Dialog Box

Speakers & Abstracts 2019

International Speakers

Terry Cross

Founder and Senior Advisor of NICWA – National Indian Child Welfare Association

Terry L. Cross, (Ha-ne-ga-noh), MSW, ACSW, LCWS, an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians (Bear Clan), is the founder and, now Senior Advisory to the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He received an honorary Doctorate from Portland State University in 2015.

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He has published more than 60 professional papers, curricula, articles, chapters, and books, including Positive Indian Parenting, Cross-Cultural Skills in Indian Child Welfare, Customary Adoption for American Indian and Alaskan Native Children, and “Toward a Culturally Competent System of Care.” For the past five years, he has been part of a team of authors creating an online “Adoption Competency Mental Health Training” and recently provided consultation to Sesame Street on foster care. He has 46 years of experience in child welfare. He has organized culturally specific services, training curricula, and technical assistance programs, and has developed culturally based models for social work practice, research, and leadership development.

Reference Points for Belonging:
Connectedness and for Life-Long Permanency


Terry L. Cross will present an American Indian perspective on permanency and discuss the mental health implications of separation, loss, and grief that is an inherent, yet unspoken part of all adoptions. He will summarize the negative history of American Indians and Alaska Natives regarding foster care and adoption, the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the development of tribal services and the National Indian Child Welfare Association. Mr Cross will provide an overview of the Touchstones of Hope approach to child welfare for Indigenous populations, highlighting how many Indigenous communities in the United States are ensuring safety, permanency, and well-being through healing intergenerational trauma and by preserving the child’s reference points for belonging.

Harriet Ward CBE

Emeritus Professor, Honorary Research Fellow, The Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, University of Oxford, UK

Professor Harriet Ward is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Education (Rees Centre for Research on Fostering and Education), University of Oxford and Emeritus Professor of Child and Family Research at Loughborough University.

She has over thirty years’ experience as a social work practitioner, an academic researcher and as a policy analyst. Since 2001, much of her empirical research has focussed on very young children at risk of significant harm and their parents. Recent studies include an eight-year prospective longitudinal study of infants identified as at risk of significant harm before their first birthdays; an empirical study exploring the development of a pre-birth assessment pathway (with Jane Barlow and Clare Lushey); and a study of outcomes for children adopted from care in New South Wales. Harriet has served on a number of national and international working parties and advisory boards; she currently leads the International Network on Infants and Toddlers in Child Protection (with Fred Wulczyn and Jane Barlow) and represents England on the Board of Eusarf (European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents) She has a CBE for services to children and families and a EUSARF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Achieving permanence for abused and neglected children in out of home care


Adoption entails the transfer of legal rights and responsibilities for a child from birth parents to adoptive parents. Inevitably this can be controversial, and particularly so in Australia where the legacy of past injustices and scandals tends to colour the debate. However, there is some evidence that where adoption forms an integral part of a child protection system, it can offer a reliable route to permanency for abused and neglected children who cannot safely return home.

The paper takes Brodzinsky’s concepts of legal, residential and psychological permanence, and explores how far these are achieved when children are adopted from care. It focuses primarily on findings from a recently completed study of Outcomes of Open Adoption from Care in Australia, which followed up a cohort of children who had been adopted through the Barnardos Find-a-Family programme over the last 30 years. However, it also draws on a number of other studies from the UK and Australia which indicate how far the experiences of the adoptees differed both from those of their peers in the general population and also from those of children who remain in long-term foster care.

The paper presents data showing that, although some placements disrupt or are unstable, adoption from care may well provide a greater degree of permanence than other provisions for abused and neglected children who cannot return home. It also presents data on adoptees’ experiences of continuing face-to-face contact with birth parents, mandated by the courts as part of the adoption plan, and explores how far this helped or hindered them from developing a strong sense of psychological permanence. It explores the process by which adoptive parents came to regard the adoptees as their own children and the extent to which this contributed to their sense of belonging. Finally, it asks how far open adoption can help children overcome the consequences of early childhood adversity and achieve satisfactory wellbeing in adulthood.

While many of the outcomes of open adoption are positive, it poses a number of challenges for policymakers and practitioners, and the paper ends by setting these out and discussing their implications.


Senator the Hon.Anne Ruston

Minister for Families and Social Services

Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, has been a Senator since September 2012.

Senator Ruston was appointed Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in September 2015. She was subsequently appointed as Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific in August 2018. Senator Ruston is also the Manager of Government Business in the Senate.

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Prior to becoming a Senator, Anne held several senior positions in government and the private sector, including as the inaugural chief executive of the National Wine Centre. She was also a primary producer and irrigator, owning and operating the largest commercial rose garden in Australia.

Born and raised in Renmark, on the River Murray in South Australia, Anne is a proud member of the community where she still lives and works to this day. She is the only Senator for South Australia based in a regional area.

Outside of politics, she supports Adelaide United in the A-League, enjoys walking her Labrador and spending time with family and friends.

The Hon Michelle Landry MP

Michelle Landry grew up in Rockhampton, and was elected as the Federal Member for the central Queensland seat of Capricornia in 2013. Re-elected for a third consecutive term in May 2019, Michelle is well known as a tenacious advocate for her electorate.

As the Assistant Minister for Children and Families in the Australian Government, she is committed to delivering permanency reform for the 45,800 children in out-of-home care, and strengthening early intervention support and child protection for our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

The Hon Rachel Sanderson MP

Minister for Child Protection

Rachel Sanderson was elected to the South Australian Parliament as the Member for Adelaide in 2010.

She was appointed as the Minister for Child Protection in the Marshall Government, in March 2018.

Over the years, Rachel served as a Shadow Minister in the portfolios of Families and Child Protection; Social Housing; Volunteers; Youth; and Higher Education, Science and the Information Economy.

