Special Sessions - IN-PERSON

Shifting the focus to relationships: Development of AAIMH’s Permanency Planning Position Paper

Session 1 - 75 minute workshop, Wednesday 23rd June 8.30-9.45am, Brisbane time

Introduction: The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH) is a not-for-profit organisation of professionals whose focus is to raise awareness of the importance of the healthy social and emotional development of infants. AAIMH recognises the vital role relationships play in child development and strives to assist families, professionals and communities to build nurturing relationships within family and culture. AAIMH has become increasingly concerned as the number of children entering out-of-home care (OoHC) continues to rise. Children in OoHC fare poorly compared to their peers in terms of physical, socio-emotional wellbeing, and cognitive and learning ability. To address this, child protection systems have incorporated various permanency planning practices aiming to achieve stable long term care arrangements.

Aim: To develop a position paper to serve as a guide for policy makers and professionals working in child protection systems to improve permanency planning practices and therefore wellbeing outcomes for children in OoHC.

Description: A short literature review was conducted, with a focus on identifying aspects of permanency planning associated with improved outcomes for children. A subcommittee of AAIMH members with expertise in the area incorporated findings from the literature review with their knowledge and experience to develop a draft position paper to present to the Board and the Membership.

Conclusion: Efforts around permanency planning have largely been focused on the legal and physical dimensions of permanence, at the expense of relational permanence. There is an emerging evidence base suggesting that relational permanence and continuity are associated with improved placement stability and children’s wellbeing. The draft position paper, informed by child development and attachment and ecological systems theory, aims to highlight that the best interest of the child are addressed when the value of continuity and relational permanence are central to permanency planning. The purpose of this workshop is to present the draft to facilitate further discussion.


Early Years Specialist, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Adelaide

Sally is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 35 years experience working in a variety of settings. For the last 18years she has worked in the Infant Mental Health field and undertaken training in a range of attachment based interventions and coding systems. For over 8 years she worked as a therapist in the Infant Therapeutic Reunification Service, where she was very aware of the importance of the Continuity of Care for infants. She has been a member of AAIMH since beginning to work in the field , and has held Office bearing position at both a State and National Level.

Principal Practitioner, Child Protection.

Catherine McQueen is a mental health social worker with specialised training in infant and parent mental health and developmental trauma. Catherine has over 20 years experience in working therapeutically with infants, children and families involved in the child protection, out of home care and mental health systems. Her practice approach includes working collaboratively with families and professionals in order to achieve the best possible outcomes. She is also experienced in supporting professionals and agencies to strengthen trauma informed practice and service delivery through a range of mechanisms including training, supervision, case consultation and reflective practice. Catherine is currently a Principal Practitioner with the Victorian Child Protection service.

Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Clinical Nurse Consultant, NSW Health
Project Officer, AAIMH

Brendan is a Registered Nurse with twenty years experience working with infants and families in a variety of settings. Brendan started his career as a neonatal intensive care nurse, before moving into child and family health nursing, working in Central Australia and other regional settings. He currently works as a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Clinical Nurse Consultant for NSW Health in a rural area, as well as a Project Officer for AAIMH. Brendan has post graduate qualifications in neonatal intensive care nursing, child and family health nursing, perinatal and infant mental health, as well as public health. He is passionate about supporting families to nurture their children’s social and emotional wellbeing, and advocating for greater awareness of the importance of early childhood.

Senior Clinical Psychologist and Private Practitioner

Nicole Milburn is a Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Specialist who works throughout Victoria from her base in Melbourne. In addition to general psychotherapy to adults and families, she has conducted therapeutic assessments of infants and children who have been maltreated for more than 20 years and provides training in the Working Model of the Child Interview and Crowell Procedure throughout Australia.