Research highlights the importance of building connections between young people, the family, the school and the service provider, in achieving commitment to the case planning process.
The Early Intervention (EI) Workers actively engage the young person (YP) wherever ‘they are at’, using venues such as the YP’s home; cafes; school meeting rooms; specific activities; or during car trips. This is to encourage young people to be open up about their thoughts, concerns, wishes or ambitions. Similarly, workers engage carers (usually at their home) to share thoughts, concerns, wishes or ambitions for their adolescent or the wider family unit. By engaging both the YP and the carers, families are able to move beyond existing conflicts and accept changes in relationships that can be positive and enduring. Commitment is given to a plan designed to meet the goals that the YP and family see as important. Goals are time framed, realistic and achievable, therefore the YP and family are invested.
The application of outreach and engagement strategies with the YP, family and schools will help in developing an integrated care plan. The EI Worker is pivotal in bringing the relevant parties together and promoting the ongoing commitment to the integrated care plan. In this role, the EI Workers become the Key Worker for the young person and collaborate and integrate care plans with other service providers i.e. mental health practitioners, CALD support agencies, GLBTI youth workers, disability service providers, Centrelink Social Workers or other relevant support workers. This also means that there is a ‘No Wrong Door Approach’ made possible for the young person; meaning whoever is currently supporting them can continue to do this through collaboration with other service providers also, or if they are initially referred through one door (i.e. Centrelink) they can then receive support by the EI Workers for non-financial issues and address the interconnected risk factors of education/accommodation instability or vise versa.
The philosophy at The Geelong Project is that improvements in family functioning and the support that families provide to young people is very important to achieving long term positive outcomes for young people. We adopt a ’youth focused’ and ‘family centered’ strategy aimed at maximising the young person’s connection with family and friends.
Conflict at home is by far the highest risk factor in setting a young person on the path to homelessness. Successful early intervention involves addressing and mitigating family conflict. Our approach is based on building trust of the young person and resolving issues by working with the whole family through a range of approaches involving boundary setting, mediation, and skill development.
A large number of the young people identified as being at risk of homelessness will be in school when first contacted. Our support is therefore focused on keeping these young people in schools or if that is not possible, still engaged with education. If there is disengagement from education, the EI Workers will support the young person and their family in re-engaging with their school setting or in finding alternative education options. This means that the young person can continue their education in appropriate settings and therefore be thoroughly supported to obtain necessary life skills and achieve the long term goals of having sustainable accommodation and employment options throughout their life.