The first point of contact is the most vital

The Intake and Assessment Caseworker is a client’s initial point of connection to SHINE for Kids. The role is multi-faceted and pivotal to our operations. The Caseworker provides direction and information to families, inmates, children, Corrective Services staff, Family and Community Services, legal representatives, schools, and a host of other stakeholders.

Our Intake and Assessment Caseworker always shows compassion, understanding, and a non-judgmental position with our clients, who report feeling a great sense of relief and comfort knowing they are not alone, and that people care about them.

Referrals are assessed by the Caseworker to determine the children’s and families’ needs, and designated to the appropriate SHINE for Kids program or service, or other appropriate support. This important process ensures that any family contacting SHINE for Kids will benefit from doing so.

The Caseworker must possess a high level of interpersonal and organisational skills. On any given day they will speak with carers, inmates, lawyers, psychologists, correctional staff, teachers and a host of other people. It is crucial to be adaptable, patient and understanding so families will get the respect and service they require. Building positive working relationships creates a solid foundation and enables us to give the children the support they deserve.

Case study: Helping Jane navigate her way through tough times

A referral from a school counsellor requested general support for a family in need. Jane* told our Intake and Assessment Caseworker how her husband Matt* had just been given a two-year sentence in a regional correctional centre. It was Jane’s first contact with the criminal justice system and she was feeling very lost.

Jane didn’t want to tell their two daughters about Matt’s incarceration. She thought that it would be better to tell them that he had gone to work overseas. Several conversations with our Caseworker saw Jane realise that a lie might hurt more than the truth, and developed a plan for discussing Matt’s imprisonment with the girls.

Jane said to the girls, “Daddy has done something wrong when he was driving his car. When big people do a naughty thing they have to go to prison to have time out. Daddy still loves you both very much, and he would much rather be at home with us, but he has got to do the right thing now.” Jane’s girls were at preschool and kindergarten so they understood the concept of time-out. Although the girls were understandably upset, as advised by our Caseworker, Jane validated their feelings, so the girls would feel supported and understood.

The girls had lots of questions. Most importantly, they wanted to know how they could talk to Daddy, and if they could see him. Our Caseworker sent out SHINE for Kids’ ‘Staying in Touch’ packs for the girls, and they started to write Matt letters and draw him artworks. An internal referral was arranged for the Video Visits program also, and the family had monthly audiovisual contacts, to alleviate the stress of travelling the long distance to the Correctional Centre. Jane reported how beneficial and positive these forms of contact were for the girls.

By accessing SHINE for Kids’ Intake and Assessment services, Jane and the girls were able to navigate their way through Matt’s incarceration period. Jane often said how conversations with our Caseworker helped her feel in control, and capable of getting through the tough times.

*Names have been changed.