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13th Australasian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect

Speaker abstracts

Korean Approach to online Protection for children in digital era

Dr. Juriah Abd Jalil, Associate Professor, Law Faculty, International Islamic University Malaysia

Children are the most cherished members of our society but most vulnerable to harm, abuse, violence and exploitation in both online and offline world. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) prescribes the fundamental rights of children particularly to safeguard the liberty and protect the safety, security and privacy of the children. It imposed obligation on the State Parties to protect the fundamental rights of children, which includes the right to life, survival and development; the right to be free and protected from harm, abuse, violence and exploitation; and the right to a fair trial and appropriate redress for children that have infringed or violated any law. These fundamental rights of the children particularly the right to be free from harm, abuse, violence and exploitation are being threatened with the existence of the Internet and the digital technology.

Without doubt Internet is an important source of information, education and communication for children and young people but it also bring threats and risks to children’s safety, security and privacy. It exposes children not only to harmful, violence and inappropriate content, but also to strangers and pedophiles, who sexually exploit children and expose them to online abuse such as child pornography and child prostitution. The Internet also provides avenue for harassing, stalking and bullying online that threaten the physical and emotional security as well as privacy of the children. Awareness of these online threats and risks is important but in order to provide a safer Internet environment for children and young people, law and regulation should be adequately comprehensive and enforceable to protect the children from the online threats and risks. Such protection is important particularly to safeguard the rights to life, survival and development of the children.

The presentation will highlight the approach adopted by South Korea being the most wired country in the world in addressing the issue on online protection for children from the legal perspectives.

Workshop on a child protection system: Practice First

Ms Kate Alexander, Executive Director, NSW Department of Family and Community Services

The statutory child protection system in NSW is delivered by Community Services. In recent times the Agency has become concerned about the amount of time caseworkers sit behind their desks fulfilling procedural and administrative requirements, the escalating numbers of children entering out of home care, the overly forensic approach to the work and the apparent loss of skills and confidence in direct work with families.

Practice First is a NSW model for child protection and out of home care service delivery aimed to get our people out the door and into families’ homes, working as agents of change and using relationship based practice. The model has been crafted to be a pragmatic fit with the current resourcing, legislative and policy framework in NSW.

There are three essential components to Practice First:

  1. Principles of practice guide the model – they are evidenced based, reflect contemporary research about what works in child protection and provide a solid framework for improved outcomes.
  2. People and practice leadership – casework is delivered by teams, not individuals, and teams have the support of administrative staff and timely clinical and specialist support. Skill development is ongoing and requires practitioners to have insight into the impact of their own practice on families, and to strengthen their skills in working with families to change
  3. Realignment of systems – a clear mandate giving legitimacy to family work has been emphasised, freeing casework time from administration, and sharing risk and decision making across teams.

Practice First has been operating in two units for 18 months and another 15 units for six months. Its implementation and early impact has been reviewed by Professor Eileen Munro. Practice First will be rolled out to a further 15 units in late 2013.

This presentation highlights the learning one year down the road of implementation focusing on:

  • Key messages about changing a practice culture
  • Capturing the hears and minds of the workforce
  • Engaging senior staff – Executive Mentor program
  • Findings from the review by Professor Eileen Munro

The presenters include the manager of the first site who will share her experience of leading change and the implementation and design team.