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Rachel undertook an overseas study tour to meet government departments and community stakeholders in child protection, social housing and domestic violence, learning more about policies and programs that were bringing good results and how they could be translated to South Australian systems.

Prior to entering politics Rachel worked as an accountant and financial manager before venturing into small business and starting her own Agency and Training school.

Rachel is passionate about helping people and has been actively involved in delivering for Meals on Wheels for many years. She is also a member of many community organisations in her electorate and an active volunteer for the Prospect Blair Athol Lions Club, HYPA, the South West Community Centre, St Luke’s Mission, Hutt Street Centre, the CWA and Neighbourhood Watch.

She established the Adelaide chapter of Operation Flinders and has been instrumental in raising community support and funds for the program, sponsoring a number of youth at risk each year through her annual quiz night. She maintains strong connections with the children, young people and community she serves.

Beth Allen

A/Director Child and Families Policy
DHHS Victoria

Beth Allen (PSM) is the Director of Child and Families Policy for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. In this role Beth is responsible for the development of legislation, policy and program initiatives that support vulnerable children and those involved in the statutory child protection system including Family Services, Child Protection and Care Services. Beth has worked in various operational and policy roles concerning the protection of children throughout her career and has been awarded a public service medal for the protection of children.

In 2016 Beth oversaw the Victorian permanency reforms which introduced significant legislative changes to promote permanency for children.

Beth has also been instrumental in leading reforms to transition the care and case management of Aboriginal children to Aboriginal organisations which includes the landmark initiative that authorises Aboriginal organisations to assume full responsibility for Aboriginal children in Victoria.

Craig Layton

Craig Layton is the Executive Director, Child and Family, in the NSW Department of Communities and Justice. He is responsible for policy and programs to protect children and families and support them to thrive, including out-of-home care, child protection, and preservation.

Craig has worked in policy, strategy and human services in the NSW Government for over 15 years, and has been involved in developing and managing a number of major social policy reforms, including the Permanency Support Program to reform out-of-home care, the NSW transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Stronger Together 2 and Ready Together disability reforms, and the NSW Ability Links program.

Megan Mitchell

Megan Mitchell is Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, appointed in 2013.

Megan has previous experience in both government and non-government roles in child protection, out-of-home care, youth justice, disability, and early childhood services. Megan also holds qualifications in social policy, psychology and education.

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In her role as Commissioner, Megan focuses solely on the rights and interests of children, and the laws, policies and programs that impact on them.

Each year, Megan presents a statutory report to federal Parliament on the state of children’s rights in Australia. In her work to date, Megan has focused on the prevalence of suicide and intentional self-harm in children and young people, the impact of family and domestic violence on children and young people, the oversight of children and young people in correctional detention, and the experiences and trajectories of young parents and their children.

A child’s right: Adults acting in their best interests

Michael Coutts

Michael Coutts is the Manager of Queensland’s Adoption and Permanent Care Services. Adoption and Permanent Care Services is a state-wide unit and the only area able to arrange for the adoption of children in Queensland. Michael has a background in social work and public sector management and has spent over 20 years working in child protection and adoption in a variety of roles. Michael has the unique experience of managing work units in both child protection and adoptions. He has a strong interest on achieving permanency and stability for children in the child protection system when it is determined that they cannot return home to their family.

Tracey de Simone

Tracey de Simone is the Official Solicitor in the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor in the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.

Tracey has been a solicitor for 22 years. She currently leads a team of 75 lawyers and paralegals across Queensland from Cairns to Roma and situated in child safety service centres. She has previously worked at Legal Aid Queensland in a variety of roles. She started her career in private practice. She specialises in family law, domestic violence cases, independent children’s representation and separate representation in child protection matters. She has also practised in criminal law and anti-discrimination law.

Speakers and Panellists

Alannah Andrews

PCA Families

Born and bred in NSW it was there Alannah studied and first worked as a Nursed in both general and psychiatric hospitals. A move to Western Australia saw further study and registration as a Social Worker.

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Working in a hospital with pregnant Indigenous women, the call of community work was strong. A shift to a leading parenting organisation provided a strong foundation in Child Development and Community Engagement. This was further consolidated on joining the State’s Child Development Service. Alannah was the lead SW in the Southern Autism Assessment Team, Problematic Eating and ADHD programs. Delivering support within prisons to fathers, alongside work as a Project Officer for a University, fine-tuned her ability to deliver a strong analytical approach across multiple systems. Since moving to Victoria three years ago, Alannah has worked with Permanent Care and Adoptive Families. Providing information, support and advocacy to children, young people and families is her passion. The additional needs of children within an ‘out of home care’ setting is where her commitment and focus now lies.

Andrea Lauchs


Andrea recently joined EY as a Senior Manager. Andrea has over 15 years experience in Child Protection Services and was recently the Executive Director, Child and Family Operations, within Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.

Andrea is a highly experienced leader in child protection practice with a well-developed framework in risk assessment, family contact, reunification and case planning. She has leveraged her deep knowledge to design, deliver and evaluate programs within the sector.

Dr Amy Conley Wright

University of Sydney

Amy is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Sydney and Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies. There she leads a program of applied research focused primarily on building the evidence about children and their best interests in open adoption and other permanency pathways in out-of-home care.

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A key focus is the active exchange of research findings into policy and practices through substantial engagement with policymakers, practitioners, judiciary and people with lived experience in out-of-home care and adoption. Current projects focus on family contact for children in permanent care, support for cultural identity development, evaluation of Family Group Conferencing and carer recruitment and training. 

In collaboration with National Taiwan University, she is conducting research exploring interest in connection to culture and family of origin in the context of intercountry adoption, from the perspectives of adult adopted persons, adoptive parents, birth mothers and adoption professionals. Amy has published three books as well as authored more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and numerous commissioned research reports, on topics including child advocacy, family support and disability. Her work has been recognised as influencing child and family services in the U.S., Australia, Romania and other countries.

Contact for fostering family connections and identity: Challenges, opportunities and practice development

Betty Luu

The University of Sydney

Betty Luu is a Research Associate at the Institute of Open Adoption Studies, The University of Sydney. She is currently conducting applied research and practice development in the area of permanency for children and young people in out-of-home care in NSW, particularly in open adoption (but also restoration, kinship care, and guardianship). With a background in developmental psychology, she has a firm research interest in understanding how the early environment can best support children’s development.

A case file review of sibling relationships and contact for children adopted from out-of-home care


Authors: Betty Luu, Amy Conley Wright, & Judy Cashmore

Aims: Relationships with siblings can be one of the most enduring and important connections children in out-of-home care can have. Despite limited research, there is recognition of the value of maintaining sibling relationships when it in the child’s best interests. This presentation describes the nature and complexity of the sibling networks of children adopted from out-of-home care in NSW and presents some case vignettes as examples.

Methods: A case file analysis was conducted of 89 court files that contained the adoption applications of 117 children whose adoptions from care were finalised by the NSW Supreme Court in 2017. De-identified information about children and siblings’ characteristics, living situations, contact arrangements and relationships were extracted from court files.

Findings: The use of court files for analysis has been beneficial for providing a comprehensive picture of the sibling networks of children adopted from out-of-home care. Sibling group sizes are typically large and varied, consisting of a combination of full, maternal or paternal siblings. Analysis reveals that siblings of children adopted from out-of-home care tend to be older and have also been subject to child protection proceedings and placement into out-of-home care. The unique characteristics of these sibling networks and the challenges of maintaining sibling connections is considered.

Implications: Given the protective effect and beneficial outcomes that are known when children live with their siblings in out-of-home care, it is important that sibling co-placement is carried out wherever possible. Where co-placement is not possible, however, frequency and regularity of contact is important for maintaining relationships between siblings separated as a result of being placed in foster care. The sibling networks of children in out-of-home care are distinct from the general population in their size, composition and family dynamics. Hence, it is critical that there are adequate resources available to support children (plus their parents and carers) to have contact and maintain connections.

Brad Murphy

Ex-Pro AFL Player & Adoptee

Brad Murphy is a former AFL player for the Western Bulldogs, 2002-2006, and now coaches and plays for semi-professional Aussie Rules club, Melton. Brad was born to drug addicted parents and grew up in foster care in Victoria from 16 months.

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Young Brad was never going back to his birth parents — his mum moved to Western Australia, while his dad spent most of Brad’s childhood in Pentridge prison. “The thing that chewed me up was not being able to be adopted. I felt I didn’t belong to anyone,” he says. He wanted to be adopted; his foster carers wanted to adopt him, but his dad wouldn’t provide consent. Brad was adopted by his long-time foster parents at the age of 18. Brad will be speaking on his experiences in the Carer/Parent session and will join the main conference as a panellist.

Brooke Cooper

CREATE Young Consultant, QLD

Brooke is an insightful, compassionate and articulate Young Consultant with CREATE Foundation. She has spoken at Child Safety Officer training workshops, presented at the Department of Child Safety Permanency Conference, spoken to educators and professionals at the Trauma-aware Schooling Conference, shared at foster carer training, co-facilitated a Speak Up empowerment workshop and provided extensive feedback through CREATE Youth Advisory Groups. Brooke is passionate about teaching and learning. She has enrolled for a Bachelor of Education to become a teacher and inspire children to fulfil their potential.

Danielle Draper

Accredited Mental Health Social Worker

Danielle is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker; Psychotherapist; Court Clinician; Training Facilitator; and a lecturer at the University of Wollongong.

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With a career that spans over two decades in the community services sector, Danielle has worked in many frontline and leadership roles across New South Wales in both city and regional/remote communities. In 2013 she founded her own company, Continuum Consulting Australia Pty Ltd and more recently has been engaged by University of Wollongong as lecturer and subject co-ordinator in social work.

Danielle is passionate about creating positive outcomes for children through leadership and the development of good practice. She established Continuum Consulting as a platform to create practice change in the areas of family visit facilitation and assessment work. Danielle also conducts training and coaching, and undertakes assessments for the Children’s Court Clinic for the company. More recently Danielle has developed therapeutic services at Continuum specialising in trauma-focused CBT, EMDR, and Theraplay, all specifically tailored to support children with developmental trauma.

She leads a team of 40 staff across two Continuum Consulting offices, Wollongong and Penrith, and a satellite team located around New South Wales, including regional and remote areas.

Danielle has a Bachelor Social Science (Psychology); Master of Child and Adolescent Welfare, Master of Social Work, Cert IV in Training and Assessment, a Grad Cert Developmental Trauma and a Grad Cert in Executive Coaching and Leadership. She is qualified in TF-CBT, EMDR and Theraplay as focussed psychological strategies for working with children and families in a therapeutic framework.

Danielle is an accredited member of the Australian Association of Social Workers, NSW Chamber of Business – Illawarra, The EMDR Institute, EMDRIA, ISPCAN and more recently has been a finalist in the Illawarra Business Awards for the ‘Excellence in Leadership’ Award.

Best Practice in Facilitating Family Time


A meaningful connection to family, kin and community helps a child or young person develop a sense of belonging and hope.

Creating and keeping relationships and emotional permanence for a child or young person, through informal and formal types of contact, plays an important role in:

  • easing the pain of separation and loss for a child or young person, their family and significant others
  • reducing the child or young person's sense of abandonment
  • reassuring the child or young person of their family's wellbeing
  • promoting cultural and spiritual identity
  • supporting restoration by maintaining relationships.

Whilst the focus is on the child in undertaking family visits, often competing attention is experienced by birth family and carers needs. How these needs are addressed are important to successful family visits being achieved is important. We will discuss these needs and identify practices that help shape best practice in facilitated family visits.

Deborah Willick

Program Manager adoption OOHC Illawara Barnardos Australia

Deborah Willick is an experienced practitioner who has worked in early childhood services and a range of intensive family support services and out of home care programs with Barnardos Australia, the last four years in the Find-a-Family adoption program. Deb firmly believes casework in out of home care services should be strongly focused on the child’s best interests, considering their holistic developmental and psychological needs.

Making contact meaningful in OOHC adoption

Deborah Willick and Elizabeth Cox 


Open Adoption is legislated practice in New South Wales. The purpose of this paper is to describe practice learning on how to achieve successful contact arrangements.


This presentation is based on practice experience about casework within the pre-adoption phase of placements.

Information about case examples was taken from a file review of children where adoption orders were made within a 4 year period (1/1/2014 – 31/12/2017) across 6 adoption programs. We considered the perspectives of the child, the adoptive parent and the birth parent when closely examining a case study from each of the 6 programs. Using qualitative interviews with direct staff we examined some of the obstacles to navigate when arranging face to face contact and how these can be overcome in order to enhance the quality of visits for all parties.

The paper is based on casework practice within Barnardos Find-a-Family program. All children in the program have been permanently removed from their birth parents’ care due to directly experiencing neglect and abuse or being at significant risk of neglect and abuse. All children have long term Children’s Court orders allocating Parental Responsibility to the Minister until they attain 18 years of age upon entry to the program. Over recent years, Barnardos have specifically focussed on working with children under 5 years of age to secure an Adoption Order in a timely manner with time frames supporting the commencement of the adoption processes within 12 months of placement. The children are placed into a permanent foster care placement “with a view to adoption” as identified in their Care Plan. Our adoption program works with some of the most vulnerable parents in society, those who experience homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, poor mental health, incarceration and often a history of being in care themselves.


Despite the obstacles, most children in the program have ongoing and regular contact with their birth family, including parents, siblings and other significant extended family members. This contact is usually face to face and it is rare that direct contact between a child and parent would not be supported by adoptive families. Face to face contact between a child and their birth parent occurs several times each year, usually between 2-6 occasions. Contact potentially has significant advantages for the child and the birth parent with benefits including: open knowledge and understanding of biological identity for the child, the birth parent’s opportunity for ongoing involvement in the child’s life and facilitates communicative openness outside of visits for adoptive parents.

Elisha Rose

MC – Carer Sessions

Lawyer, mum and volunteer Elisha Rose is also known as The Other Mother.

Elisha came to foster care wanting to help children overcome trauma, given her own traumatic childhood never expecting to end up with guardianship of two indigenous boys.

Elisha writes a blog called The Other Mother sharing her experience of fostering in Australia.

Elisha is a keen volunteer for Adopt Change and advocate for change to the foster care system.

Elizabeth Cox

Executive Manager
OOHC NSW/ACT Barnardos Australia

Elizabeth Cox has a Bachelor Social Science and an MBA and has over 32 years’ experience working with children and families in Out of Home Care. For the past 30 years, Elizabeth has been employed by Barnardos Australia; initially in case management and more extensively in management. Elizabeth current holds the position of Executive Manager OOHC NSW and ACT. In her career in OOHC Elizabeth has developed extensive skills in achieving permanency for children through permanent family placements and open adoption.

Emily Paul

CREATE Young Consultant, NSW

Emily Paul is a valued member of the CREATE community. Emily has been shortlisted for the ACYP Youth Advisory Council twice and is an esteemed member of her local Youth Council. She has led our FACS Caseworker training and spoken at our Western NSW OOHC and Mental Health Interagency. Emily has been a guest speak at CREATE’s National Survey Launch and at the Their Futures Matter 2019 conference. She is also an incredible parent to an adorable 4 year old and a successful entrepreneur with her own photography business. Emily is passionate about reducing youth homelessness by extending the leaving care age in NSW and providing young people in care with better support networks.

Ghassan Noujaim

Senior Operations Manager,Settlement Services International (SSI) Foster Care Service

Ghassan Noujaim has extensive experience in community development, training, education, child protection and out-of-home care, having worked with FACS and non-government organisations. His expertise in assessing and matching children to carers reflects his understanding and responsiveness to actively facilitating children and young people to maintain connection to their culture and heritage.

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He is consistently sort after for advice on how to develop, implement and monitor multicultural care plans which respond to children’s individual needs, including cultural and accessibility inclusion.

Ghassan was instrumental in establishing Settlement Services International multicultural foster care program and has had oversight of the program since 2013.

Ghassan is currently leading the Quality, innovation and Practice Team (QIP) to ensure best practices and consistency. Ghassan is also supervising the Family Preservation Program and is a facilitator (Arabic) in the Domestic and Family Program for men. Ghassan holds a Masters of Educational Administration and a Bachelor of Arts.

Helen Baker

MC, Main Conference

Adopted from the Philippines, Helen is a passionate and determined advocate for adoption who believes all children have the right to grow up in a loving and permanent home. Helen brings her professional and personal adoption experience to the Board of Adopt Change. With a background in legal and professional services (currently in senior management at Deloitte), together with owning and operating a legal recruitment company for over ten years, she is a highly motivated and driven individual. When Helen is not running around after her three children, she is running marathons; the Great Wall of China marathon being the highlight so far. Helen is currently in the process of searching for birth family in the Philippines.

Janise Mitchell 

Deputy CEO

Janise Mitchell is the Deputy CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation and Director of the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Arts and Social Sciences with Southern Cross University.

