Meet Mel James, from Social Care Solutions (SCS)

I am the CEO and founder of Social Care Solutions (SCS), a progressive and independent organisation specialising in foster care assessment, training and consultancy across Australia and New Zealand. A social worker, a multi-award winner, and an author, I spend my ‘free’ time teaching social work students at the University of Sunshine Coast and caring for my three children. I feel as passionately about their care and safety as I do about the children and young people we work with at SCS!

"I entered for my team; so they can see just how incredible they are, so they know how proud I am that they have been pivotal in changing the lives of many through the work they do with us here at SCS."

When did you start your business?
I started SCS in 2009 when I was looking to find a work/life balance; somewhere I could continue to grow in my professional development as a social worker, where I could continue to work in child protection, a sector I love and am dedicated to helping improve, while trying to start and grow my own family.

What was the inspiration behind your work/business?
Working with children, young people and families for over 20 years, I studied at the University of Qld, achieving degrees in Social Work and Criminology, later completing a Masters of Social Work. After dedicating several years supporting children, young people and families engaged in the child protection system, both here and abroad, I soon realised there was a significant gap in the market for high quality foster care assessment and training services in Australia. And with that realisation, Social Care Solutions was born. With over 75 dedicated social workers, practitioners, consultants, and trainers delivering the highest quality consultancy, training and assessment services, SCS has developed a reputation as an industry disrupter, a thought leader and driver of practice innovation to ensure better outcomes for children and young people.

What are you most excited about in your work/business?
I love seeing change come about for the families, young people, carers, parents, staff and systems we work with! Whether its assessing a foster family to be suitable to become a forever family for a child, whether its working to have a child reunify home with their parents, whether its teaching a room full of staff how to improve their risk assessment skills, we are making change, and that’s what we’re here for!

What has been the most challenging thing about starting your work/business?
When I started SCS, contracting was a very rare way to work in this space; we were unique and had limited competition. Quickly though, others have opened up their own contracting companies doing similar work, often charging less for a less superior service. In an industry which has scarce resources and often under the microscope in relation to the spending of public funds, sometimes the lowest quote wins the work. The frustration isn’t the competition and having to share the workload; its knowing that poor quality work is being done in this space and it is perpetuating the negative cycle for children and young people in the care system, by having poorly assessed foster and kinship carers, or poorly trained staff providing support to those said carers, that ultimately results in poor outcomes for our most vulnerable…the children and young people we’re here to support.

What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a work/business?
It’s a wonderful empowering experience to be your own boss. Its terrifying, but exhilarating at the same time. My advice would be to ensure you find the ‘gap’ and fill it with exceptional service (or product), because while someone may be able to provide something cheaper, you want to have the reputation for providing excellence, each and every time. And that’s when customers become repeat customers!

Why did you enter the Women Changing the World Awards?
I believe the work we do at SCS is so critical and in a world where negative media coverage in the child protection/social work worlds are common, its an imperative to shine the light on the good practice that goes on without being seen. I entered for my team; so they can see just how incredible they are, so they know how proud I am that they have been pivotal in changing the lives of many through the work they do with us here at SCS.

What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?
It was an honour, a privilege, to be standing alongside of so many other women, from around the globe, doing amazing work in their own spheres. It was inspiring and encouraging; a beautiful, positive, supportive place!

What surprised you most about the awards?
While it shouldn’t have surprised me, I was bowled over by the calibre of the women doing amazing things around the world.

How did the awards help you in your work/business?
It was incredible to speak with others, share on social media, and blog about being part of the Women Changing the World awards. It highlighted just how large and successful the company has become to be part of such a prestigious award! And like I said earlier, there is just so much negative attention about the way child protection works, whether here in Australia or abroad, so any positive spotlight will have far-reaching constructive and helpful repercussions beyond the immediate light it shines on us!

What advice would you give to other women thinking about entering the awards?
Do it! It’s a simple process but a powerful one. Taking time out of the business to work on the business, rather than in the business, is useful and the reflection time required to put in the application is a wonderful use of your time. Simply just reflecting on how far you have come and how much you have achieved is a ‘win’ in of itself!

What has been the best thing about starting your own work/business?
I love the flexibility, the autonomy and the ability be a disruptor. I get to work in the field I love, with colleagues and peers who I love, trying to make changes in a system that is, well, far from loveable but so very important.

What’s happening next in your work/business?
We have just started our Aotearoa / New Zealand arm so that’s exciting. We look forward to expanding in our training and consultancy work there, and also doing so here in Australia, including moving into the education and childcare sectors, as we become more well-known for our bespoke training and consultancy services.

What are your big plans for the future?
I would love to write another book (or 2!) I would love to get my PhD one day too… that may be a bit further into the future, but you never know!

How can we connect with you?

2024 Women Changing The World Awards

Nominations are open now for the 2024 Women Changing The World Awards