Fostering Lifelong Connections, a 3-year Australian Research Council funded study led by the Research Centre for Children and Families, explored how the out-of-home care sector could better support relationships between children, their families and carers.

The aim of Fostering Lifelong Connections was to develop, test, embed, and disseminate practices for supporting children in out-of-home care to develop and sustain positive connections with their families by:

  • Identifying relationship-building practices and co-designing resources
  • Conducting action research to trial, implement and evaluate practice changes
  • Disseminating the outcomes, including practice resources and training, to the out-of-home care sector

Fostering Lifelong Connections involved collaboration with 8 partner organisations who deliver out-of-home care services in NSW including:

The project applied an action research approach used extensively in child welfare in the United States known as a Breakthrough Series Collaborative which brings together child welfare agencies to rapidly test strategies over about two years. We worked with 33 out-of-home caseworkers from our partner agencies in four sites in New South Wales to trial relationship-building practices that support children’s connections to family and culture. We held learning sessions to bring caseworkers from all sites together to reflect in between action research cycles when practices were trial.

Action research cycles and scaling up practices

Fostering Lifelong Connections is underpinned by three principles:

Hear Chief Investigator, Professor Amy Conley Wright, give an overview of the Fostering Lifelong Connections study here:

Hear caseworkers who participated as action researchers reflect on the importance of children’s relationships with family when they are in care here: