Family and parenting support

Family and early parenting services provide a range of support programs for children from 0 to 17 years, and their families.

Early parenting support

Early Parenting Services provide support to parents from pregnancy to when their child is 4 years old.

A range of specialist, counseling and advice services aim to help parents who need more support to care for their infant or toddler. This may include an intensive education and skills development program.

Early parenting centres such as Mercy Health O’Connell Family Centre, Queen Elizabeth Centre, Tweddle Child and Family Health Service provide:

  • Day stay
  • Residential
  • Home-based
  • Group services.

The Cradle to Kinder Program

The Cradle to Kinder Program is an intensive ante and post natal support service. It provides longer term, intensive family and early parenting support for vulnerable young mothers and their families, commencing in pregnancy and continuing until the child reaches 4 years of age.

The Victorian Cradle to Kinder and Aboriginal Cradle to Kinder practice guide (see 'Related resources') has been developed to support best practice. The guide provides the policy and evidence context for the development of the programs, as well as operational information that includes the program framework and requirements.

Family services

The Family Services Program (including Child FIRST) is delivered by registered community service organisations across Victoria. The policy and program guidelines support the planning and delivery of quality services across the integrated child and family services system.

Making a referral to Child FIRST vs Child Protection

Professional people involved with vulnerable children and young people aged 0 to 17 years and their families, including families with an unborn child, may at times consider referring a concern to either the Child FIRST intake service or Child Protection.

Making a referral to Child FIRST may be the best way of connecting children, young people and their families to the services they need. This is when families show any of the factors that may affect a child’s safety, stability or development.

A report to Child Protection should be made under circumstances such as:

  • Physical abuse or non-accidental injury to a child
  • A disclosure of sexual abuse by a child or witness
  • Emotional abuse and ill treatment of a child, affecting the child's stability and healthy development.