We are changing how we provide support and services in the ACT with the aim of improving outcomes for children, young people and families.

This ambitious plan for reform is set out in Next Steps for our Kids 2022-2030: ACT strategy to strengthen families and keep children and young people safe (Next Steps).

The vision for Next Steps is to ensure all children and young people grow up strong, safe and connected including when placed in care or at risk of being in care.

The reform of children and family services in the ACT builds changes already achieved since 2015 under A Step Up for Our Kids 2015-2020. You can find out about what we achieved in the Post Strategy Evaluation Stage 1 report.

As we continue to develop and implement Next Steps, the ACT Government will partner with stakeholders to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.

We will also continue to consult and engage with you at various milestones in our journey

Our direction and priorities for reform

The overall direction of the reforms we are taking and how we will measure our success are set out in Next Steps.

Next Steps is an ambitious plan for reform over the next 8 years.

Next Steps seeks improved outcomes in 6 areas of focus:

  1. Our Booris, Our Way - addressing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our statutory services
  2. Trust and transparency - improving decision making, engagement and transparency
  3. Strengthening families - providing earlier support for families when they need it
  4. Trauma responsive and restorative practice - working in a restorative way for better outcomes
  5. Partnering with the community - ensuring a joined-up system of child, youth and family services
  6. Building a Continuum of Support - working together to ensure supports wrap around children and young people for smoother life transitions.

This plan was developed based on extensive consultation with people who have lived experience of child protection. This consultation included:

Next Steps does not prescribe how this next phase of reform will be implemented. The ACT Government is committed to co-designing and developing actions plans with service users and government and non-government service providers.

We will seek your feedback and engagement on these plans as we move forward.

Implementation planning and the first 4-year Action Plan

In developing the initial draft of the first 4-year action plan we have consulted with staff within the Community Services Directorate as well as targeted discussions with community sector partners. The first 4-year action plan will drive commitment to action and is underpinned by early support and connected action.

Workshops were held at the Child and Family Services Reform Forum on 6 December 2022 focused on reform priorities over the next 4 years and test and refine the draft Action Plan further.

An outline of the discussion that took place is available in the Communique - Child and Family Services Reform Forum (Dec 2022).

The first 4-year Action Plan is due to be finalised and released in early 2023.

Work on the development and design of contemporary governance structures is progressing and will continue in 2023.

How we got here

The reform of children and family services in the ACT builds on changes already achieved since 2015 in the ACT.

A Step Up for Our Kids 2015–2020 introduced reforms focused on:

  • preventing children and young people from entering care
  • reunifying children and young people with their birth parents as quickly as possible
  • moving children and young people into permanent alternative family settings as quickly as possible when they could not go home safely.

Reform was delivered through a therapeutic trauma-informed service in the areas of:

  • strengthening high risk families
  • creating a continuum of care
  • strengthening accountability to ensure a high functioning care system.

Evaluation of the data shows that we achieved notable change in the ACT out of home care system with an increase in the number of children, young people and families receiving specialist family support services, and a decrease in the number of children and young people entering out of home care.

However, we know significant challenges remain. There continues to be an over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people entering and living in out of home care. Gaps in educational and other life outcomes for children and young people living in and leaving out of home care also persist.

You can find out more about what we have achieved in the Post-Strategy Evaluation Stage 1 Report.