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Great question with a long answer that I can’t really address properly here. It is crucial to provide induction, training and support to peer workers in a range of ways in your organisation especially the following areas: • Induction training – how the care and protection system works and how they fit in • Interpersonal skills • Secondary trauma • Professional relationships • Teamwork and supervision expectations • Your practice model. For example, in Life Without Barriers we would induct and train peer workers into our CARE model. Peer workers may also need training in areas like motivational interviewing, parenting programs and group work processes depending on what they are doing. No matter what training is provided it is important that it is supported by supervision, including through connection to other parents, reflective practice and regular opportunities to refresh. I would recommend that agencies form partnerships with parent-led organisations who can help them design peer work programs, provide advice and properly support peer workers. Peer workers I met with highly valued having a pipeline or link to systemic change. For example, in Washington State, peer workers were linked structurally to the Washington State Parent Ally Committee which lobbied for child welfare reform. This meant peer workers could raise problems they encountered on the frontline with a team who would then raise these issues for lobbying purposes. Please contact me if you want to discuss in more detail.
Jessica Cocks