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Janise has 30 years’ experience in the field of child protection and child welfare, with a focus on therapeutic care. She completed a Master of Social Work (Research) in 2008 in which she researched the implementation of therapeutic foster care in Victoria. In her current role, Janise has been instrumental in the conceptualisation, development and implementation of the ACF therapeutic care programs with partner agencies.

Janise has experience in child protection, high-risk adolescents, public policy analysis, program development and evaluation. She has extensive experience in the development of innovative therapeutic programs for traumatised children and young people. Janise has provided consultancy to many governments on the issue of therapeutic services for children and young people and regularly participates on state and national Advisory Groups seeking to address the needs of children and young people in the child protection, out of home care, secure care and youth justice sectors. Janise has a commitment to evidence-informed practice and believes strongly in the participation of young people in the development of services, policies and programs that seek to support them.

Janise has presented nationally and internationally and has a range of publications, most recently as lead editor on a new book The Handbook of Therapeutic Care for Children: Evidence-Informed Approaches to Working with Traumatized Children and Adolescents in Foster, Kinship and Adoptive Care edited by Janise Mitchell, Joe Tucci and Ed Tronick, 2019, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Networks of relationships as permanency – thinking beyond placement and planning for life.

Joel de Carteret

Filmmaker & Adoptee

Joel is CEO & Chief Storyteller at Stories In Motion, where he makes beautifully crafted stories that touch the heart and fill the soul. As featured recently on Channel 9's 60 minutes and GMA’s Kapuso Mo - Jessica Soho, Joel’s story has reached over 22 million people around the planet.

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Joel was born in the Philippines but was separated from his family and found in a busy marketplace at age five. Nearly 31 years on, having been adopted and raised by an Australian family, Joel embarked on what seemed like an impossible mission to track down his birth mother. With virtually nothing to go on except knowing the date and location he was found, Joel undertook a journey that shows how sheer grit and determination can overcome even the most insurmountable odds. His skills as a film maker and producer, along with millions of Filipino’s, aided him to the reunification of his long lost parents.

Kaisey Hayes

Adoptive Mother, Pharmacist and Volunteer

Kaisey is mother to two gorgeous children, who came into her family through Adoption and Permanent Care. Having navigated the ‘system’, Kaisey is passionate about improving the journey for children in care and adoptive parents alike, with a particular focus on providing additional support for adoptive families.

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She strongly believes in forming connections with family of origin, and is committed to helping her own children to form and maintain their own identity. To foster this, she has surrounded her family with a network of families, amongst them adoptees, adoptive and permanent carers. Kaisey currently sits on the Permanent Care and Adoptive Family Fundraising committee. Kaisey is an enthusiastic Volunteer and advocate for change in the Adoption and Permanent Care space.

Dr Karleen Gribble BRurSc, PhD


Dr Karleen Gribble (BRurSc, PhD) is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University. 

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Her interests include infant feeding, children’s rights, child-caregiver and caregiver-child attachment, parenting of children with a history of trauma, and aspects of the treatment of infants and young children within the child protection, immigration detention and criminal justice systems. 

She has published research on these subjects in peer-reviewed professional psychological, social work, and health journals and engaged in the training of health professionals, social workers, and humanitarian workers on these subjects. Karleen is an adoptive parent via intercountry adoption and adoption from out-of-home care and from 2010-2013 the NSW representative on the National Intercountry Advisory Group.

Infant feeding in foster care: Experiences and education needs of foster carers


Karleen Gribble and Stacy Blythe

National and international health recommendations are that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and then continue breastfeeding into the second year of life. These recommendations are in recognition of the growth, immunological and developmental support provided by breastfeeding. In situations of maternal vulnerability, breastfeeding has increased importance because of the positive impact it has on maternal caregiving capacity. As a result, the newly released National Breastfeeding Strategy specifically calls for support for breastfeeding within the child protection system. Where infants are not breastfed, Australian guidance is that caregivers should be provided with individual education on feeding infant formula via the health system.

Each year about 2500 infants enter out-of-home care (OOHC). The feeding of these infants can prove difficult, whether they are breastfed or formula fed at the time they enter care because of issues associated with maternal separation, trauma, and the health conditions they commonly experience. An added challenge is that foster and kinship carers are not routinely linked into the health system. There have not previously been studies exploring the facilitation, or not, of ongoing breastfeeding in the context of foster/kinship care. Neither have there been investigations into whether foster/kinship carers are aware of the correct selection, preparation and administration of infant formula or expressed breast milk.

Our research with foster and kinship carers and professionals within the child protection system explored the challenges associated with infant feeding in foster care. This included carers’ previous experiences with infant care, management of contact where infants are breastfed, handling and use or discard of expressed breastmilk, decision making concerning formula feeding, bottle feed challenges, and perceived education needs. This presentation will discuss the results of this research.

Katherine Karatasas

Director, Multicultural Child and Family Program | Settlement Services International (SSI)

Kathy is the Director, Multicultural Child and Family Program at Settlement Services International (SSI). Kathy is also a Director of the Association of Child Welfare Agencies (ACWA) and a member of a number of sector Advisory committees. Kathy has a strong commitment to driving services which influence positive wellbeing outcomes and is a strong advocate for sector practice improvements in working with and supporting children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Kathy has a Masters in Social Work, Diplomas in Adult Education and Public Sector Management.

Kerry Chikarovski

Adopt Change Board Member, Facilitator

One of the country’s most respected and admired former politicians, Kerry “Chika" Chikarovski began her career as a solicitor before making the decision to enter parliament. Encouraged by a brief but memorable meeting with a dashing young Robert Kennedy, Kerry knew from an early age that she wanted to be a politician and in 1991 she won pre-selection against the odds for the safe seat of Lane Cove on Sydney’s north shore – one that had been earmarked for a male colleague.

