While technically out of scope for this report, several stakeholders raised concerns about a perceived shift in focus of Child FIRST since it became part of The Orange Door. Child FIRST (child and family information, referral and support teams) is the entry point into services that support families who need assistance with the care and wellbeing of children.
Anglicare Victoria explained that while The Orange Door is also meant to be the gateway into child, youth and family services, it is commonly viewed as primarily a family violence service, and they often see less attention on outcomes for families needing support unrelated to family violence. They explained that, like the family violence system, the child, youth and families system in some areas is overwhelmed with demand, meaning that families only enter the service system when their situation has deteriorated, when this could have been prevented from happening with earlier intervention. Similarly, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare explained that Child FIRST previously had a greater focus on providing early parenting help to ensure children could thrive, but that now this function has weakened. It stated that there is an urgent need to carve out the early intervention role of Child FIRST once again. The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing has advised that work is underway to develop a child wellbeing assessment tool that will be used in The Orange Door to ensure a child wellbeing focus is maintained.
We were also told of stigma associated with using a service commonly considered to be family violence– focused, and this may be a barrier to engagement for some families.