Ready Steady Family
2019 - 2023
The 2018 Health Needs Assessment of our region indicated a low uptake of referrals with new parents, despite the significant prevalence of mental health difficulties within the postnatal period. To address this, an evidence-based service providing an appropriate level of support, based on need, was implemented.
In 2019, Drummond Street Services was contracted to implement the program called Ready Steady Family (RSF). The program supports new parents and caregivers during the antenatal and postnatal periods. This enhances parental mental health and wellbeing, and prevents the onset, relapse, or exacerbation of perinatal mental health difficulties during the transition to parenthood. The service prioritises culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, LGBTIQ+ families, refugee families and people living with disability.
The COVID-19 pandemic generated several barriers for new and expecting parents to navigate during the first 12 months post-birth. These stemmed from lockdowns and restrictions hospitals had to implement to curb the spread of the virus. The RSF program team adapted, recognising that many service users required additional support. This included the provision of material aid, financial assistance, and food, as well as the mental health support that Drummond Street Services was initially contracted to implement.
This program works as a stepped-care model that provides tailored services based on a specialised intake assessment for prospective users. While some consumers benefit from informative sessions regarding parenting skills, others require intensive care to address underlying mental health issues, family conflict and violence.
The RSF specialised screening tool (in use with other Drummond Street services over the past decade) utilised during the intake assessment is being widely promoted among primary health care professionals in our region. It has been useful for identifying complex issues for new parents, including the impact of COVID-19. This helps assess whether a family has immediate material, financial or safety concerns that need to be addressed. The RSF team works with universal and specialist services (including GPs, midwives, maternal child health nurses, and Mother-Baby units in hospitals) to undertake ongoing risk screening and assessment throughout the ante and post-natal period.
As of March 2022,
- 481 clients engaged with this program since July 2019 (including children as well as adults) for individual and family supports.
- There have been more than 3160 attendances (including babies) in group programs and information seminars.
The outcomes expected for this activity are:
- increased access to wellbeing and mental health services (outside of Drummond Street)
- increased family functioning
- increased positive parent-child interactions
- increased mental health wellbeing for parents and carers
- improved coordination of services
- workforce development for identifying and responding to mental health risk factors for new and expecting parents
- improved capability for health professionals to provide quality care for people transitioning to parenthood
- strengthened protective factors for healthy parenting, such as healthy partner and family connections and social connectedness.
The program evaluation is led by Drummond Street’s Centre for Family Research and Evaluation in partnership with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. A mid-program evaluation report was published in 2021, reporting increased mental health and wellbeing among program users. There is evidence that the priority populations targeted by the program are being reached. Approximately 48.7% of users who participated in the mid-evaluation report surveys were born outside Australia. Case studies also demonstrate the quality and useability of the program for several types of population groups.
Feedback from people who participated in Ready Steady Family:
- Client feedback on family counselling
“[X and Y] were an absolute pleasure to have in our home. We really appreciated their help and advice and always enjoyed having open discussions and coming to resolutions, building our confidence as new parents, and learning new skills with them. It was an absolute pleasure inviting them into our home and we really recommend this program to anyone, in particular, [X and Y]. They were clearly interested in their role and love what they do.”
- Client feedback on transition to telehealth
“It was good because I didn’t have to go anywhere. She was little at the start. She was a newborn. So, it would have been really hard for me to get everything, put her in the car to go, whereas I was at home. While we were talking, I could warm up her bottle or I could give her a toy or I could rock her in the pram or I could keep her entertained, do you know what I mean? Or go change her or do anything while we’re at home. So, it was convenient for me, because I had everything and I didn’t really have to go anywhere, because they were coming to us. That was really good.”
- Clients who experienced family violence drew the connection between the support they received in recovering from family violence and their own mental health and that of their children
“I’m a totally different person now. I’m stronger. I’m independent. I’m confident in my ability to be a mum. I don’t put myself down. I don’t second guess myself. I’m not in a negative environment. I’m not in an unsafe environment. I’m in a really safe, happy, humble [place]. My daughter has improved because she actually has a routine now, whereas back then, she had no concept of a what a routine was because of all the yelling and screaming and all of the bad stuff. She’s in a much more safe place. I’m more safe and happy.”
- Demonstrating an increased confidence in parenting
“My husband and I became closer; we were on the verge of separation when we first started. I would recommend it because I have had the help myself, and knowing what it’s helped me with family-wise. That it’s helped me build a relationship with my stepsons. It’s helped bring all of our kids together, and it’s helped me, I suppose, deal with my kids in a better way to what I was.”
- Enhancing social connectedness with family/community
“If it wasn’t for the program, I probably wouldn’t have reconnected as well [with my family] as I did. I’d be like, ‘Oh, no, we’ll just stay home [from the family get-together],’ but at the end of the day too, with doing the program, I learned but it’s not me that’s missing out, or it’s not my dad missing out on my kids. It’s my kids missing out on being with their cousins for the day or being with everyone else. That’s what I was stopping them from. I’m like, ‘Yeah. No, that’s not fair.’ It helped with that (client).