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In Government, Kerry held a number of Portfolios including Minister for Consumer Affairs, Assistant Minister of Education, Minister for Industrial Relations, and the first Minister for the Status of Women appointed in NSW. In 1998 Ms Chikarovski was elected Leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party, the first woman to lead a major political party in NSW. Today Kerry is a highly sought after and successful businesswoman.

Chika’s own government relations business, Chikarovski & Associates, advise clients across a range of industry sectors on policy and regulatory issues, as well as in relation to major projects and procurement.Kerry brings to the Board of Adopt Change her strong political background, vast experience in dealing with government and business, and an ability to understand complex issues across a broad sector.

Kim Nixon

Kim Nixon Consulting

Kim Nixon holds a Bachelor of Social Work (1st Class Hons) She has 34 years’ experience as a practitioner across the fields of sexual assault, child protection, out of home care, early intervention and workplace investigations, including twenty-eight years in management.She has designed, delivered, implemented and evaluated many major projects including the casework arm of the Adoption Taskforce (now known as Team 2 Adoption and Permanency Services, Dept. of Communities and Justice- DCJ) and a Guardianship Project for Western Sydney DCJ.

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Kim has presented at a number of major conferences. She has taught in the areas of child protection, interpersonal violence and family work at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Kim has also completed research in the areas of child protection, child sexual assault, adult survivors of sexual assault, family support programs, ethics in research involving children, and complex case reviews. She has considerable experience in the design and delivery of training to the Human Service Sector.

Lanai Scarr


Lanai is Federal Political Editor for the West Australian and an Adopt Change Media Ambassador. She has worked as a journalist for more than 11 years covering federal politics, business, women, families, mental health, immigration, tourism, social affairs, education, along with a range of other topics at the forefront of the Australian media landscape.

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Lanai was made a ward of the state at age five and experienced significant tragedy in her childhood. Her mother died by suicide when Lanai was seven and her father died of a heart attack when she was 16. Lanai was determined to not let her past define her and worked hard to achieve success in the competitive media landscape. Lanai has travelled Australia and the world with her writing, been on the frontline of election campaigns, leadership spills and natural disasters. Lanai will moderate a series of discussions and will talk on her own lived experience as a panellist.

Mark Galvin


Mark is a Partner in EY’s Government and Public Sector practice and leads the firm’s Evaluation Practice Network. Mark is an economist and evaluator with over 15 years of experience as a professional advisory consultant. He is passionate about the use of traditional economic and evaluation methodologies to transform systems and achieve better outcomes for the most vulnerable people in our community. Mark leads EY Oceania’s Evaluation Practice Network and leads work across the human services spectrum on behalf of the government and for-purpose clients.

Starting her carer with OzChild in the kinship care team more than eight years ago, Robyn has also worked across, foster care, disability and the Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program, currently holding the position of TFCO Program Supervisor.

Passionate about children’s rights and connections to family, Robyn has a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology and Genetics), Graduate Diploma of Educational Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Psychology.

With a team of eight working alongside her, Robyn and the TFCO team in Victoria have achieved some outstanding results since the programs inception more than three years ago.

Improving Timeliness in Permanency Decisions for Children in Care

Andrea Lauchs1, Mark Galvin1, Dr Melissa Kaltner1, DSS Rep2, Mohita Kapoor3

1Ernst & Young, 2Department of Social Services, 3CREATE Foundation


Despite the efforts of all states and territories, an increasing number of children continue to enter Out of Home Care (OOHC) across Australia. Reflection on the body of evidence in child development suggests that delays in the achievement of permanency and stability are likely to be associated with poor outcomes for children in care. This evidence has underpinned the inclusion of timeliness in permanency planning policies in many Australian jurisdictions, with the introduction of requirements for timely decision making in the consideration of reunification and for the achievement of permanent orders in some jurisdictions.

In order to best understand the role of timeliness in permanency decision making, a consortium led by EY is currently supporting the actions associated with the Fourth Action Plan (2018 – 2020) for Protecting Australia’s Children. This project is being undertaken in partnership with the Department of Social Services (DSS), SNAICC and the CREATE Foundation, leading engagement across jurisdictions to support the development of a national approach towards timeliness in permanency planning to best meet children’s needs.

This workshop session will present our findings to date in exploring the relevance of timeliness in permanency achievement to children’s lives. We will share insights gained from across Australian jurisdictions on the role of timeliness in achieving permanency, including hearing from the voices of children. A workshop activity will then be facilitated within the session to consider the role of timeliness in decision making, with the views provided by the audience to be integrated into our work to shape recommendations for a national approach to timeliness.

  1. Clare Tilbury & Jennifer Osmond (2006). Permanency Planning in Foster Care: A Research Review and Guidelines for Practitioners, Australian Social Work, 59:3, 265-280, DOI: 10.1080/03124070600833055 
  2. Susan Tregeagle, Lynne Moggach, Helen Trivedi & Harriet Ward (2019). Previous life experiences and the vulnerability of children adopted from out-of-home care: The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and child welfare decision making. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 55-63, ISSN 0190-7409.
Dr Melissa Kaltner


Melissa recently joined EY as an Associate Director where she leads program evaluation projects. Prior to joining EY, she worked within various Queensland and New South Wales Government Departments where she was responsible for the development and coordination of state-wide programmes of child protection and health research. 

Melissa holds a PhD in child protection and has authored both book chapters and numerous peer reviewed publications in the area. In 2015, she received a Churchill Fellowship to support her international research into adoption and permanency in foster care. Her career is dedicated to facilitating applied, practice-focused research and evaluation projects which address health and wellbeing inequalities faced by vulnerable members of our community.