Unexplained injuries: the role of parenting capacity assessments

Mr Mark Allerton, Director, NSW Children’s Court Clinic

Mrs Sue Foley, Senior Social Worker, New South Wales

In the last decade it has become clear that not all unexplained injuries to infants can be understood on the basis of physical evidence alone (UK Court of Appeal 2005, Guthkelch 2011). A decision-maker’s anxiety, related to the risk of further physical injury from restoration of an injured infant to parents, can lead to premature judgments, and neglect of the consequences of relatively invisible iatrogenic trauma through separation from attachment figures. It is vital to manage one’s own emotional reaction to an unexplained injury, and to manage the anxiety generated by the different available response options (removal, restoration, counselling, education etc.). A risk analysis model highlights the range of possibilities, including the consequences of failing to detect a denied injury (Type I error, or false positive), and misdiagnosing an accident or truly unknown injury as intentional (Type II error or false negative). Whereas a criminal justice model is the accepted way to determine the cause of an injury, a comprehensive clinical assessment of parenting capacity, that intentionally places the ‘whodunnit’ question to one side, helps understand a child’s wider needs and risks. Such an assessment considers the individual child’s development, care, relationship and other needs in the context of the parent’s individual caregiving, attachment, emotional and social history and resources. These assessments may also help to identify intervention potential and options. A selection of case studies will be presented to illustrate this model.

Getting there together: Digging deep for strength to achieve success in the face of adversity

Miss Rachael Andrews, Senior Child Protection Worker-Parent Support, Department for Child Protection and Family Support, Western Australia

Ms Silvana Oxenbridge

Parent Support is an intensive home visiting service for parents of young people who are of school age up to 18 years of age and are displaying criminal and anti-social behaviour within the community . Young people may also be displaying truancy in combination of the two previous criteria . The following paper will explore the perspective of strength, what it looks like and how “strengths based practice” has been implemented within the service .

Two journey’s will be highlighted, one through the workers’ attempts to dig deep for strength after the events of a traumatic family event and the impact of this in maintaining a supportive strengths based perspective whilst working with families . The second journey is a family’s perspective, of how they continue to dig deep for strength through the forever changing needs of their 14 year old son and to maintain their authority as parents, while upholding their values and expectations for their boy and their family unit .

Both journey’s, although different in circumstance, reflect how individuals have the ability to be able to move forward and succeed personally and professionally, despite the adversity, and at times despair and hopelessness they face for themselves and their family .

Addressing challenges to the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle

Professor Fiona Arney, Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Ms Marie Iannos, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Developed from an understanding of the devastating impacts of the removal of children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities, the goal of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle is to enhance and preserve the child’s connection to family and community, and sense of identity and culture in all aspects of government intervention with children. Numerous inquiries and reports have highlighted both the high regard for and importance of the principle, and for the Indigenous individuals and organisations who support its implementation. These reports have also highlighted significant limitations in the implementation and monitoring of the Principle. The purpose of this paper is to explore the identified factors affecting implementation of the Principle and discuss strategies to address them using contemporary implementation science frameworks. Specifically the presentation will focus on:

  • Over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the care and protection system
  • Shortage of Indigenous carers and difficulties recruiting and retaining Indigenous kinship and foster carers
  • Practice and systemic issues impacting implementation including workforce training, retention and practice guidance
  • Inconsistent involvement of and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in all decisions for the care and protection of their children
  • Provision of cultural care planning processes and implementation of plans, particularly the capacity of non-Indigenous carers and agencies in providing cultural care
  • Inconsistent quantification, measurement and monitoring of the implementation of the Principle across jurisdictions

Australian Parents, Child Sexuality and Boundary Setting; Informing Preventative Approaches to Child Sexual Abuse

Dr Georgia Babatsikos, Lecturer, Deakin University, Victoria

In this oral presentation, the findings of a primary research study of Australian parents about how they managed the risk of child sexual abuse will be presented. The parents who were selected for this qualitative study had children between the ages of 5 and 15, and had lived in Australia for at least 5 years. Data was collected from 2006-2008, and was the topic of a PhD finalized in 2012. Participants included a cross section of cultural groups and income levels. Using a theoretical foundation of social constructivism, and grounded theory methods, qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 28 parents from Melbourne and Cairns. The aim of this research was to identify the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of parents and primary caregivers which influence prevention and early detection practices, as well as how parents access support, information and education on issues related to child sexuality and child sexual abuse.

