Child protection and MI – results from the NSW project | HMA

Child protection and MI – results from the NSW project

Changing child protection practice

Changing child protection practice

Utilising motivational interviewing spirit and processes within child protection is designed to engage parents in overcoming obstacles in  keeping children safe. As reported previously in our December blog, the Practice First model was trialled in 16 CSCs and one Child Protection Adolescent Team across the seven Community Services regions within New South Wales. The trial sites which are now currently rolling out Practice First are: Bathurst, Mudgee, Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, Albury, Deniliquin, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Muswellbrook, Gosford, Ingleburn, Liverpool, Hawkesbury, Penrith, Sutherland, Eastern Sydney and the Met West Child Protection Adolescent Team.

The team from HMA was involved in the specific work around motivational interviewing within the four-day training program. In all 369 staff were trained in motivational interviewing and how this relates to child protection work.

At the conclusion of each of the workshop sessions a level one reaction evaluation was utilised (see Kirkpatrick’s model) to obtain opinions, feelings and perspectives of participants as well as identifying their reaction to the workshop. Please note that not all participants filled in all sections of the evaluation so there is some missing data.

Prior knowledge

Despite Motivational Interviewing having been around for the past 30 years within the alcohol and drug fields of practice, its use within a child protection/ child safety is relatively new. Most undergraduate training courses now give attention to Motivational Interviewing as one of the core approaches to engaging with populations where behaviours are entrenched. This is particularly evident in criminal justice, health promotion, and the disability sector.

As the following graph indicates, a significant proportion knew nothing of Motivational Interviewing as a concept prior to attending the two days. The majority however that have some understanding of the micro-skills involved (open questions, affirmations, reflections, and summarising). Of course micro-skills are generic to all forms of effective client engagement. What sets Motivational Interviewing apart is in relation to the language around change talk which can resolve ambivalence in the direction of positive behaviour change.

NSW Prior knowledge



Describing the learning and development experience

Finding descriptions to describe the learning experience allows participants to reflect in a much wider way on their learning. One of the outcomes of Motivational Interviewing is to increase change talk over sustain talk. In our mix of descriptors for the training there are more change talk descriptors, for example, Worthwhile, Interesting, Gave me skills, Informative, Encouraging. Alongside these are a number of sustain talk descriptors including rushed, too long/too much talk/information.

Of particular interest the areas that generated most support were the following: worthwhile (n=223), applicable to my work (n = 205), thought-provoking (n = 204), gave me knowledge (n = 200) and interesting (190) and gave me skills (n = 170).

NSW experience


We also asked participants to rate a number of factors related to the training. These are represented below. Overall we are pleased with the trend of the results. As you can well imagine participants are working at the hard end of child safety and if they cannot see merit in the practice, then they will reject the ideas.

NSW ratings

In summary we are very pleased with the outcome of this particular project. All of us who work in human services know all too well that where children are experiencing abuse and neglect, their future life pathway is hugely impacted. Having the skills to engage parents and caregivers in effectively keeping children safe at all times, is a significant investment in future generations. While we have contributed at this point to staff learning the skills of motivational interviewing, the hard work now begins as staff implement this approach in the task of ensuring children are safe.

Published on Sunday, February 24th, 2013, under Motivational Interviewing

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