The Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange
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The Australian Institute of Family Studies has a long history of providing research in an easy-to-use format to inform the development of policy and practice. A rigorous, evidence-informed approach to policy and practice is important not only to help achieve intended outcomes, but also to reduce the possibility of unintended outcomes (Peterson, 2006) or costly mistakes (Banks, 2009).
The availability of central, high-quality "information bases" on relevant topics is seen as underpinning modern evidence-based policy (Head, 2009). Practitioner access to information that is relevant to current practice and low in complexity is also critical to evidence-informed practice (Lewig, Arney, & Scott, 2006). Accessible research, resources and information has historically been provided by a number of web-based clearinghouses at AIFS:
- National Child Protection Clearinghouse;
- Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse;
- Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia;
- Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault; and
- Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (in partnership with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
Each of the clearinghouses has traditionally had a focus on a particular sector, and has worked to identify, collect, evaluate, synthesise and disseminate the latest relevant research and best practice to service providers, practitioners and policy-makers in that sector. In recent years, as governments have increasingly sought ways to provide services to families in a more integrated and coordinated way, and operated in a rapidly changing policy environment, it had become apparent that closer alignment of a number of clearinghouse operations would more effectively address these new directions.
Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange
Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange is a web-based source of quality, evidence-informed publications, research and resources related to children, families and communities. The CFCA information exchange is the product of the amalgamation of three previous AIFS clearinghouses that were funded to 30 June 2011:
- National Child Protection Clearinghouse;
- Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse; and
- Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia.
The CFCA exchange is primarily targeted at policy-makers, practitioners and other professionals in these sectors, but is also of use to a broader audience, such as researchers, members of the media, school-based professionals and community members.
The new information exchange was developed in the first nine months of the 2011-12 financial year and was launched on 30 March 2012. The former clearinghouse sites were maintained until the new website went live, and the formal launch was held at the AIFS conference in July 2012.
Consultations with stakeholders were an important aspect of the first phase of the amalgamation, the outcomes of which were taken into consideration in defining core business and products. An external advisory group was also re-established to guide the activities undertaken by CFCA information exchange and ensure relevance for the family support and protecting children sectors.
Special focus: Social media
A particular focus of the amalgamation was an enhancement of our dissemination strategies, in particular by aiming to offer multiple methods of research communication to increase the interaction between researchers and users on an ongoing basis (Lewig, Arney, & Scott, 2006). A number of services and products offered by the clearinghouses have been refreshed to provide a more contemporary approach to information exchange, including the increased use of digital communications tools.
Note: In mid-2014, the functionality of CFCA Connect service was integrated into the CFCA website.
An example of our new services is the establishment of CFCA Connect, a dynamic, interactive source of the latest information in the child, family and community welfare sectors.
CFCA Connect marks a collaborative first for AIFS. At CFCA Connect, users can engage in discussion with peers, comment on our content, find and contribute short articles on current issues, read summaries of important research and reports, and discover what's new in the field.
The content on CFCA Connect is divided into two categories: news items and short articles. News items include summaries and links to new reports and research, training opportunities, industry events, information on funding and grants and a range of other resources for professionals and policy-makers who work in the child, family and community services sectors. Short articles are 500-word pieces that highlight issues of relevance to practitioners, managers and policy-makers. Issues covered in our short articles include:
- when domestic and family violence enters the workplace;
- interethnic marriages;
- young people's mental health;
- the development of a children's headline indicator;
- mental health and human rights of asylum-seeker children and families;
- childhood injury and prevention;
- healing generational trauma in Aboriginal Australia;
- adolescent violence in the home;
- sport and leisure programs for Indigenous young people;
- collaborative relationships; and
- social media and relationships.
CFCA Connect <aifs.govspace.gov.au>
Twitter and Facebook
CFCA also has a number of social media accounts that increase the ability of users to access information in multiple ways.
The @CFCAexchange Twitter feed went live on 26 March 2012, in the lead-up to the launch of the CFCA website, and replaces the accounts for the previous clearinghouses (@AIFS_AFRC, @AIFS_CAFCA & @AIFS_NCPC). As with the former AIFS clearinghouse Twitter accounts, @CFCAexchange has proven to be a successful way of promoting CFCA and sector content to a diverse audience. <www.twitter.com/CFCAexchange>.
A Facebook page has also been established, and can be found at: <www.facebook.com/CFCAexchange>.
While all former clearinghouse publications can still be found on the CFCA website, the CFCA exchange continues the clearinghouse tradition by releasing research reviews on a regular basis. Since the launch, we have released a number of publications including:
- Safe and Supportive Families and Communities for Children: A Synopsis and Critique of Australian Research;
- Is Resilience Still a Useful Concept When Working With Children and Young People?;
- Natural Disasters and Community Resilience: A Framework for Support;
- Parental Involvement in Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying;
- Parental Separation From an Adolescent Perspective: What Do They Say?; and
- Fathers With a History of Child Sexual Abuse: New Findings for Policy and Practice.
Publications have continued to focus on the areas of protecting children, families and relationships, and communities and families. While these papers have been targeted towards practitioners and policy-makers, they have continued to attract interest from the media and the public more generally.
Contributions from the sectors
CFCA exchange staff members greatly value the input of professionals and welcome the opportunity to exchange information. We continue to welcome ideas for publications and encourage professionals to engage in the conversations occurring on CFCA Connect. Short articles and publications are another way that users can contribute to the site, and ideas or comments can be sent to the Manager, CFCA exchange, via our contact page at: <https://www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/contact.php>.
- Banks, G. (2009, 4 February). Evidence-based policy-making: What is it? How do we get it? (ANU Public Lecture Series). Canberra: Productivity Commission. Retrieved from <www.pc.gov.au/speeches/cs20090204>.
- Head, B. (2009). Evidence-based policy: Principles and requirements. (PDF 111 KB) In Strengthening evidence-based policy in the Australian Federation: Roundtable proceedings. Canberra, 17-18 August 2009: Volume 1. Proceedings (pp. 13-26). Canberra: Productivity Commission. Retrieved from <www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/96208/03-chapter2.pdf>.
- Lewig, K., Arney, F., & Scott, D. (2006). Closing the research-policy and research-practice gaps: Ideas for child and family services. Family Matters, 74, 12-19.
- Petersen, A. (2006). Conducting policy-relevant developmental psychopathology research. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 30(1), 39-46.