The outcome of this research was the development of a theory which explains the ways in which parents manage the risk of sexual abuse to their children relating to prevention as well as early detection. Findings from the research inform a number of recommendations for policy and practice aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. The audience for this presentation is professionals who are conducting and/or responsible for developing and planning prevention and early detection programs aimed at parents, teachers, and communities, as well as child protection policy makers.

Two old problems, one new solution. A national approach to hearing the voice of the child.

Mr Mark Barnett, Forensic Interview Advisor, Victoria Police

Professor Martine Powell, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria

Local solutions to national problems are expensive, inefficient and often ineffective. Child abuse and the capacity of systems to hear children are national problems, yet we currently lack the means for cross jurisdictional (areas and responsibilities) collaboration, or even cooperation to improve responses to this issue. This results in inconsistency, barriers to evaluation and unnecessary waste of public money.

For example, a large body of established evidence exists regarding the best way to elicit accurate abuse details from children. Yet the lack of a national approach limits the ability of local services to provide consistent best practice responses to children and other vulnerable witnesses who come forward to provide evidence about abuse and neglect. More specifically, the lack of cross jurisdictional funding pathways, the inability to effectively share information, and incompatible legislation, policy and procedures.

In addition, the lack of a central hub of knowledge, resources and expertise, limits our ability to share findings across jurisdictions and to centrally coordinate research efforts to reduce duplication and to identify gaps.

This paper will present a proposed national reform agenda that addresses these issues. It will include; the formation of a set of nationally recognised interviewing standards and competencies along with matching training standards, the establishment of a national Centre of Excellence and the creation of a nationally shared data base.

A ‘Whole Story’ approach to understanding and investigating sexual assault and child abuse

Mr Mark Barnett, Forensic Interview Advisor, Victoria Police

The prevalence of sexual assault and child abuse is high in Australia and globally, however justice outcomes for these crimes are low. Most victims do not report to police, and the rate of attrition in reported sexual assault and sexual child abuse cases is higher than for nearly all other crimes committed against the person.

The Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigation Unit (SOCIT) Project, of Victoria Police, has developed a model of investigation and interviewing designed to improve outcomes for victims of sexual assault. ‘Whole Story’ teaches investigators to see sexual offending not as a series of abusive ‘events’, but as a part of an abusive ‘relationship’ orchestrated by the offender. This knowledge is used to guide investigators’ understanding of victim behaviour, which is often confusing and counter-intuitive due to the offenders actions, and to aid them to listen fully to the narratives of these ‘relationships’ and gather a comprehensive account from victims.

The ‘Whole Story’ approach to understanding and investigating sexual assault and child abuse focuses on developing investigators’ understanding of sexual offending, and the abusive ‘relationships’ crafted by offenders, to be better able to listen to the narratives of women and children, and to maximise the victim’s ability to have their experience heard in Court.

This paper will outline the ‘Whole Story’ concept and its practical implication in the training of specialist investigators.

Unlocking the gate and re-opening pathways: understanding adolescent problems from the clinical perspective of unmet childhood needs

Ms Susan Blacker, Senior Psychologist, NSW Children’s Court Clinic

Mr Mark Allerton, Director, NSW Children’s Court Clinic

Unresolved abuse and neglect disrupt a child’s physical, attachment, attention, emotional, behavioural, language, socialisation and educational developmental systems and pathways. These disrupted pathways delay the maturation of socio-emotional, interpersonal and behavioural self-regulation systems necessary to navigate through adolescence and beyond. They reveal themselves in adolescent adjustment difficulties, including mental disorders, alcohol and other drug abuse, and social and behavioural problems. Clinical assessments may assist courts in responding to children and young people with these difficulties, by looking through the presenting problems to the needy child underneath. The relevant developmental pathways can be understood from the perspective of parenting capacity, including the fit between the young person’s needs and available resources. These resources are commonly affected by parental factors including antisocial behaviour, mental health, alcohol and other drug misuse, and family violence. In adolescence, parenting deficits may be supplemented by wider social-ecological resources. When a child or young person can be seen from the perspective of unmet developmental needs, and effective, timely interventions are implemented, the prospects of further behavioural or mental health problems can be reduced. The findings of comprehensive health surveys of young people in custody and on community orders, and of NSW Children’s Court Clinic parent and child base rates, will be interpreted from this perspective. Illustrations from de-identified case studies will be presented.

