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CAMHS And Schools Early Action (CASEA) Program

Program Introduction

The Austin CASEA program has been designed to assist schools and families to support primary school-aged children with their social, emotional and behavioural development. It aims to enhance skills in understanding and expressing feelings, as well as getting along with others.

The Austin CASEA program is delivered in the primary school setting and can address a wide range of issues including:

  • poor self regulation of emotion
  • difficult or challenging behaviours
  • classroom behaviour management
  • anxiety
  • attachment and healthy relationships
  • impact of trauma

Primary schools within the Austin Health catchment area express interest in having the Austin CASEA program delivered in their school. The CASEA team then goes out to these schools to discuss how the program can be implemented in their school community. 

How are children and families selected to participate in the Austin CASEA program?

There is a two-stage process involved in identifying children and families who may benefit and be interested in participating in the CASEA program.

Stage One

The first stage involves parents and teachers of children in the Prep to Grade 2 classes at the participating school completing a brief screening questionnaire. The screen looks at children's:

  • attention
  • impulsivity
  • emotion regulation
  • communication skills
  • peer interaction and
  • social skills

The measure aims to identify the children who would most benefit from the parent and child group intervention.

Stage Two

Once children and families have been identified, they are invited to participate in the second stage of the process. The school will make contact with families and invite them to come and meet with a member of the Austin CASEA team. At this meeting the CASEA team member provides more information about the program. Parents are given the opportunity to ask questions and then say whether or not they are interested in being considered for the program. As CASEA is a voluntary program it is up to parents to say if they would like to be involved. The meeting is held at the school during school times. Children do not need to attend. For parents that indicated they are interested in being involved, more detailed information will be collected about their family, particularly their child's social, emotional and behavioural development. They will also be asked to complete a short questionnaire. This meeting usually runs for one hour.

Finally, once all the family meetings have occurred the CASEA team decides on the final eight (8) families who are most suitable for the group interventions. These families are then phoned and offered a written invitation to join the program.

Participation in the program is completely voluntary and families can choose to withdraw at any time. All information provided by families is confidential and therefore not shared with school personnel without written parental consent.

What is involved in the Austin CASEA Program?

The Austin CASEA program is a multi-level, evidence based, early intervention approach and offers support to children, families and the wider school community. The parent and child support offered is in the form of group programs which are run at the school. The support to the wider school community takes a number of forms.

Child Group

Austin CASEA provides an emotional awareness and social skills group specifically designed by the Austin CASEA team for children aged 5 - 8 years. The child group will be facilitated by two experienced CASEA clinicians in conjunction with a school staff member who has undergone training. The group on average includes 8 children who meet weekly for a 75 minute session across 8 consecutive weeks.

Skills covered in the children's group include:

  • Recognising emotion in self and others;
  • Connecting emotions with behaviours;
  • Emotion regulation strategies;
  • Making friends and maintaining friendships; and
  • The skills of fair play, particularly negotiation and problem solving.

Skills are taught using a fun activity-based group model involving movement, games, discussion and drama.

Parent Group

Parents of the children involved in the children's group also participate in a parent group that runs across 8 consecutive sessions. The group meets weekly at the school for 2 hours and usually coincides with school drop-off or pick-up. CASEA clinicians facilitate the group. Content is informed by a number of parenting programs including Tuning in to Kids and the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P). Both programs have been established as having evidence to support their effectiveness.

For children and their families where further support is required after participation in the group programs, the Austin CASEA team collaborates with the school and families to help facilitate a referral on to other supports and/or agencies where needed.

Support for Schools

The Austin CASEA Team aims to build the capacity of the whole school community to work effectively with students and their families with regard to children's social, emotional and behavioural development. Austin CASEA does this by up-skilling all school staff on social-emotional learning by offering a professional learning package or support for the implementation of a social emotional curriculum called Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS). Schools that choose the professional learning package participate in sessions related to social, emotional and behavioural development. Schools that choose PATHS are supported to implement an evidence-based whole-school approach that develops social and emotional competence across the school community. 

What are the Costs?

CASEA (CAMHS and School Early Action) is a Department of Health early intervention program developed in consultation with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and the Catholic Education Office. As CASEA is a state government funded initiative, there are no costs to families involved in the program. There is a cost involved for schools that choose to implement the PATHS program.

What feedback have parents given about the CASEA program?

I feel very lucky to have been involved in this program. I have learnt so much! I would recommend it to any parent needing guidance. It was also a good opportunity to meet other parents in similar situations. Thank you for your help!

Both my son and I have learnt a lot from this program. We were lucky to be a part of such an experience. I have learnt a lot about emotions and how they affect us every day.

During the course of this program I became more aware of my own emotions and how that affects my children's behaviour. I also learned to back off and not get involved in every situation where my children's behaviour was not ideal. I chose my battles and in effect my child has also relaxed more and we have more positive experiences at home.

I found the programme really informative. Initially I found 8 weeks of two hours a week a huge commitment but after starting it really didn't seem enough! In the sessions I always enjoyed hearing other people's experiences and then learning from them, but then felt there wasn't enough time to discuss our next topic.

My son is more confident in talking about his emotions and I have found that he is confiding in me more, whereas before he used to keep things to himself until the emotions overtook him.

Yes there were changes that I noticed. I became calmer and took the time to emotion coach, which worked out better for my child as well as me, as there wasn't as much anger displayed by myself. I felt I became a little bit better at parenting my children.

I wish that the program would be available at the school every year; I understand resources are tight, but I found the parent support group helpful and the new skills of emotion coaching invaluable. I'm sure there are many more parents who would use these skills, if they knew how to emotion coach.

What have schools found helpful about the Austin CASEA Child Group Component?

The children opened up about their feelings and had the language to describe their feelings.
School Co-Facilitator

It was good how we could be flexible - our kids were rather rowdy and needed hands on activities. Most children altered their behaviour and were able to express how they experienced feelings in the group. School Co-Facilitator

Giving children steps to use and to think about when they are angry or upset. Learning to be co-operative.
School Principal

The opportunity to work closely with non teacher professionals in relation to student behaviour and management. The opportunity to focus specifically with a small group of students on recognition of their behaviours and personal management.

Children became aware and able to articulate better but there have been some real positives as they practise the strategies they have been taught. It's a great program and students as well as myself have got a great deal out of it. I'm sure it will have a very positive impact on the future of these students in particular. The CASEA team have also been fantastic to work with.
Student Welfare Co-ordinator

Who can I contact for more information?

Please feel free to contact the Austin CASEA team on 9496 2822 for further information or any questions you may have.