Communities and Justice

Family Preservation redesign and recommissioning

The primary objective of Family Preservation is to keep children safe at home with their families, and prevent removal, placement in OOHC, and future contact with the child protection system. Family Preservation also aims to support children and families to achieve wider social benefits, including better educational attainment and improved health and wellbeing indicators.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) is redesigning the Family Preservation service system in NSW to improve the outcomes, experience, suitability, and accessibility for families who want to access and would benefit from working with a Family Preservation service. For Aboriginal children, young people, and families this also means increasing culturally safe and responsive and community-led services that centre family-led decision making. 

At its heart, this redesign is seeking to make Family Preservation services more responsive to family needs, and more effective at supporting families to achieve outcomes. 

We have been working with the sector through the recommissioning process on the redesign in readiness for new contracts in July 2025. Based on extensive engagement with service providers, peak bodies, and DCJ colleagues from across the state, seven guiding principles have been developed to underpin the new design and continual system improvement of Family Preservation, over time.

The principles are:

  • Evidence-based
  • Person-centred
  • Transparent, fair, and accountable
  • Culturally safe and responsive
  • Simple and easy to understand
  • Collaborative with all stakeholders
  • Directive, supportive, and innovative
  • Value for money.

Contributing the new Family Preservation design 

The Redesigning Family Preservation in NSW Discussion Paper (PDF, 1.5 MB) sets out our vision for the future and proposes a number of changes. The purpose was to test key proposed changes across the system and elicit feedback from service providers currently delivering Family Preservation, service providers interested in delivering Family Preservation, DCJ colleagues, peak bodies, and interested parties.

Our six-week consultation period (Thursday 4 April to Friday 17 May) has now ended.

We will analyse the feedback and set out which elements of the new system design are settled, and which remain open for further development, consultation, and codesign. We will also set out the timescales and collaboration mechanisms.

Some of the proposals will need to be settled in advance of procurement activity in the second half of 2024, some will need to be settled to include as provisions in contracts with service providers (commencing July 2025), and others will be developed and iterated through the life of the new five-year contract period and beyond.

Discussion Paper online sector briefing

We held a Discussion Paper online sector briefing on Thursday 11 April. If you were unable to attend or if you would like to watch it again, you can do so here.

Key proposed changes to Family Preservation

Proposed suite of Family Preservation services 

The redesign presents an opportunity to more purposefully select a suite of services that are responsive to the dynamic needs, strengths, and characteristics of families, and that are more likely to help keep children safe and with their families. We propose keeping some models from the current suite of Family Preservation suite. These models include: 

  1. Nabu
  2. Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN)
  3. Functional Family Therapy through Child Welfare (FFT-CW).

These models have either demonstrated some evidence of effectiveness internationally and in NSW (MST-CAN and FFT-CAN) or has emerging evidence as the only holistic Aboriginal community developed and imbedded model (Nabu).

We also propose introducing two new Family Preservation frameworks:   

       4. Families Together

       5. Aboriginal Family Preservation, to be exclusively delivered by ACCOs.

The Aboriginal Family Preservation and Families Together frameworks present service providers with greater freedom and flexibility to design, codesign, and deliver responsive and effective supports that are tailored to the needs, strengths, characteristics, motivations, goals, and complexities of families.

The Aboriginal Family Preservation framework has been developed with AbSec , the peak organisation for Aboriginal children and families in NSW, in partnership with Aboriginal families, community and ACCO service providers. It presents very first statewide opportunity for ACCOs to take the lead in developing models that are community-led, self-determined, and culturally safe.

Simplifying eligibility, suitability, and prioritisation 

We propose adopting a simplified eligibility, suitability, and prioritisation process. This means slightly narrowing the types of families who are eligible for Family Preservation service and focusing on a family’s suitability in order to target finite resources. As a standard rule, service providers must be able to work with families who are experiencing mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, and domestic and family violence in the home.

Best practice referral process  

We propose best practice processes at the three referral pathways. We propose minor amendments to community referral and triage referral pathways. The most significant proposal is the change for referrals of from DCJ caseworkers with an allocated case.

Taking a codesign approach to the redesign 

We have been working with the sector on the redesign since mid-2022 to build a joint understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the current system.

We held stakeholder workshops with a range of practice and operational representatives from DCJ districts and ACCO and non-ACCO Family Preservation service providers across NSW. 

The workshops generated discussion among stakeholders and elicited their reflections on the challenges and common problems with the current service system, examples of good practice, and ideas about how the system could be improved.

The extensive feedback was analysed by the Family and Community Services Insights, Analysis and Research (FACSIAR) team within DCJ, and published in a Family Preservation What We Heard (PDF, 4.0 MB) paper.

We also partnered with AbSec to deliver ‘Listen and Learn’ workshops, held in person and on Country, with a range of Aboriginal stakeholders, non-Aboriginal ACCO staff, and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal DCJ staff to better understand their experiences of Family Preservation in NSW. This feedback was analysed by AbSec with DCJ and published in the Aboriginal Family Preservation What We Heard (PDF, 2.6 MB) paper. This paper offers insights into where improvements can be made to the system for Aboriginal families and represents the views of the people who were consulted

Key milestones 

April 2023 - July 2024: Finalising new Family Preservation design

Following a six-week consultation period, feedback from the Redesigning Family Preservation in NSW Discussion Paper will be analysed and inform the final design choices.

August 2024 – September 2024: Sector engagement

Engagement with the sector on Family Preservation final design and future co-design in 2025.

October 2024 - December 2024: Procurement activity

Procurement activity for the new Family Preservation design commences.       

Tenders submitted by service providers are evaluated and contract negotiations for the new Family Preservation design commence.

April 2025 – July 2025: Contracts awarded

Service providers are awarded contracts for the new Family Preservation design are awarded and signed.

Last updated:

20 May 2024