Parenting capacity assessment with young mothers in child protection cases - Does the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI) help?

Ms Susan Blacker, Senior Psychologist, NSW Children’s Court Clinic

Mrs Sue Foley, Senior Social Worker, New South Wales

This presentation will discuss clinical and forensic assessment issues and challenges in care and protection assessments, using a case series of young mothers participating in court ordered independent parenting capacity assessments. Young parents (usually mothers) who are before the Children’s Court due to concerns about alleged or potential abuse and neglect need developmentally sensitive and careful assessment of their parenting capacity to identify the potential risk and protective factors. Studies have reported concerns about young people, who are parents, having inadequate understanding of child development and therefore unrealistic expectations of child behaviour. Parenting stress can occur when a young parent has a history of exposure to trauma during their own developmental experiences. Such adverse childhood experiences, as seen in this sample, might include: child sexual abuse, loss, exposure to family domestic violence, and family alcohol and other drug use as well as engagement with abusive partners. Each factor has the potential to adversely impact on care of the infant or child and on ability to engage with services. A careful clinical assessment will maximise the possibility that targeted interventions can reduce risk and offer opportunity for development of new knowledge and skills. This presentation will discuss the clinical and forensic applicability of the CAPI and its limitations, when there is a need to identify risk and protective factors in parenting capacity assessment.

“We don’t agree, we need to break-up but can we still be friends?” Re-building collaborative relationships between statutory and non-government agencies when working in family preservation.

Ms Toni Bolte, Manager Parenting and Family Support, UnitingCare West, Western Australia

Ms Linda Nolan, Clinical Supervisor, Intensive Family Services, Uniting Care West, Western Australia

There’s a common conversation that occurs between the child protection workers that goes something like this, “We have done everything we can, the risk is really high and I don’t think these kids should be in that home” and, “I can understand the risk is high but can you just keep working with them”.

Like all good relationships sometimes the partners don’t agree and this may lead to a break-up. The demands of resourcing, workload and contract requirements place strain on the collaborative relationship between the agencies.

  • This presentation uses a case study to explore the phases of a collaborative relationship;
  • We don’t agree- What are some of the issue or challenges that can cause disagreement and dissent between agencies?
  • We need to break-up - What are some of the indicators that agencies need to, agree to disagree, to enable them to have the ‘it’s not you, it’s me…’ discussion.
  • Can we still be friends? – How do agencies move forward and work together in the aftermath of a break-up? What can we learn from the break-up? What can we do better next time?

Supporting Staff working with Vulnerable Families from a Strengths Based Perspective—the ‘what’s working well’ approach.

Ms Toni Bolte, Manager Parenting and Family Support, UnitingCare West, Western Australia

In contemporary children protection contexts, most professionals will adopt a strengths based approach to working with vulnerable children and families. This approach invites workers to explore ‘what’s working well’ in the clients parenting and family functioning styles and experience. The information gathered from this exploration of capability creates a platform for the family to work towards sustainable change and better outcomes for themselves and their children.

For many passionate and committed staff it is often challenging for them to continue to see the ‘what’s working well’ when families are continual in crisis and are struggling with change. This presentation will explore the opportunities to apply “what’s working well” approach to supporting and developing staff and teams. This will be discussed in the following context;

  • Case and Individual Supervision- when staff are feeling overwhelmed, worried and concerned about clients, the work and their practice.
  • Building effective and productive multi-disciplinary teams.

