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					             Systemic Issues in Australian
               Child Protection Services

                   Findings from the CDSMAC
          National Approach for Child Protection Project



Dr Leah Bromfield, Manager
National Child Protection Clearinghouse
National Child Protection Clearinghouse
    Research, information, and advisory body for child abuse
     prevention, child protection and out-of-home care
    Services include:
         Publications
         Website
         Library
         Help-desk advisory service
         Email discussion list
         Presentations
    The Clearinghouse also undertakes research
Overview
  National snapshot
  International comparisons
  Modern approaches to child protection and
   their historical drivers
  Key challenges & strategic directions
  Creating an integrated child protection
   system
The national context
  In 2006-07, there were 309,517 reports to
   statutory child protection services nationally
  More than double the number of reports
   received 5-years ago (137,938) and steadily
   increasing
  Of these, 58,563 were substantiated
  Emotional abuse (includes witnessing DV)
   and neglect most commonly substantiated
   maltreatment types
                      Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008
Australia compared to other nations
    Notifications: Rates per 1000 children
     New Zealand`                                                53.3
     Australia`                                                  52.4
     United States^                                              47.8
     Canada*                                                     45.7
     Scotland`                                                     8.6
     England`                                                      6.2
     Northern Ireland`                                             5.4
     Key: Data for the period *2003, ^2004, `2005



                                      Data courtesy of Kerry Lewig, Australian Centre for
                                      Child Protection, University of South Australia
Australia compared to other nations
    Registered/substantiated cases: Rates per 1000 children

     US*                                                      14.0
     Canada*                                                  11.0
     Australia                                                  7.5
     Northern Ireland                                           3.1
     England                                                    2.3
     Scotland                                                   2.0
     New Zealand                                                   -

     Data for the period 2005   * Poor data quality

                                   Data courtesy of Kerry Lewig, Australian Centre for
                                   Child Protection, University of South Australia
Australia compared to other nations
    Children in Out of Home Care: Rates per 1000 children
     United States^                                                7.1
     Scotland`                                                     6.6
     England`                                                      5.0
     Australia`                                                    4.9
     New Zealand`                                                  4.8
     Northern Ireland`                                             3.6
     Canada*                                                       2.8
     Key: Data for the period *2003, ^2004, `2005



                                      Data courtesy of Kerry Lewig, Australian Centre for
                                      Child Protection, University of South Australia
Australia compared to other nations
    Broader wellbeing indicators
        Wealth
             Australia’s gross national income sits at
              approx. the median for OECD countries
             This is lower than the US, similar to the UK
              and Canada, and slightly higher than NZ
Australia compared to other nations
    Broader wellbeing indicators cont.
        Education
             31% of Australians (25-64 yrs) have a tertiary
              qualification; 7th highest ranking in the OECD
             Rates in Canada and the US are slightly higher,
              NZ is roughly equal, and the rate in the UK is
              slightly lower
Australia compared to other nations
    Broader wellbeing indicators cont.
        Work
            Australia had the 13th lowest unemployment
             rate in the OECD (5.4%, 2004)
            Rates in NZ and the UK were slightly lower,
             and rates in Canada were slightly higher
             (between 4-7%)
Australia compared to other nations
    Broader wellbeing indicators cont.
        Health
             Australia is ranked 5th in the OECD for life
              expectancy
             This is slightly higher than Canada, NZ, US,
              and the UK - but all are between 75 and 80
              years
Australia compared to other nations
    Broader wellbeing indicators cont.
        Crime
            1.9 homicides in Australia per 100,000 people
            Australia’s rate is similar to the rates of other
             countries with a similar child protection
             orientation, with the exception of the US,
             which has a relatively high rate for a developed
             country
Australia compared to other nations
    Broader wellbeing indicators cont.
        Life satisfaction
             Australia’s ranking on World “Happiness”
              Database was among the highest scores (7.3 out
              of 10)
             Countries such as the US, UK and NZ had
              similar levels of life satisfaction
Australia compared to other nations
  Child protection data fell into two broad
   clusters
  Accurate incidence data?
  What does the broader social context tell
   us?
  What can we say about how Australia is
   positioned?
Critical events in the evolution of
child protection services
    Late 1800 & early 1900s Child rescue movement
    1940s Start of professionalisation of child welfare
    1962 “Battered child syndrome” discovered
    1970s Legislation to protect children in all Australian
     jurisdictions
    1970s First mandatory reporting requirements
    1980s Sexual abuse recognised on world stage
    1990s Neglect re-discovered
    1990s Emotional abuse starting to be recognised
    2000s Witnessing family violence
Community perceptions
    Rising awareness within the community about
     maltreatment
    Shift in social values elevating standards of
     parenting
    Broadened concept of where childhood starts and
     ends
    Privileging of ‘expert’ over family and community in
     preventing and responding to child abuse & neglect
    Child protection primarily responsibility of one
     government department
Science and social work
  Science and technology in practice: risk
   assessment tools, computers
  Implication that abuse and neglect can be
   reliably predicted
  Criticism if ‘wrong’ decision made
  eg, media attention child deaths
  Risk management approaches evident
Risk Management Approach       Therapeutic Approach
 Focus on ‘risks’              Focus on ‘needs’
 Focus on symptoms             Focus on causes
  (child abuse and neglect)      (holistic approach to family)
 Short-term                    Long-term
 Deficit focus                 Strengths focus
 Adversarial                   Empowerment
 Crisis response (tertiary)    Preventative (secondary)
 Documentation                 Engagement
 Case management               Case work
Reviews of the service system
  Reviews tended to focus on how ‘the
   department’ was performing
  Recommendations for service improvement
        increased training
        increased procedures/documentation
    Recommendations for enhancing detection
     tended to result in ‘net widening’ (screen in
     more cases)
Child protection and families ‘in need’
  High numbers of notifications
  Large administrative burden for processing
   these
  Total reports comprise relatively small
   number of children who need a child
   protection response
  Majority of families reported are ‘in need’
   and likely to be re-referred if no preventive
   action is taken
                              Tertiar y


