Inter-agency policies and practices to support Western Australian students in foster care

Amy Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

Effective collaboration between schools and child protection agencies is critical to improving educational outcomes for students in foster care. While American studies have identified significant barriers to collaboration, including poor communication, confidentiality restraints and role ambiguity, this topic is under-examined in the Australian context. The present case study addresses this research gap by investigating inter-agency collaboration from the perspective of child protection workers with The Department for Child Protection and Family Support (CPFS) in Western Australia. Participants described surprisingly strong working relationships with educators, guided by shared protocols for education planning and information sharing outlined in a jointly established Memorandum of Understanding. This presentation will focus on how these protocols and other
structural factors influence inter-agency collaboration and impact the educational support available to Western Australian students in foster care.

The study's design was grounded within an interpretivist theoretical framework and included two stages of data collection: policy document analysis, and semi-structured individual interviews with eleven CPFS Caseworkers and Education Officers employed in metropolitan, regional and remote locations in Western Australia. Participants expressed that the provision of annual Documented
Education Plans and joint case conferences for all students in foster care strengthened inter-agency communication and education planning accountability. However, considerable tensions stemmed from limited access to supplementary educational supports within both systems and a lack of
mutual role understanding. Another key finding is the concern among participants that some educators would benefit from a better understanding of the impact of trauma on learning and behaviour. Further conceptualisations of these findings, based on Whittington's (2003) Two-Stage Model of Collaboration, consider how structural factors, practitioner identity, and the involvement
of foster carers influence the collaborative process.

While the size of the study limited its scope to child protection workers, the perceptions of educators, foster carers, and students in foster care are also essential to a solid understanding of collaboration between these stakeholder groups. Nonetheless, insights into cross-system relationships offered in this presentation have the potential to enhance inter-agency collaboration and inform the development of future school and child protection agency partnership initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages103
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventEuropean Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents 13th International Conference - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 2 Sep 20145 Sep 2014

Conference

ConferenceEuropean Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents 13th International Conference
Abbreviated titleEUSARF 2014
CountryDenmark
CityCopenhagen
Period2/09/145/09/14

Keywords

  • child protection
  • education
  • out-of-home care
  • cross-system collaboration

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    Schmidt, A. (2014). Inter-agency policies and practices to support Western Australian students in foster care. 103. Abstract from European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents 13th International Conference , Copenhagen, Denmark.