Trust Our Services, we are here to Help!!!!!! Reflecting on children’s rocky and remote journeys in the therapeutic and criminal justice systems

Mrs Kitty Bont, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinician, Murrumbidgee Local Health District, New South Wales

Confidentiality and anonymity for a child in Rural and Remote areas is a complex issue following CSA and disclosure. This presentation paints the picture of the rocky journey ahead through the therapeutic and forensic system. The journey is an additional adverse childhood event (ACE). Delays, time and travel are part of the “low cost” journey for the child whilst the alleged criminal seems to have advantage of a “full service” journey; inequity, no protection of rights and poor access to an empathetic mental health and health systems cause more discomfort. This rocky and remote journey re-traumatises.

Children who demonstrate this trauma with symptoms of anxiety and depression are often referred to Mental Health Services. Developing a trusting and working relationship with the child and their family is the key to accompanying them on their journey.

The Mental Health Workers join this journey with considerable difficulty. Who is driving the therapeutic vehicle? Whose role is it to manage the relationships with the Criminal Justice System?, and to manage the ongoing effects of the abuse and the systems. In remote areas resources are thin, all services have multiple roles and expect that Mental Health Services should be case managers when a therapeutic role is sometimes constrained by this expectation.

Three de-identified case studies will illustrate the dilemmas for clinicians, children and their families

Balancing conflicting priorities—how can the views of children and young people be included in child protection alternative dispute resolution processes in a safe and constructive way?

Ms Hayley Boxall, Research Analyst, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Capital Territory

Mr Anthony Morgan, Principal Research Analyst, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Over the last 20 years a range of child protection alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs have been implemented in Australia and overseas. A relatively new practice, particularly in Australia, a number of commentators have attempted to identify best practice principles to help guide the development and implementation of effective child protection ADR processes. One principle that emerges from this literature is that the views of the child or young person should be included in and inform the decision making process—the aim of ADR being to deliver an outcome that is in the best interests of the child or young person. While there is little debate as to whether the voice of the child or young person should be included in the decision making process, there is currently very little guidance around how this contribution can be facilitated in a meaningful way that also ensures the safety and wellbeing of the child/young person and the integrity of the ADR process.

The Australian Institute of Criminology has recently finalised two evaluations of three child protection ADR programs that were introduced in NSW as part of the Keep Them Safe reforms. All three of these programs emphasise the importance of including the views of children and young people in the proceedings, but facilitated this in different ways. This paper explores the relative benefits and drawbacks of these approaches and by so doing, raises some questions around the appropriateness of encouraging in-person participation of children and young people in ADR processes in certain circumstances.

Deaf Children Australia’s Safe Programme

Ms Alice Brennan, Deaf Children Australia, Victoria

International research has consistently highlighted that deaf and disabled children are at a substantially greater risk of being the subject of abuse. They are vulnerable due to a continuing lack of access to information, support and services designed to meet their needs. Deaf Children Australia has been keen to adopt a wellbeing approach rather than a remedial approach. Their Safe programme supports the personal safety skills training of children through a ground-breaking web based resource. The Safe programme utilises animations, role-play video clips and feeling cards together with Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and spoken language captioning so it’s accessible to all children, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with additional needs.

This innovative programme helps teachers, social workers and psychologists give children aged seven and over the awareness, information and language to protect themselves. It helps them understand what appropriate behaviour is and empowers them to trust their feelings. It is the first personal safety resource tailored to the specific communication needs of deaf children in Australia, and has been adapted from the UK’s Safe Programme developed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and was based on the findings of a two-year pilot project.

The rocky road to integration and the delight of families

Mr Karl Brettig, Manager Salisbury Communities for Children, The Salvation Army Ingle Farm, South Australia

If we want to find new solutions that have a major impact on preventing child abuse as far as possible we need whole communities, government departments, service providers and families to work together to support families. Neuroscience tells us that family support is particularly important in preconception care, in utero and in the first three years of life. Researchers, economists and practice experience tell us that well considered targeted intervention and prevention initiatives implemented during the early years will have a significant impact on family outcomes. However if we are to engage large numbers of vulnerable families and make use of peer parenting support these interventions can be more effectively facilitated in the context of integrated universal services. Based on practice experience this interactive workshop will put forward elements of how this might happen, unpack barriers formed by years of entrenched siloed service delivery and consider how these might be negotiated.