Mohita Kapoor

CREATE Foundation

Mohita Kapoor is the NSW state coordinator for CREATE foundation. CREATE is a the National consumer Peak body for the voices of children and young people with a care experience.

Mohita has 15 years’ experience working within a therapeutic framework with vulnerable communities. She is passionate about client centre approaches when addressing and improving practices through evidence based models.

Mohita joined CREATE to lead NSW in advocating the importance of building meaningful participation and relationship with vulnerable children and families.

Oliver Hill

OzChild Treatment Foster Care Oregon

With a strong background in child welfare and development, and extensive experience working with evidence-based programs ion both government and non-government organisations, Oliver has been working with OzChild’s Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) team for more than three years, the last 12 months as National Practice Leader for the program working across Victoria, NSW and QLD.

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Having started his journey with OzChild in 2016 as the Program Supervisor for the TFCO-Child program in Victoria, Oliver’s experience extends across a variety of portfolios in the community services sector including intensive family support services, juvenile justice and child welfare and has seen him work in the Northern Territory, New Zealand, and New South Wales.

With a keen interest in evidence-based models, Oliver brings experience as a Multisystemic Therapy (MST) Clinical Supervisor in both New Zealand and New South Wales to his role within the TFCO program and is focused on ensuring better outcomes are achieved for children and young people in out-of-home care.

Penny Mackieson

Social Worker

Penny Mackieson is a social worker with extensive experience in the Victorian child and family services sector, including the government’s child protection and intercountry adoption programs.

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Penny has Bachelor, Master and PhD degrees from the University of Melbourne. Penny was adopted as a newborn in the context of practices now recognised as forced adoption. Penny is the author of a book about her personal and professional experiences of adoption, Adoption Deception (2015); and served from 2014 to 2019 on the board of VANISH Inc., a community-based organisation providing search and support services to people separated through adoption. Penny now works for a not-for-profit community services organisation in a policy and research role on a range of welfare and justice portfolios.

Focusing on continuity of children’s care, connections with kin and culture, and identity: An alternative approach to permanency


Achieving permanency is a major focus for the care of children in English-speaking Western child protection and out-of-home care systems. Yet the concept of permanency is not embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. Rather, the Convention embodies children’s rights to continuity – continuity of care; continuity of connections to natural parents and extended family; continuity of culture, including ethnicity, religion and language; and continuity of identity, including legal preservation of name, family relationships, and nationality. The Convention also emphasises that children’s rights to continuity of care, kin connections, culture, and identity are just as important as their rights to protection and safety, and to participate and be heard in all matters affecting them.

Permanency is a construct unique to Anglophone jurisdictions. Notwithstanding that there is no universally agreed definition, it is widely held that permanency involves a range of interrelated elements – including, for example, relational or social, cultural, physical, geographical, and legal. Research has found that relational permanency is most important to children and young people involved in child protection and out-of-home care systems, whereas legal permanency is most important to adults involved in decision-making and provision of children’s and young people’s care. In practice, an emphasis on the legal element of permanency conflates and subordinates several other elements universally recognised as integral to children’s short- and long-term well-being.

My recent PhD research addressed debates surrounding permanency. In particular, it investigated the introduction (in 1989) and implementation (from 1992) of Permanent Care Orders in the Victorian child protection and out-of-home care system. Permanent Care Orders were introduced specifically to avoid the harsh consequences of adoption for the identity, and kin and cultural connections, of children unable to be permanently reunited with their parents. I propose to present key findings from my PhD research and discuss the implications for permanency planning in relation to children and young people involved in child protection and out-of-home care systems.

Richard Weston

– National Voice for our Children

Richard is the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer for SNAICC, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

As a descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, Richard has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for more than 20 years. For nine years, he held the position of CEO of The Healing Foundation to improve the strategic development of the organisation. And previously, Richard led Indigenous-controlled health services in far west New South Wales and Queensland.

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The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to lead responses to ongoing intergenerational trauma caused by actions such as the forced removal of children from their families and communities. As CEO of the Healing Foundation since September 2010, Richard oversaw the strategic development of the organisation, which has supported more than 175 culturally strong, community-led Indigenous healing projects around Australia; assisting more than 45,000 community members and 7000 Stolen Generations survivors along their healing journey.

During his 13 years at Maari Ma Health in far west NSW, including nine years as CEO (2000-09), Richard led the delivery of high quality health care and improved health outcomes for adults and children alike in a remote region known for the poor health status of its population. In this period, Maari Ma won five NSW health awards and a national health award.

As co-chair for the Family Matters campaign and CEO for SNAICC, Richard continues to advocate for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, especially their right to grow up happy and healthy, strong in their identities and culture. Through SNAICC, Richard is working towards improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, child rights and the early years. This includes SNAICC's role in the Joint Council for the Closing the Gap Refresh.

Richard believes healing is an important part of reclaiming the resilience Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to deal with life’s challenges and address the burden of trauma in our communities.

Stability of relationships and identity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: Sustaining connections to kin, community, culture and country.


Robyn Jackson

OzChild Treatment Foster Care Oregon

Robyn is the parent of three teenagers and has more than 20 years’ experience in the community and welfare sectors.

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Starting her carer with OzChild in the kinship care team more than eight years ago, Robyn has also worked across, foster care, disability and the Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program, currently holding the position of TFCO Program Supervisor.

Passionate about children’s rights and connections to family, Robyn has a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology and Genetics), Graduate Diploma of Educational Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Psychology.

With a team of eight working alongside her, Robyn and the TFCO team in Victoria have achieved some outstanding results since the programs inception more than three years ago.

Treatment Foster Care Oregon, an evidence-based approach to family reunification.


