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Child Protection in Australia: Challenges, Reforms and the National Framework for Protecting Australia


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Title: Child Protection in Australia: Challenges, Reforms and the National Framework for Protecting Australia

Child Protection in AustraliaChallenges,
Reforms and the National Framework for
Protecting Australias Children
  • Dr Leah Bromfield
  • National Child Protection Clearinghouse

National Child Protection Clearinghouse
  • The Clearinghouse provides a range of services to
    policy makers, practitioners, carers and the
  • Publications (hard copy and electronic)
  • Conference papers, workshops and seminars
  • Research Help-desk for information advice
  • childprotect email discussion list
  • Library collection (online catalogue)
  • Website
  • The Clearinghouse also undertakes new research
  • To find out more or to join go to
  • http//

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  • Child Protection in Australia
  • Challenges
  • How did we get here?
  • Responding to the challenges
  • National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • Australian Qualifications Framework
  • State and territory led reform

  • What are the challenges?

The national context
  • In 2007-08, there were 317,526 reports to
    statutory child protection services nationally
  • Approx. three times the number of reports
    received 10-years ago (103,302)
  • Of these, 55,120 were substantiated
  • Emotional abuse (includes witnessing DV) and
    neglect most commonly substantiated maltreatment
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
    over-represented on all child protection

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2009
Key challenges for enhancing the protection of
children in Australia
  • Demand for statutory services
  • Building prevention services (esp. for families
    in need)
  • Enhancing and monitoring practice consistency and
  • Reforming policy and practice frameworks and
    implementing reforms
  • Recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce
  • 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

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
Key challenges for enhancing the protection of
children in Australia
  • Provision of a quality out-of-home care service
  • Breaking down silos (b/w dept., NGOs,
  • Families with multiple complex problems (esp.
    parental substance abuse, DV, mental health and
    chronic re-entry)
  • Provision of the necessary tools for staff to
    perform their respective roles (e.g. information
  • Community education (i.e. managing community
    expectations of CP dept., CP is everyones

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
  • How did we get here?

Critical events in the evolution of child
protection services
  • Late 1800 early 1900s Child rescue movement
  • 1940s Start of professionalisation of child
  • 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

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
Changing community perceptions
  • Rising awareness within the community about child
  • Shift in social values elevating standards of
  • Broadened concept of where childhood starts and
  • Privileging of expert over family and community
    in preventing and responding to child abuse
  • Child protection primarily responsibility of one
    government department

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
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
  • e.g., media attention regarding child deaths
  • Risk management approaches evident

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
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)

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
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

Bromfield Holzer, 2008
Public health model versus expenditure
Bromfield Holzer, 2008
The role of child protection
  • With a wide net, left with the fundamental
    question What is the role of child protection
  • Originally set up to provide a crisis response
  • Crisis response not working for families in
  • Still need forensic and court responses

  • Responding to the challenges

National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • What is it?
  • The role of the national framework is to enable a
    more integrated response across governments and
    non-government organisations to ensure that
    Australian children can live in safe and caring
  • Why do we need it?
  • Child abuse and neglect is a significant national
  • The Australian Government has proposed a national
    framework for protecting children because the
    safety of children is a responsibility for all
    levels of government and for all Australians
  • National leadership is required for this
    important policy area

National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • How did it come about?
  • In response to recommendations from the Senate
    Inquiry Forgotten Australians
  • FaHCSIA coordinated a forum
  • Meeting of 75 reps from Cth, state territory
    governments, NGOs, advocacy groups and key
    academics in Melbourne, June 2006
  • MC Brian Babbington, CEO Families Australia
  • Participant groundswell - not another talkfest
  • Support for forum to lead to National Child
    Protection Framework

National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • At close of forum, small working group nominated
    to develop ideas generated from the forum into a
    draft discussion paper
  • Titled Towards a National Child Protection
    Strategy for Australia (August, 2007)
  • Six key action areas included
  • Primary services
  • Secondary services
  • Tertiary services
  • Indigenous issues
  • National standards
  • Research, evaluation, dissemination and service
National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • Coalition of Organisations Committed to the
    Safety and Wellbeing of Australias Children
    established in November 2007
  • To work with governments (Commonwealth and
    State/Territory) to develop the national child
    protection framework
  • Coalition represents majority of organisations
    providing services, peak bodies and many key
    researchers in the area
  • Families Australia Secretariat for Coalition
National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • Government election commitment to lead
    development of a National Framework
  • Towards this aim, FaHCSIA released discussion
    paper Australias Children Safe and Well (June,
  • Key areas for consideration identified in the
    discussion paper were
  • Stronger prevention focus
  • Better collaboration between services
  • Improving responses for children in care and
    leaving care
  • Improving responses for Indigenous children
  • Attracting and retaining the right workforce
  • Improving child protection systems
National Framework for Protecting Australias
  • To date there has been broad consultation across
    the sector in relation to both
  • the Australian Children Safe and Well discussion
    paper and
  • the content of the Framework
  • The National Framework for Protecting Australias
    Children will be considered at the next COAG
  • Anticipate implementation to immediately follow

  • Other Australian reforms

Australian Qualifications Framework
  • What is it?
  • unified system of national qualifications in
    schools, vocational education and training and
    higher education sector
  • Review of Community Services Training Package,
    aim to
  • continue to equip workers
  • enhance mobility
  • reflect current and emerging needs of the
    Community Services Industry
Australian Qualifications Framework
  • Previously, range of separate qualifications
  • E.g., Certificate IV in Community Services
    (Protective Care) Diploma of Statutory Child
  • Following review
  • Child, Youth and Family Intervention stream
  • Within the stream can specialise in
  • Family support
  • Child protection
  • Protective care (i.e., home-based or residential
  • Range of qualifications from Cert III - Grad Cert
  • State and territory-led reform

A time of reform
  • Significant reform agendas have been or are being
    implemented across Australia
  • National Approach for Child Protection Project
  • found that between 2002-2006 every jurisdiction
    embarked on a substantial reform agenda
  • reforms to practice frameworks
  • new legislation
  • dedicated child protection department
  • Further substantial reform agendas since 2006

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
  • 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

Strategic directions in service provision and
policy reforms
  • Broadly, state and territory departments were
    directing reform to those areas identified as key
  • 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

Looking to the future
  • Challenges remain, not easy, no quick fix
  • Data indicate some hope
  • In 07-08, smallest increase in notifications in
    10 years
  • A decrease in substantiations for the first time
    on record
  • As a nation appears there is some shared vision
    on broad direction for future
  • Jurisdictions at varying points in the reform
  • Hope that National Framework for Protecting
    Australias Children will provide overarching
    conceptual guidance to help us work together to
    meet these challenges


National Child Protection Clearinghouse
  • Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Level 20, 485 La Trobe St, Melbourne VIC 3000
  • Ph 03 9214 7888
  • Fax 03 9214 7839
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