Can governments work together more effectively with NGO’s, families and community groups? Do integrated service models really work? Clearly the process of implementing such a strategy involves very significant challenges and major paradigm shifts which are not easily negotiated. It involves leadership that is prepared to take some risks to bring about changes in the way services are delivered. Does this necessarily have to alienate those who are resistant to change or can leadership be exercised by multiple stakeholders/managers at a number of levels to minimise the sense of loss and maximise the rewards of making these changes?

This workshop will engage you in sharing practice examples, resources and strategies that may be useful along the journey. It will also include a look at how the Early Development Index can inform the process of developing services at a scale and intensity that addresses barriers at every level and measure population outcomes that are achieved.

Intended outcome/s of the workshop

Participants will gain a better conceptual and practice understanding of:

  • using a whole of family government and community approach to supporting families
  • using integrated service delivery as an effective prevention and early intervention strategy
  • how barriers of entrenched siloed service delivery can be negotiated
  • how peer parenting support can be maximised
  • minimising conflict through shared leadership
  • measuring outcomes
  • useful resources available

Session plan

  1. Participants introduce themselves, give a brief outline of their roles and indicate issues they would like to be considered in the workshop (10 mins) This can be done in small groups if numbers are large with a report back from spokesperson to whole group
  2. Presentation on using a whole of family community & government approach to service delivery with practice examples including a look at some of the key issues raised (30mins)
  3. Q&A (15mins)
  4. Participants invited to identify and document strategies they would like to implement (5 mins)
  5. A look at some useful resources including participant recommendations (15mins)

No Silver Bullet? South Australia’s New Approach to Vulnerable Witnesses

Dr Stephen Brock, Senior Policy Officer, Attorney-General’s Department, South Australia

The problems encountered by vulnerable witnesses such as children and/or intellectually disabled persons at all stages of the criminal justice system are well known and have acquired recent renewed prominence in South Australia, as elsewhere, with certain highly publicised criminal cases. The purpose of South Australia’s Disability Justice Plan is to safeguard the rights of all people with disability (and its benefits will apply to children) in their interactions with the criminal justice system. The Plan will include previously announced changes to the Evidence Act 1929 (SA) and linked non-legislative measures to improve the way the criminal justice system responds to vulnerable victims and witnesses.

The prosecution of cases where a person with disability is an alleged victim will be a priority in the Plan, with increased support for vulnerable witnesses, particularly children. The Plan will include guidelines for the taking of evidence, and ensure that staff who work with people with disability in the criminal justice system are appropriately trained. The Plan recognises that legislation alone is not a ‘silver bullet’ to the complex problems in this area of the criminal law and the importance of a comprehensive approach that identifies and considers both legislative and non-legislative issues and solutions.

This presentation will outline the process of developing the Disability Justice Plan, and will discuss the intended outcomes and how the final comprehensive approach might operate.

Trends in child abuse and neglect in the Northern Territory (1999-2010)

A/Prof Leah Bromfield, Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Mr Steven Guthridge, Director, Director, Health Gains Planning, Strategy & Reform Division, NT Department of Health, Northern Territory, Australia

