Anyone in the community is able to make a referral to Child FIRST by ringing the Ballarat CAFS office. A referral to Child FIRST may be the best way of connecting vulnerable children up to the age of 17 years and their families to the services they need to protect and promote their healthy development. One of those services may be be provided by the CAFS Family Services unit.
The Family Services teams are located at Ballarat, Ararat, Daylesford, Bacchus Marsh and the Early Childhood Parenting Centre in Ballarat. Families who may be referred to Family Services are those that are experiencing parenting issues, family conflict (including family violence), physical or mental illness, or substance abuse. The focus of all work with families is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and to keep them safe and secure within their families. The Best Interest Case Practice Model is used to ensure that assessments of families and case plans are relevant and useful to the family.
There has been a significant increase in referrals to Child FIRST, with an overall growth of 23% in the past three years. As well as increasing numbers, CHILD first and Family Services are observing a greater complexity in the issues families are facing. Child FIRST received 793 referrals in 2014–15. Of these, 212 families were referred to CAFS Family Services teams across the Central Highlands region.
Child FIRST and Family Services are active members of the Central Highlands Family Services Alliance (CHFSA), which provides operational oversight for family services partners in the region and includes CAFS, Centacare, Uniting Care, the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative, Ballarat Health Services and Glastonbury Family Services. In 2014–15, the CHFSA developed a joint project with the Central Highlands Family Violence Committee to investigate innovative ways of responding to families where family violence was prevalent.