BUSHkids Annual Report 2019-20

ANNUAL REPORT 2019–2020 TOPIC SECTION 19 CHILDREN AND PARENTING SUPPORT SERVICES CPSS The team flourished during this time and our data had a bit of an artificial peak (no travel time needed between service provision). Staff also began working across regions, as technology overcame the tyranny of distance. Team members supported each other with ideas and with their strengths: the pandemic has really brought us all together as a cohesive unit! Our Early Intervention Facilitators (EIFs) in Agnes Water, Kingaroy and Stanthorpe, accustomed to working independently in their communities, quickly realised that implementation of these new practices resulted in more collaboration across the sites. The changes were significant and required creativity and courage to re-establish how we would continue to support children and parents in our communities. Some struggled with the idea of using ZOOM to provide virtual services to kids and parents; others with technology and the fast- paced learning to get the services running. There was an element of grief in not being able to meet with children in person and some anguish at how they would establish a connection in the virtual world. The team met each day in a ZOOM meeting to prepare for the day and solve problems or concerns from the previous day’s service provision. We had some fun in privately sharing our shoe choices as no one could see our feet onscreen. (Most wore slippers of varying kinds!) Humour was a useful tool to manage stress levels. Below the light-heartedness, there became a very strong bond and support for each other. This time led to a greater support network amongst the peers in the team and beyond. Staff stopped working by specific locations, instead providing support, services and consultation across the region. Stanthorpe Psychologist Nicole provided family support for an Agnes Water family; Adela facilitated Mother Goose in Agnes Water from her home in Stanthorpe. COVID-19 has certainly changed how we see service provision in CPSS programs! The key learning was that we can tap into other staff members’ skills and knowledge from other regions when working with our clients. Nicole’s remote work was one of the highlights and provided great support to staff working with families experiencing complex adversity. We missed working in person with children and families but managed to maintain strong connections using technology. BUSHkids teleHealth had not yet played a significant role in our CPSS services and in the ‘new normal’ it is a small, slowly increasing part of our stream’s service provision. The adoption of teleHealth was a rapid and challenging learning time for some staff. All were willing to give it a go and much time was spent encouraging and supporting them to use creative ideas and focus on the importance of maintaining connections and families. All three CPSS locations were already in drought-declared regions, two of which had in the last two years also experienced the impact of bushfires. Communities were already heavily hit with the financial impacts of the ongoing drought and for Stanthorpe the town had run out of water. COVID-19 compounded the already existing adversities for many families, and they valued our teams’ ongoing commitment to support and connect with them, especially as children struggled with concerns about the virus. All sites distributed books to early years services and schools to support workers in communicating with children. CPSS funding was due to cease in June 2020. In February 2020, BUSHkids was pleased to receive advice from the Department of Social Services that grant agreements would continue for Children and Parenting Support Services until 30 June 2021. The department has advised that it will review the future of these services in their broader context during this extension period. CPSS The Children and Parenting Support Services team runs lots of children and parenting activities such as playgroups, group programs, community education and events. COVID-19 did change how we provided services but it did not stop us! The priority for the CPSS team during the lockdown period was to maintain relationships and continue to reinforce community connectedness. We did not shy away from the challenge and in a couple of weeks all services were converted to the virtual world.

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