Jesuit Social Services
Understanding the Problem

Complex Problems

How To Get Help

The following information suggests some ways to get help if you are dealing with a young person who has complex problems.
1. Try to get good and multiple assessments conducted.
2. Keep telling services what behaviours you are dealing with and asking for help.
3. Write a history of what has taken place and what you have tried to save you having to repeat your story endlessly.
4. Be assertive with services. They are often under pressure too.
5. Look after yourself.

The importance of good and multiple assessments

When you are unclear about what the problems really are, it is worth encouraging or arranging for your young person to have a suitable professional assessment. More than one assessment may be necessary to get the full picture.

If your child is willing to be assessed, it is a good idea to read or find out a bit more about the problems or issues that you think they are experiencing. Then choose the main issue that is concerning you and arrange for your child to be assessed at an agency that specialises in dealing with this problem.

When you take your child for an assessment, a professional worker will ask you a series of questions about the history of the problems that your child has been experiencing - how long they have had these problems, the frequency of the problems, level of concern about them and strategies that your child and you have used to deal with the problems so far. You and your child may also be asked about your child's early years, experiences of school, ability to form friendships and attachments, your family structure and history and other questions that will help the worker to understand the history and context of the problems that your child is experiencing. Workers need this information to be able to make a proper assessment of your child's problems and to suggest appropriate treatment or strategies for handling the problem.

You may not be in a position to influence your young person to have assessments. Maybe all you can do is to find out more information about the different problems and behaviours your child is experiencing and the best ways you can deal with someone with these problems. Your general practitioner or local community health centre may be able to provide you with some information to begin your search. The internet may have some useful information on it. Some of the agencies listed in the 'Other Useful Links' section of on this page may be able to provide you with information that you need.

Also some agencies are funded to package care programs (treatment or support programs) to suit people with complex needs. They may have money available to buy services and to tailor them to meet the needs of the individual and family. You may find out about these by contacting the Department of Human Services on 1300 650 172 or read about these services on the department's website

Be organised and record what you have done

Sometimes it is not easy to work out exactly what the problems are that your child is experiencing. Sometimes it is a matter of gathering information over time and putting the picture together like a jigsaw.

It can help for you to develop a file so that you don't have to repeat your story over and over again and so that others can read the information you have gathered so far to help with their assessment and recommendations.

The file may include:

  • The young person's history from the time they were born
  • Any difficulties they have had
  • What help was received
  • Any diagnosis or treatment
  • Professional assessments that have been completed and recommendations
  • Current behaviours or issues

Be assertive with services

Services are often under pressure and it may be hard to get help for your young person. You may need to develop your assertiveness skills to ensure that your child receives the assessment and assistance they need. You may also have to develop your patience and anger-management skills as you navigate your way through the service system.

It will help if you can show the professionals that you consult what you have tried already and what has been recommended. Be prepared to discuss with them what strategies you have tried already, what has helped and what hasn't helped, so that they do not suggest the same response.

If you are unhappy with the service that you receive, you can ask to speak to a supervisor or manager. There should be avenues to make complaints if necessary.

Get a description of the people and problems that services deal with before you attend an agency, so that you can clearly point out the ways that you think the service should be able to assist you.

If you find a supportive service or person, it can be good to try to maintain a positive relationship with them, as they commit to helping you find the help you need.

Consider legal intervention

Some parents of young people with complex needs find that the young person is unable to manage their finances or medical treatment very well. There are ways that you can take on legal responsibility for aspects of your young person's care, if they are having trouble coping.

To find out more:

State Trustees Call Centre
Ph: 9667 6444

Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal
Ph: 9667 6450

Office of Public Advocate
Ph: 9603 9500

Other things you can do

Be understanding and support your young person if you are able to

  • Recognise the limits to their abilities, for example if they are not able to understand or remember things, or stop themselves behaving impulsively.
  • Try to help them to put in place any practical strategies suggested by services.

Have in place good boundaries with your young person

  • Let them know what you are willing to provide help with and what you are not.
  • Decide where and when you will say 'no' to them.
  • Find out about other suitable housing options for them if you can no longer manage living with the young person.
  • Realise when you can't do any more.
  • Recognise that they have some choices too.

Try to rally support

  • Try to seek assistance and support before things reach crisis point.
  • Find others in similar situations or with similar problems.
  • Ask services to establish support groups for family members.
  • Gain support from professionals and services who are sympathetic.
  • Write to your member of parliament, managers of services, ombudsmen, or other official bodies if you are frustrated by a lack of appropriate services for your child or by long waiting lists.

Look after yourself

  • Keep your own health and wellbeing a priority.
  • Keep in mind the needs of other family members and important relationships.
  • Sometimes sad as it is, you are unable to help your young person as you would like to be able to and they will have to make do as best they can.
  • Remember despite their difficulties your adolescent has some choices available to them and they have their own life journey to lead.
  • Remember you can't prevent all bad things happening to your young person. A lot of things are not within your control.
  • Think about what else you can bring into your life that will help you cope.

More about Complex Problems
What are Complex Problems?
How to Get Help
Related Help Sheets
Keeping Calm
When Your Life is on Hold
Setting Boundaries
Improving Communication
Dealing with Conflict
Dealing with Violence
Other Useful Links
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
DirectLine: Victorian Drug
Headway Victoria
Disability Online
Department of Human Services
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