 months.

The minister said the government was investing in other prevention and early intervention strategies like the functional family therapy program to support at-risk families achieve stability. 

“Supporting families to stay together – when it is appropriate to do so – delivers the best long-term outcomes for children to lead happy, healthy lives,” Donnellan said. 

According to the state government, six in every 1,000 Victorian children are placed in out-of home care. Victoria has the lowest rate out-of-home care placements in Australia. 

Victorian data for alternative care arrangements, also places the state among the highest for kinship care rates, with almost 80% of children and young people in need placed with other family members.

The state government has committed $335 million to early intervention programs, like OzChild, for at-risk families under the ‘Roadmap for Reform: Strong families, Safe children’, announced in the 2020/21 state budget.

An extra $1.2 billion has been allocated to Victoria’s children and families system in the latest budget, on top of last year’s $1 billion for support services to assist at-risk children, their families and carers.

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