Meeting children's needs requires a 'systems approach'

Meeting children's needs requires a 'systems approach'

Media release — 16 May 2013

Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in children being taken into out-of-home care in Australia. Today, the Institute has released a resource to help professionals make complex decisions as to whether children at risk of harm need to be removed from their families, or how systems can be put in place to provide for their safety at home.

In a discussion paper for child and family welfare practitioners, the Institute said that for children who are at risk of harm, child protection systems require a range of ways to intervene in order to protect the best interests of the child.

The AIFS’ briefing paper Meeting Children’s Needs outlined a ‘systems approach’, in line with the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, to identifying children whose needs were generally being met in the home environment but who faced difficulties on occasion.

Institute Deputy Director (Research), Dr Daryl Higgins, said it was important to identify and support children whose circumstances may not meet the threshold for full-scale child protection intervention but who still needed intensive support and a ‘safety net’ in anticipation of difficulties.

“It is important to identify children in vulnerable families who face occasional difficulties and to provide them and their families with intensive home-based family support, involving a whole range of services such as health, education, police, probation and justice where necessary,” Dr Higgins said.

“This may also involve establishing a ‘safety net’ whereby arrangements are made to call on outside family members for occasional support, as part of a collaborative effort between agencies, social workers, paraprofessionals, service providers, communities, families and individuals prepared to intervene on behalf of a child.

“All of these arrangements would require continual checks and ongoing monitoring and clearly, child protection is complex and calls for careful, professional judgement on the part of practitioners.

“But by taking a public health or ‘systems approach’ and involving a range of services sooner, it may be possible to work with struggling families to better support them and engage them in addressing any underlying problems.”

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