Family by Family was designed with and for families. It’s currently being in trialled in NSW and SA and is developing an evidence base that demonstrates that solutions built on what families want and need can create outcomes for families and for governments. Our ambition is to spread Family by Family across Australia.
The Family by Family model is the result of one of TACSI’s first projects. We were given a brief by the South Australian Government to help reduce the number of families needing crisis services, and to help keep more kids out of the child protection system. Over a period of 12 months, we worked with families to co-design a new program that would enable them to make the changes they wanted to make in their own lives.
Family by Family supports families across Australia to help each other thrive. It is a peer-to-peer program that draws on the experience and resilience within communities – we find and train families who have been through tough times, match them with families who want things to change, and coach the families to grow and change together.
Family by Family is now operational in three sites in Adelaide, and have expanded to Mt Druitt in western Sydney.
The biggest difference is that families are primarily supported by other families, rather than professionals. Family by Family activates a largely untapped resource – the strengths and experiences of families that have ‘been there, done that’ – and at the same time builds community capability and strengthens connections. One of the real strengths of this model is that families don’t work nine to five, Monday to Friday – they’re there to support each other 24 hours a day.
It’s also a model that will allow us to grow exponentially and create wide-reaching and sustainable social change. One professional Family Coach works with 15 Sharing Families, who in turn work with 40 Seeking Families, reaching up to 100 children at risk.
With just one professional for every 100 children, it’s extremely cost-effective. The program has an unprecedented cost benefit ratio of 1:7 – a huge saving for governments in keeping children out of State care and other child protection and crisis services.
While there are other programs that use a ‘mentoring’ or ‘peer-to-peer’ model, the key difference with Family by Family is its firm focus on behaviour change. It’s not only about offering support and encouragement (although that is valuable), it’s about families setting their own goals and being coached and guided to make a lasting change in their lives – from ending drug and alcohol abuse, to spending more time together as a family. The change journey has been very intentionally designed into the program, leading to a much higher likelihood of success.
It’s not only families “in crisis” who benefit. We believe any family that wants to create change and improve their lives should be given support to do so. Working with all types of families also helps avoid the stigma that the program is only for “disadvantaged” families, which too often can discourage families from taking part.
We worked with more than 100 families in Marion, South Australia, to co-design Family by Family. Instead of beginning with a pre-determined outcome or established program, we asked: what would be a good result for people? To answer that, we spent time with families, learning what motivates them, what excites them, what works for them.
We then used a process called prototyping, which involves trying out ideas by testing them with real families until we found something that worked. We listened to the families – the adults and the children – about what worked for them and what didn’t. That sometimes meant throwing ideas out as quickly as we came up with them. But by creating with families rather than creating for families, we’ve all worked together to develop something that truly works for families.