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Child and family services globally are seeking to rapidly adapt to address the increasingly complex needs of vulnerable families and create better outcomes for the children they serve. 

Last month, in collaboration with Deloitte, the European Social Network (ESN) organised a webinar with experts from the Canada, Spain, New Zealand and Romania to share innovative ways to implement practices that put greater emphasis on understanding the complex needs of vulnerable families. 

Usually, we tend to look to countries with similar regulations and practices, however this time we sought out different approaches around the world and heard from new initiatives established by child and family services. 

Harnessing Community based approaches

“Today’s seminar is an opportunity to better understand the complex needs of families and how organisations that provide services can better manage and provide services for the needs of children and families using both, expertise and judgement, and data and evidence that inform decision making to better support children and families in our communities”, said ESN’s CEO Alfonso Lara-Montero, opening the discussion.

As an example of an intervention programme to reduce the impact of Covid lockdowns, Ana Bunuel from Madrid City Council presented Madrid’s family card. More than 28,000 family cards were processed, and 31 million EUR invested in total since its launch. This card is compatible with other municipal benefits and reaches to new profiles of vulnerable families with kids to support them with their material needs through a range of local shops. 

Laura Tabarcea from Bucharest’s 6th District General Directorate of social assistance and child protection presented their approach in a neighbourhood classified as a vulnerable community. A comprehensive approach that includes every aspect of families and individuals living in the same neighbourhood, not just current support and income status, but also their future needs. This helped ensuring coherent solutions and a reduction of in duplicated interventions.

Embedding New Approaches  

Experts from Canada and New Zealand presented new holistic approaches that acknowledge and respect the importance of cultural dynamics of families and children. 

Cheryl Whiskeyjack, Executive Director of the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society in Canada shared their experience of working with indigenous people in Canada where everything is centred on culture and ceremony. A new child welfare act was adopted to recognise inherent indigenous jurisdiction over child and family services. 

We also learnt how the Ministry for children in New Zealand worked with the Maori community to put in place a paradigm shift in social practitioner’s narrative inside the child welfare environment and highlighted the importance of respecting tradition and ceremony of families and children when practicing services.

Key Learnings

Concluding the session, Mr. Montero highlighted three key learnings from the webinar to better assess families and children: 

  • The importance of preventative programmes
  • Vitality of cooperation across all sectors leading prevention
  • Mindset shift of social service providers to change the training needed for working with vulnerable families across all communities and minorities.  

Watch the discussion here

Be Part of the Conversation

As the planning of social services takes a more integrated approach, a greater focus on personalisation and co-creation is key to enhancing local, community-based social services.

Share your experience of co-creation, the theme of the 2024 European Social Services Conference (ESSC), taking place in Antwerp (Belgium) on 26-28 June 2024.