CareSouth has become the first official SafeCare Accredited Agency in NSW.

This is a significant milestone for CareSouth’s Brighter Futures team, who are passionate advocates for early intervention to keep families together.

SafeCare is an evidence-based training program for parents with children aged 0 to 5 years old who are at risk of, or have been identified as, experiencing neglect and abuse.

The behavioural skills training program for parents was developed more than a decade ago at Georgia State University and has since been rolled out in six countries.

CareSouth was one of a handful of Brighter Futures providers chosen by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services to implement SafeCare more than 18 months ago. In that time a record number of staff achieved coaching and accreditation status to run the program with families who need support and guidance to raise happy, healthy children.

“Of those agencies chosen to be part of the SafeCare pilot program, we were one of the first to achieve certification of providers,” said Brighter Futures manager Alex Muir.

So far six staff from the Brighter Futures team have completed their certification in SafeCare, while five more are training to deliver the program to families. Three have received accreditation to become coaches and one has become a trainer, who delivered training to new providers in Sydney recently.

“To now be recognised as the first official SafeCare accredited agency in the state is a credit to the caseworkers here at CareSouth and the passion they have for the SafeCare Program,” said Alex.

“We have the highest retention rate in the state of families completing SafeCare, and we are inching closer to meeting and exceeding our 2020 target of 50% of eligible families completing the program.”

The Brighter Futures SafeCare providers are currently working with 24 families across the Illawarra. The program runs weekly for 50-90 minutes over 18 weeks and after working through the modules with the families, caseworkers have seen immediate results. 19 families have already graduated from the program.

One Brighter Futures caseworker, Bethany, even travelled more than 400km, to continue working with a mum who needed a helping hand to improve her parenting skills.

The SafeCare program, which focuses on three modules to support parents – Health, Parent-Child Interactions and Safety – was a perfect fit for the mum’s needs but she had only completed two of the three modules before moving to the Central Coast with her partner to be closer to family support networks.

“I was happy to make the six-hour round trip to her new home because I was determined to help her finish the SafeCare program,” said Bethany. “Often it can be hard for our families to follow through with parenting programs because they are in crisis or there is an expectation on their part that they are not going to succeed.

“I wanted to challenge that and let her know that I believed in her. I wanted to follow through on my end and do what I could to help her.

“One of the really positive things about this program is that it’s strengths-based. You are going into their home to remind them that they are doing a good job, this is a model that you can use to reinforce the good things they are doing. She kicked so many goals in such a short timeframe. And to see how happy and healthy the baby is, meeting all his milestones, just makes this so worthwhile.”

When US-based SafeCare facilitators Lacell Joseph and Akilah Thomas visited CareSouth’s Berkeley site last year to meet the Brighter Futures team who had so successfully put SafeCare’s theory into practice, they were suitably impressed.

The pair, from Georgia State University’s National SafeCare Training and Research Facility, praised CareSouth for its success in delivering a program that other agencies had struggled to implement.

“From the very beginning CareSouth have had such a positive outlook on delivering this program,” said Lacell. “CareSouth didn’t let barriers that other organisations had reported impact their implementation. They made a choice to make it work.”

“And it really has worked,” added Akilah.

*Late last year Four Corners aired a documentary about the SafeCare program – Parenting 101. It featured CareSouth’s Brighter Futures Caseworker Brittanii Carr delivering the SafeCare to a young mother. Watch Parenting 101 to see how a helping hand can make a world of difference.