Victoria Legal Aid

‘The missing parcel’ – how we are supporting parents to find their voice

IFAS advocate Faduma Hassan enjoys helping parents and caregivers to work together with Child Protection to achieve the best outcome for their family.

Thursday 7 April 2022 12:46am

Faduma Hassan speaks with certainty and warmth as she describes why she enjoys her role as an IFAS advocate in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

‘Parents and caregivers can often feel like they have no voice when working with Child Protection.

‘I have worked in different roles. My last role working in the family violence service system was totally different than my current role but for me, IFAS is the missing parcel in the package of the child protection system.’

Independent Family Advocacy and Support (IFAS) is our non-legal advocacy service providing support to parents and primary carers in the early stages of involvement with the child protection system.

Faduma brings more than a decade of case management experience across family services, community health and the family violence service systems to her role at IFAS.

She also draws on her own appreciation of the difference a good support worker can make to someone’s life.

'When I first arrived in Australia from Somalia as a young woman, I was one of the lucky ones, my case manager was a very wise lady, and I still keep in touch with her.'

It was Faduma’s case worker who planted the seed that she could have a career in social work.

‘Even though I was in a new environment, a new culture, learning a new language, I was trying to help other young people similarly in my situation, to share what I know.

‘I started doing voluntary work, teaching people how to open a bank account, Medicare, helping them with Centrelink and my friend, my case worker, made me realise that this is who I am.

‘Social work gives me that opportunity to explore myself, to challenge myself a bit more and to find a better outcome for my clients. I really like helping people, I like to advocate as much as I can.’

Working towards better outcomes

IFAS is operates in Greater Bendigo, Ballarat and northern metropolitan Melbourne.

Advocates help parents and carers to identify and work towards the goals for their family and to understand both their rights and responsibilities.

An independent evaluation found that IFAS diverted approximately 20 per cent of client families from the court system, and it recommended the service be expanded across the state.

‘Going through the child protection system can be stressful and hard to navigate for parents,’ said IFAS manager, Helen Makregiorgos.

'IFAS helps parents to understand the system and have their views heard.'

IFAS manager, Helen Makregiorgos.

Faduma is the advocate for areas covered by the Preston Department of Families, Fairness and Housing Child Protection office, including Darebin, Hume and Moreland regions of Melbourne.

‘My clients are experiencing family violence, mental health issues, and other things, and my role is to highlight those issues, with the client’s consent, to make sure Child Protection understands.

‘It’s so rewarding for me to be able to use my experience from other systems to pick up on those perspectives and then advocate for the best outcome,’ she said.

A service in demand

IFAS prioritises people who often face particular barriers navigating the child protection system, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, parents with an intellectual disability and culturally and linguistically diverse parents.

But there is strong evidence of the need for IFAS to be expanded across Victoria, as recommended in the independent evaluation. Since commencing in late 2018, the service has received hundreds of calls from parents who are not eligible for the service because they live outside the current catchment areas.

'Expanding IFAS would not only create more equitable access, it would also drive positive changes to the whole system, by embedding processes that give parents and primary carers more meaningful involvement in the decisions being made about their families.'

IFAS manager, Helen Makregiorgos.

For Faduma, IFAS is a positive, supportive and inclusive place to work, where she can make a difference in the lives of her clients.

‘My aim advocating for the client is to make sure that the client gets the support they need, that Child Protection hears their concerns, and to make sure we get a better outcome for the family, working together with Child Protection as a team.’

More information

Read more about IFAS.

To make a referral to IFAS contact 1800 849 200.

Reviewed 29 April 2022