External
                       Secondary




                    Primary



      Referral pathways into secondary services
The role of child protection
  With a wide net, left with the fundamental
   question:
   What is the role of child protection services?
  Originally set up to provide a crisis response
  Crisis response not working for families ‘in
   need’
  Still need ‘forensic’ and ‘court’ responses
A time of reform
  Significant reform agendas have been or are
   being implemented across Australia
  Between 2002-2006 every jurisdiction
   embarked on a substantial reform agenda
        reforms to practice frameworks
        new legislation
        dedicated ‘child protection’ departments
Why change? Drivers for reform
    Dated legislative and practice frameworks
     (e.g., WA legislation from 1940s)
    Self-initiated research and review
     (e.g., Victoria ‘killer statistic’)
    External inquiries
     (e.g., Queensland CMC Inquiry)
Approaches to reform

    Broadly, two types of reform:
     planned vs. responsive reform
    Responsive more likely than planned to:
        occur in the public/media ‘spotlight’
        be implemented quickly
    Media scrutiny may influence reform direction or
     pace
    May be a combination of planned & responsive
     reform (e.g., WA)
Characteristics of reform
    Governments taking a lateral approach to reform
    Reviewing the structure of the whole service
     system (not a single department)
        Role of government
        Way in which services (primary, secondary &
         tertiary) are delivered
    Broad approach to review and reform reflects
     holistic approach to identifying key challenges for
     child welfare in Australia
Key challenges for enhancing the
protection of children in Australia
 1.   Demand for statutory services at the “front end”
 2.   Building prevention services (esp. for families in need)
 3.   Enhancing and monitoring practice consistency and quality
 4.   Reforming policy and practice frameworks and
      implementing reforms
 5.   Recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce
 6.   Implementing and enhancing culturally appropriate
      interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
      children and their families, and services to assist
      preventing their over-representation in statutory care and
      protection services
Key challenges for enhancing the
protection of children in Australia
 7.    Provision of a quality out-of-home care service
 8.    Breaking down silos (b/w dept., NGOs, practitioners)
 9.    Families with multiple complex problems (esp.
       parental substance abuse, DV, mental health and
       chronic re-entry)
 10.   Provision of the necessary tools for staff to perform
       their respective roles (e.g. information systems)
 11.   Community education (i.e.,managing community
       expectations of CP dept., CP is everyone’s
       responsibility)
Strategic directions in service provision
and policy reforms
    Broadly, state and territory departments were
     directing reform to those areas identified as key
     challenges
    Multiple strategies were being implemented to
     address critical challenges
    Reflecting the focus on ‘joined-up solutions for
     joined-up problems’:
        Strategies and directions were generally inter-
         related; and
        Individual strategies targeted several different key
         challenges
Strategic directions in service provision
and policy reforms
    Major reforms under six themes:
        An integrated service system
        Quality services
        Practice principles
        Providing an Indigenous response
        Quality out-of-home care
        Evidence-informed policy and practice
Creating an integrated service system
    Two major themes evident in the response from
     every Australian jurisdiction
    One minor theme evident in responses from some,
     but not all, jurisdictions
    Some issues that did not fall into the themes,
     pertained to local needs & priorities
        Safe at Home, family violence (TAS)
        Indigenous Affairs (NT)
    Despite some differences in framing of plans,
     broad intent very similar across jurisdictions
Themes
   Major theme 1: A shared responsibility
       Child welfare is a whole-of-government, whole-
        of-community, interagency responsibility [Quotes]
   Major theme 2: Strengthening families and
    communities
       Children’s safety and wellbeing is enhanced when
        services are available to strengthen families and
        communities [Quotes]
   Minor themes: Early years
       A focus on intervention in the early years
Theme 1: A shared responsibility

