TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED CHILD AND FAMILY SYSTEM

Download the PDF version.


Realizing our best future

With our Best Future in Mind sets out the vision for an integrated system of services for families and children pre-natal – 12 years of age. The key to success will be our ability to implement a process that moves away from uncoordinated and fragmented approaches, and toward a shared cause with clear and common outcomes in mind and the leadership and accountability necessary to achieve them. The following vision and guiding principles have been developed to inform the development of a framework and implementation process, and reflect the perspectives, advice and experiences gained through consultations and community-government partnerships.

Working Vision

Best Start Centres will represent a network of services that may or may not be co-located, but function under a common approach to governance, planning and decision-making with clearly identified outcomes. Families will be able to know how well children in their community are doing.

More specifically, Best Start Centres:

Seamless service means that programs and services are so well connected that children and families may actually perceive services as being delivered by one agency, though they may actually be delivered by multiple agencies. "Seamlessness" is about connecting services in such a way that transitions between different services disappear.

Integration means focusing on client and community needs rather than on the mandate of a particular agency or organization. It means local programs and services are delivered according to a community plan that is based on information about the needs of local children and families. It may include the consolidation of resources, the co-location of different service functions and/or re-engineering of existing resources. An integrated services system means there is "No Wrong Door" – families can enter the system through any service provider and receive the supports they want and need.

Re-engineering is the fundamental rethinking and redesign of services and processes to achieve dramatic improvements in outcomes. The key to effective re-engineering is that organizations look at their programs, services and processes from a clean slate, and determine the most effective way to work with other organizations to support the best outcomes for children and families.

A family's service experience through Best Start Centres will be further enhanced through the following:

Some guiding principles

The current fragmentation and complexity of child and family services makes it extremely difficult for many families to obtain the services they need in a timely way. Families seeking assistance often face multiple, complex needs and require the services of more than one program.

The following characteristics have been identified through community engagement as particularly important:

  1. Family-centred
    A family-centred approach to system- and program-level planning is one in which the family is the primary focus of attention. Actively engaging, respecting, strengthening, and supporting the family – while ensuring optimal outcomes for children – are central to this approach. Key principles include the need to respect parents as experts on their child's needs, to build authentic relationships with children and families to understand their strengths and needs, to appreciate that all families have competencies that can be strengthened, and to be sensitive to cultural, ethnic and
    socio-economic diversity.
  2. No Wrong Door
    A No Wrong Door approach is based on the principle that every door in a child and family system should be the right door. In a No Wrong Door approach, wherever a family first interacts with the child and family system – and regardless of the type of service being provided – family members can be connected quickly and effectively, to a broad range of other services.

    Every service provider has a responsibility to provide families with the information that might be of use to them at that time. Service providers also have a responsibility to be welcoming and responsive to parents' needs – either through direct service or by linking them to appropriate supports. The intent is to build a supportive referral culture across and within the service system so families will not have to negotiate access to multiple services on their own.
  3. Intentional support
    Intentionality is about acting purposefully, with a specific goal and a plan to accomplish it. Intentional support is about delivering, or brokering, effective services for children and families with the purpose of intentionally improving child outcomes. Service providers should be able to explain why they are doing what they are doing each time they interact with, or act on behalf of, a child or family.

    For this approach to be effective, providers must understand that their own service is part of a broader system and must be able to offer appropriate and assisted referrals to the service(s) that can best support each family.
  4. Shared understanding and shared practice
    Having a shared understanding is about building a common vocabulary and gaining enough insight to build solutions together that, in the end, create a better experience for families. At the local level, this translates into families being able to expect a certain quality and level of services in their community no matter where they live.

    Shared understanding also translates into effective cooperation among and between all of the professionals who work with children and youth in communities. Having a shared vocabulary, and mutual trust and respect for each other, allows professionals from across the early years sector to plan, design and implement shared evidence and outcome-based practices that contribute to better outcomes for children and families. At its most basic form, this means local professionals need to know what other professionals do, what role each plays, and how these roles could be altered to improve support to families.
  5. Appropriate human and financial capacity
    As the process of moving toward genuine integration unfolds, current resources – both human and financial – will be better and more efficiently utilized, and service providers should be better able to prioritize resources as they become available: greater clarity will emerge in regard to how, where and at what level human and financial resources are required for the ultimate aims of the Best Start Centres initiative to be fully realized. It is also critical that staff and leaders be well-trained and supported, effective in their roles, and able to work across traditional divides.
  6. Culturally responsive
    In an integrated system of child and family services, families should be able to fully participate in and use services regardless of language or cultural differences. A cultural group includes people with common origins, customs and styles of living, who share a sense of identity and language. Their common experiences shape their values, goals, expectations, beliefs, perceptions and behaviours. The ability to be responsive to the needs of families as they make choices and plans, which may be influenced by their cultural background, is important to ensure all families have the same high quality service experience.

    We have also heard clearly from Aboriginal service providers that, while existing culturally specific services are promising, non-Aboriginal services will also be required that are more sensitive and effective in serving Aboriginal children and families.
  7. Improved outcomes for children and families
    As we develop and implement the concept of Best Start Centres and advance toward a system of child and family services that is truly integrated, we expect to achieve a number of important outcomes. One component of the Best Start Centres initiative will be the identification of outcomes at different levels of the service system and the development of strategies for more effective data collection. Shared outcomes will help establish a uniform accountability across service providers within the system and will contribute to a continuous quality improvement process.