Co-designing Our Way Home – Care that Keeps Family Together

  • 2023

  • Social Impact

Designed In:


‘Our Way Home’ is the result of three years of codesign and prototyping by Parkerville Children and Youth Care and Innovation Unit. Engaging over 200 children, families, Elders, staff, and community stakeholders, the process reframed and redesigned out-of-home care services, transforming the experiences of children in care and their families.

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Image: 'Scenes' prototyping
Image: Insights
Image: Family Link Worker
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  • The current system of out-of-home care (OOHC) in Western Australia, as well as throughout Australia, fails many of the people it is supposed to support. Even with the passion of those who work in the system, it works against children’s needs, perpetuates intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, and lacks sufficient resources. Despite their small representation among the population, the majority of children in OOHC are Aboriginal. Radical transformation is required in order to improve outcomes for children, young people and families. Parkerville recognised this and responded to the need to do things differently.

  • ‘Our Way Home’ proposes a significant departure from out-of-home care as it is currently delivered across most of Australia. It recognises that long-term impact lies in strong families. Connecting foster carers and workers with childrens’ families of origin, enables shared caring of children, and provides opportunities for reconnection and restoration of families. New staff roles help bridge these complex relationships. Creative tools and practice guides support a mindset shift so families are seen as equal partners. Each child’s journey is personalised to their unique circumstances and needs, and engineered towards restoration in whatever way is right for them.

  • ‘Our Way Home’ has been fully implemented and there are plans to scale it widely, beyond the organisations that designed it. Evaluation found that children in care under the model now have more contact with people important to them, including cases where there had been little or no contact, or where contact risked being lost. Families are making positive changes in their lives, and personalised care and family contact is resulting in behaviours and actions from children that signify positive long-term outcomes. There is also evidence of mitigating the root causes of prolonged child protection, including intergenerational involvement.

  • The model gives children, young people and their families involved with care systems more choice and control, recognising that long-term impact lies in strong families and cultural connections. The model aims for radically personalised ‘shared care’ relationships between carers and families. Key features of this model include: > A new role (Family Link Worker) that supports relationships with families, to start healing journeys and facilitate connections. > An elevated role for Aboriginal Practice and Culture Leads in finding family who had long since disconnected. > New practices, such as ‘Bridge Spaces’ which are planned, facilitated meetings between carers, families and children that create conditions for relationships to flourish, and for conflicts to resolve. > A creative tool kit (My Plan Kit, Voice Boxes, Connection Cards) that enables the voices of children, young people and families to influence decision making. Practice Guides and Videos that support the adoption of new mindsets and practices amongst the team at Parkerville. These are open sourced for wider adoption of methods across the system. > New leadership and support structures. Shared care is complex work, requiring significant mindset shifts and new practices. New support from leaders allows the reflection space to develop skills and overcome anxieties.