OzChild has been delivering Australia’s first evidence-based foster care model, Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) since April 2017, and now has five teams operating across VIC, NSW and QLD.

TFCO is an intensive short-term foster care model with effectiveness in addressing behavioural difficulties in children and young people, transitioning them into less intense placements. OzChild delivers both the Child model (7-11) and the Adolescent model (12-17), with the primary aim of to reduce the number of children and young people in residential care and reunify them with family.

OzChild’s Oliver and Robyn will provide an overview of the treatment components, outline the importance of the Family Therapist role, and discuss the way in which OzChild has adapted the model for our cultural context. You will also hear of the life-changing outcomes for a child who has successfully completed the program and has been reunited with her birth family.

Dr Sarah Wise

Dr Sarah Wise currently works as a research specialist within the Department of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. She has worked outside academia, in a leading Commonwealth government research centre and significant industry research roles. Her fields of research include child and family welfare, early childhood development and systems change. She is currently leading a research program focusing newborn and very young children and child protection and permanency for children entering care.

The Permanency Amendments Longitudinal Study: Understanding the impact of legislative change to promote permanency for children entering care


Significant amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 were passed in September 2014 and came into effect on 1 March 2016. The amendments aimed to promote the permanency of care arrangements for children subject to child protection intervention and unable to safely remain at home. Timelines for achieving family reunification were introduced along with the earlier commencement of case planning to achieve permanency objectives.

Also, case plans for all Aboriginal children in out-of-home care are now required to address their cultural support needs. Upon taking office in November 2014, the Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos, requested the Commission for Children and Young People undertake an inquiry into the impacts of the ‘permanency amendments’.The resulting “…safe and wanted…” report recommended the Victorian Government initiate a study to determine whether the permanency amendments are achieving their objectives. In response, the Victorian Government appointed a consortium led by the University of Melbourne and including the Universities of Sydney and of New South Wales, to undertake the study.

This paper provides a detailed overview of the permanency amendments and their intention. This will be followed by a presentation of the multi-method study approach developed by the academic researchers to determine whether the permanency amendments that have been implemented are having their intended impact on children, families, carers, professionals and the functioning of the whole child protection system. Other aspects of the study, including investigators, governance structure, timelines and communications will be described.

Sharon Howie


Sharon began her carer with OzChild six years ago in the foster care program. Prior to that she worked with Family Life as a Children’s and Family Worker.

Sharon has case managed many children and carers during her time with OzChild - some children she has seen returned home to family and others she has assisted with their transition into long term care with foster families.

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Sharon’s 10 years of experience within the community and welfare sectors working across early intervention and prevention mental health services and case management coupled with the real-life experience of raising two children, now aged 19 and 11, means she well and truly understands the challenges carers and children alike are faced with.

Passionate about ensuring children in care remain connected to their biological families, including contact with parents, siblings and extended family members, Sharon is committed to assisting carers to ensure positive relationships, where possible, with a child’s biological family, understanding it is not only crucial to ensure the child has a positive experience but that the child can form their identity based on all aspects of their lives.

Now the Acting Team Leader within OzChild’s In-Home Care Services Sharon is dedicated to ensuring the absolute best outcomes are achieved for children and young people in foster care.

Shellie Morris

Adoptee & Musician

Shellie is a singer, songwriter and musician, and the NT Australian of the Year in 2014. Adopted into a Sydney based family as a baby, Shellie remains very close to her adoptive family, who encouraged her to seek out her biological family more than two decades ago.

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Her journey took her, via Link Up, to the Northern Territory and on continuous learning of her Wardaman and Yanyuwa heritage and into more than 70 remote communities of this country.

A favourite and celebrated vocalist, Shellie has spent the past 25 years creating and engaging in music as a healing tool. She imparts the importance of having a voice and that each individual is important. While she has been in the spotlight over the years for her involvement with Black Arm Band, Deadly Awards, ARIA nominations, Music Australia award, NAIDOC Award, G.R. Burarrawanga Memorial Award and Australian of the Year award; by and large, she works on the ground empowering and gently effecting change. Shellie creates music and sings in around 17 Aboriginal languages, many considered “sleeping”. Since discovering her family, she has tirelessly worked to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, especially in the Northern Territory.

Dr Stacy Blythe

Western Sydney University

Dr Stacy Blythe is a mother, foster carer, and senior lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University.

Her program of research is concerned with the health and well-being of children in out-of-home care, and their families. Stacy’s teaching focus is in infant mental health. She holds a PhD in relation to foster care and has post graduate qualifications in developmental trauma.

Building trauma informed schools for children in out-of-home care


It is increasingly well known that early childhood trauma has both pervasive and persistent negative effects children’s development. These may include psychosocial inabilities, learning difficulties and emotional dysfunction. Despite these difficulties, the majority of children with early childhood trauma are educated in mainstream schools. For many of these children, the classroom environment can feel threatening and unsafe. Where this is the case, the children are unable to learn and their consequential behaviours may inhibit the learning of other children. This creates a difficult milieu for both children and teachers to navigate. This presentation discusses these issues and identifies strategies for parents, carers and educators which may assist in creating a safer classroom that is conducive to learning for all children.

Tay Cole

CREATE Young Consultant, VIC

My name is Tay, I am 23 years old and live in Melbourne where I have resided for most of my life. In my spare time, I enjoy taking walks along the beach with my dog or listening to the waves roll in, drawing and colouring in, following walking trails through nature, bowling, mini-golf and hanging out with my cat.

I have travelled half of Europe and cannot wait to explore more countries of the world such as England, Canada, America, Hawaii and many others.

I have studied a Diploma of Youth work and am currently working part-time as a social worker with young children who have experienced similar circumstances as I did during my childhood. In a world where there are so many bad things happening to people who don’t deserve It, I hope to be a change and help people see the good again.