Research evidence for child safety reform

Placing childhood safety and wellbeing at the forefront of interventions is the focus of new research evidence being compiled by Flinders University experts in the Social Work Innovation Research Living Space (SWIRLS) group, working in partnership with staff in Department for Child Protection and other human services organisations.

Pulling a spotlight onto this work during National Child Protection Week – which runs until Saturday September 11 – the SWIRLS team says it is privileged to be working in partnership with government and non-government organisations to build knowledge alongside practitioners and policy-makers in this crucial area.

“This work will inform the ‘bigger picture’ to lead a transformative agenda for child abuse and neglect,” says Flinders University Professor of Social Work, Professor Sarah Wendt.

“SWIRLS is not about blaming workers or families in trying to understand the social problem of child abuse and neglect. Instead it is about working in partnership together with organisations and harness practitioners expertise and use research evidence to inform policy and service delivery.”

This represents part of the research work that has led SWIRLS to be nominated as a finalist in the ‘Excellence in Child Protection Research’ category of the SA Child Protection Awards, which will be presented on Wednesday 8 September.

Flinders Lecturer in Social Work (Child Protection) Dr Carmela Bastian says recent statistics from the BetterStart Child Health and Development Group highlight that 1 in 3 children born in 1991 were notified to child protection in South Australia by age 10. Similar statistics exist in other Australian jurisdictions as outlined in the yearly report, Child Protection Australia, by the peak body AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).

“Urgent reform and more research is required to address the bigger picture, however it needs to be examined in the context of social disadvantage and poverty,” says Dr Bastian.

“This recent research should frighten us because it tells us that our society if failing our children,” says Dr Bastian.

“The bigger picture approach to child abuse and neglect demands that all human services are strengthened to work with children, people and their families as early as possible.

“Urgent reform and more research is required to address the bigger picture, however it needs to be examined in the context of social disadvantage and poverty.”

Dr Bastian says services that are child-centred are “informed by research evidence generated from the voices and experiences of children, young people and their families so that their welfare is at the front and centre of everyone’s mind”.

“In turn, service systems that are child-centred and responsive to the complex needs of children and young people are dependent on having practitioners who feel safe, supported and valued within their organisations.”

Dr Bastian has appeared on the College’s latest podcast Making & Breaking Social Policy with Dr Ben Lohmeyer, to discuss how to ensure children are visible and heard in child protection.

Also, as part of National Child Protection week, a series of webinars is being run by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), commencing with a keynote address by the National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds on Monday 6 September.

For the webinar on Thursday 9 September, Flinders University Professor in Disability and Community Inclusion Sally Robinson will join South Australia’s commissioner for Children and Young People Helen Connolly as part of a panel discussing protection for children and young people with disability. You can register for the event here.

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College of Education Psychology and Social Work Social Work Innovation Research Living Space SWIRLS