     The involvement of other government agencies is
 essential in improving outcomes for children and young
                      people. (NSW)
 The health and social issues faced by the NT needs to be
 addressed by government in its entirety, in partnership
               with the community. (NT)
Themes
   Major theme 1: A shared responsibility
       Child welfare is a whole-of-government, whole-
        of-community, interagency responsibility [Quotes]
   Major theme 2: Strengthening families and
    communities
       Children’s safety and wellbeing is enhanced when
        services are available to strengthen families and
        communities [Quotes]
   Minor themes: Early years
       A focus on intervention in the early years
Theme 2: Strengthening families and
communities

  There is the right mix of places, professionals and high
 quality programs to meet the changing needs of children
 and families, to provide opportunities, promote positive
   outcomes, intervene early and prevent harm. (VIC)
 Prevention and early intervention are vital components
 of the service system required to reduce the risk of harm
                     to children. (NSW)
Themes
   Major theme 1: A shared responsibility
       Child welfare is a whole-of-government, whole-
        of-community, interagency responsibility [Quotes]
   Major theme 2: Strengthening families and
    communities
       Children’s safety and wellbeing is enhanced when
        services are available to strengthen families and
        communities [Quotes]
   Minor themes: Early years
       A focus on intervention in the early years
Facilitating the whole-of-government agenda
- mechanisms
    Funding mechanisms
    Political and departmental structure (e.g., a
     Minister for Children/Child Safety)
    Inter-ministerial committees and ministerial
     advisory committees
    Strategic plans at national level (i.e., the COAG
     early years agenda)
    Strategic plans at state/territory government level
    Strategic plans at departmental level
Facilitating the whole-of-government agenda
- mechanisms cont.
    Legislation to set strategic vision
    Inter-departmental committees and senior officers’
     groups
    MOU between departments, agreements between
     government and non-government agencies, shared
     responsibility agreements
    Cross-agency initiatives, government taskforces
     and multi-disciplinary service coordination
    Strategic liaison positions, Commissioners and
     other child advocates
Joined-up responses at the operational
level
    Funding mechanisms
    Legislative mechanisms (e.g., require services to
     be provided)
    Interagency guidelines & protocols (e.g.,
     information sharing, guidelines for working
     together, and case planning requirements)
    Joint response and interagency teams
    Operational Senior officers’, Interagency and
     interdepartmental groups
Joined-up responses at the operational
level
    Operational liaison positions (geographic and
     departmental)
    Priority access to services
    Strengthening relationships with non-government
     agencies
    Local strategies (e.g., local manager role to build
     interagency relationships, joint training, training for
     professionals in relevant other sectors, and
     management/service system structure)
National Child Protection Clearinghouse
     Australian Institute of Family Studies
   Level 20, 485 La Trobe Street Melbourne
                 03 9214 7862
             www.aifs.gov.au/nch

     This presentation can be downloaded from:
    www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/presentations/diary

				
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