It was a delighted and very proud Ruah Legal Services team that went up on stage to receive the winner’s trophy for best Innovation for Change for our Care and Protection service at the 2022 WA Mental Health Awards in November.
The Care and Protection service was developed in 2020 in response to a vital need to provide quality, holistic support to families facing child protection proceedings. The program was the first of its kind in WA to provide wrap-around legal and social support and advocacy to families throughout their often traumatic legal proceedings.
We know that families involved with child protection proceedings are often experiencing multiple, co-occurring non-legal issues with the most common factors associated with the removal of children being family violence, parental substance abuse, and parental mental illness.
Child protection legal proceedings are arguably the most serious and traumatic an individual can experience. Parents stand the possibility of losing custody of their children, and families are subject to court decisions that may forever change their composition, as well as connections to culture and heritage.
We took the innovative approach to bring together a lawyer and a community case worker in a team, adopting an early intervention approach to provide intense advocacy in the early stages of their legal proceedings, and then providing ongoing support right up until the end of their matter.
The early evaluation and feedback for the service, published in an Interim Evaluation Snapshot, have shown that this approach is quite literally life changing.
Of 61 clients assisted with 2,515 hours of legal work and 2,510 hours of psychosocial support 95% agreed that having access to both legal and social support has been valuable.
86% of clients felt that as a result of this service their voice had been heard in their Care and Protection matters. And 86% said that they felt more hopeful for the future.
Quotes from our clients say it all:
“Before Ruah Legal Services I thought my life was completely destroyed. You have given me hope that I can get through this and get my kids.”
“(If I had not engaged with Ruah Legal Services) I would have run away and never looked back. I would have never seen my kids again.”