The well-being and social emotional development of infants, young children and their caregivers is critical to the future social fabric of society. To be effective the system of services supporting infants and young children in their families and communities must be integrated across levels of service delivery as well as across sectors. It must also be dynamic and responsive to the changing individual, family, community and environmental contexts. This project known as Better Together reports on research conducted on the System of Care for Perinatal Infant Mental Health (PIMH) in the Cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo in Western Australia and captures initial layers of information about this system.

Better Together mapped the population density of each of the cities with respect to where families with 0-4 age children resided. We also used GIS mapping to locate all of the System of Care agencies/organisations within each city. Training programs based on the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health West Australian Branch (AAIMHI WA) Competency Guidelines for culturally sensitive, Relationship Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health® were conducted with agency/organisation personnel. A Social Network Analysis (SNA) was designed to assess a wide range of issues related to the degree to which the System of Care, in fact, operated as an integrated system with respect to services for infants, young children and their families. Focus group and interview approaches were used to assess community perspectives about the quality of care provide by the System. At the agency/organisation level, SNA was used to assess perinatal and infant mental health services that are provided, barriers to network success, expected benefits of an integrated service, proportion of funds focused on families (prenatal to age 3), the interconnections of agencies/organisations, their degree of trust and value of one another, and a wide variety of functions provided by the agencies/organisations. Personnel training and experience in relation to inter-agency/organisation connectivity was also assessed.

The findings from Better Together are the result of analyses of multiple sources of data from over 110 workers from 78 agencies/ organisations across a wide range of groups that provide services in these cities as well as from 53 consumers of those services (families with infants, young children 0-3 years who reside in the cities).

The key findings show that the System of Care collectively has 2,460 relationships and a low to moderate level of interconnectivity with only 44 per cent receiving service referrals. Relationships between agencies/ organisations are built mostly from referral pathways and educational programming (38%). Developing new initiatives, training needs and service delivery also underpin agency/organisation relationships (20-25%). Factors contributing to relationship development included, developing relationships with specific individuals (36%), practice efforts leading to connections with other individuals (31%), and participation in service related committee (48%). Social Network Analysis data indicated that the level of trust between agencies/ organisations was low to moderate, as was the degree to which they valued one-another. Data suggests many more connections are possible and there is room to improve system cohesiveness.

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