Intensive intervention with families experiencing multiple and complex challenges: An alternative to child removal in a bi‐ and multi‐cultural context?

Nicola Atwool - Child & Family Social Work


When concerns about child safety and wellbeing are substantiated, decisions are made in the context of the options available—child(ren) remaining supported within family, short‐term removal with a plan for return home when parental issues are addressed, or permanent care placement. In New Zealand, families facing possible removal experience multiple challenges including poverty, family violence, parental mental health and substance abuse issues and historical and inter‐generational trauma. Lack of resources to facilitate the intensive intervention needed to address such complexity increases the risk that removal is seen as the only way to ensure safety. Criticism of increasing removal rates for young children with significant over‐representation of indigenous children has led to allocation of funding to establish Intensive Intervention services. New Zealand has a history of importing ‘evidence‐based’ models from other countries. A review of what is currently known about intensive intervention with families where there is risk of a child removal was undertaken to explore the challenges that might arise in our bi‐ and multi‐cultural environment. Critical factors for effective intervention are discussed before concluding with consideration of implications for other countries with histories of colonization and culturally diverse populations.