When did the initiative commence?

Merri Outreach Support Service (MOSS) began providing specialist support to children who had experienced family violence in the late 90s. In the mid-2000s, MOSS received funding to provide the Bright Futures program.

How did the initiative come about? What need does it respond to?

The program recognises the need for specialist, child-focused outreach for children who have experienced family violence and homelessness. Historically, parent-focused services were not been resourced adequately to deal with the complex needs of children who had experienced trauma and abuse, in the context of family violence and homelessness.

What does the initiative do? Who does it support?

The Bright Futures model includes three service response streams for children living with their family, who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness and or family violence, who present with complex needs:

  1. assessment and case planning,
  2. enhanced case management and
  3. therapeutic group work.

The team of four workers comprises a team leader, two case managers and a group worker. Referrals are received from Specialist Homelessness Sector funded family violence and homelessness support agencies.

In some cases, the child’s needs are able to be met by the referring agency through stream 1 – assessment and case planning. Assessment will inform the appropriate service response stream(s) for supporting the child.

“If we determine that a child does not have complex needs, then the referring agency workers are often able to provide support to that child,” Bright Futures Group Worker Talia Barrett says.

“An important part of our role is to support family violence and homelessness workers in their own work with children. We can do this through providing advice or through a co-case management model. Co-case management allows for Bright Futures to maintain our focus on children,” Bright Futures Team Leader Allen Jeffress says.

Where children are identified as having complex needs, Bright Futures provides enhanced case management, which includes some therapeutic work. Instead of allocating children to a single case manager, the Bright Futures team works collaboratively to support their clients.

“This models a ‘community’ approach to supporting children,” Allen says.

“Of course, there’s always potential for a single case manager to work with a child, if that’s what the situation calls for,” Talia says.

Bright Future’s group work program is a therapeutic creative arts group that provides a space away from the stressful environments created through children’s experiences of family violence or homelessness. The program involves art, play, drama, games and group discussion and aims to promote positive self-esteem, alleviate stress and reduce isolation.

Recently, Bright Futures introduced a fourth service stream of counselling support to a limited number of children in the program.

How is the initiative resourced/funded?

Merri Outreach Support Service (MOSS) is funded by the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHHS) under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to provide the Bright Futures—Children’s Specialist Support Service in the North and West Metropolitan Region (N&WMR) of Melbourne.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar initiative?

Bright Futures also provides training and professional development to agencies working with children and emphasise that they can be contacted for advice about working with children at any time.

“If there are agencies that want to start a program that is child-specific; a one-worker program, a school holiday program, however small, we are keen to collaborate or to provide advice and resources” Allen says.

The N&WMR Children’s Resource Program is also based at Merri Outreach Support Service and can provide valuable support in terms of resources, training and secondary consultation in work with children.

How should clients be referred into the program?

For more information, or to make a referral, contact the team at Bright Future on (03) 9359 9493 or at brightfutures@merri.org.au.