Multiple inquiries have highlighted the extent and tragedy of child maltreatment within Australia. Increases in child protection notifications and substantiations have been noted nationally. The high risk among Aboriginal children has attracted particular attention. This paper presents a 12-year historical cohort study of child maltreatment in the Northern Territory. The analysis uses administrative data for notifications and substantiations for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children for the period 1999-2010. Overall, 66% of all notifications during the period involved Aboriginal children. Notifications for maltreatment of Aboriginal children grew on average by 21% per year. There was a similar increase of 18% per year, in the number of substantiated cases. The biggest increases in substantiated cases were for emotional abuse and neglect. Among non-Aboriginal children, the overall annual rate of notifications increased by 10% per year and increases in substantiated cases were not statistically significant. Physical abuse was the dominant type of substantiated maltreatment. The data trends are interpreted against the backdrop of the Little Children are Sacred Inquiry, Northern Territory Emergency Response and Growing them strong together Inquiry which all occurred during this period. We explore the extent to which the data are likely to reflect ‘real’ increases in abuse and neglect incidence and identify policy and practice implications. And note the importance of the analysis of the separate trends for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in informing service responses.

The first Family Drug Treatment Court in Australia: a new solution for families affected by substance misuse

Parental substance misuse is a serious problem requiring urgent attention worldwide. Increasing numbers of children in Victoria are being removed from their parent’s care because of substance misuse, but the goal of family reunification is rarely achieved through traditional adversarial processes. This symposium examines the Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC), the most effective problem-solving intervention a court can provide to enhance the rehabilitation of parents and the reunification of families. We will report on our successful efforts to establish the first FDTC in Australia in the Children’s Court of Victoria and the challenges it presents to current practice in Australia.

FDTC: An Overview

Magistrate Gregory Levine, Children’s Court of Victoria

Emeritus Professor Barbara Kamler, Emeritus Professor of Education, Deakin University, Victoria

In March-April 2012, Greg Levine was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study problem-solving FDTC s in the US and UK. This paper presents an overview of the FDTC: its key characteristics; evaluations; a new role for the judicial officer in motivating parental recovery; and the need to develop more collaborative ways of working between the judiciary, social work, drug addiction and legal professionals.

Peer Mentoring and Recovery in the FDTC Context

Associate Professor David Best, Associate Professor of Addiction Studies, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre/Monash University, Victoria

Recovery involves a sense of belonging in the community; a sense of meaning and purpose (coming from engagement in meaningful activities); a sense of hope and belief, and; a positive personal identity. Assisting people on their path of recovery from addiction is a multi-faceted process. This paper will explain how a program for recovery might be incorporated into the Victorian FDTC, including how peer mentoring might form a vital component of the overall program.

Collaboration for Reunification – Building Australia’s first Family Drug Treatment Court

Miss Elisa Buggy, Project Manager – Family Drug Treatment Court, Children’s Court of Victoria

Australia’s first Family Drug Treatment Court is set to begin in Melbourne, Victoria, in 2014. This paper will explore the journey through development so far, including a summary of the challenges and successes experienced in maintaining fidelity to internationally-recognised best practice in these programs. It will conclude by providing an overview of the model for Australia’s first ever FDTC.

Service contact and intervention strategies for child victims of domestic violence: Lessons from the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team

Ms Emma Buxton, Research Analyst, NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team,

Ms Anna Butler, Manager, NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team

Many children and young people in Australia experience domestic violence (‘DV’) at the hands of a parent, relative or intimate partner, yet there has been comparatively little examination of the service contact behaviours and experiences of children and young people in relation to DV.

DV fatality review processes examine homicides occurring in a DV context with a view to identifying intervention and prevention strategies in relation to such violence. Through fatality review processes, teams access and evaluate information that may typically be confidential or otherwise inaccessible. This process therefore enables unique insight into service contact behaviours of DV victims and perpetrators.

In NSW between 1 July 2000 - 30 June 2009, there were 76 children killed by a parent, relative or intimate partner. The overwhelming majority of these deaths (56 deaths or 73.68%) occurred in a DV context and most children who died in this context (51 deaths or 91.07%) were killed by a parent/s. In many cases, children were not direct DV targets prior to their death, but were exposed to violence within the family.

The DVDRT will present information, trends and patterns in relation to all child homicides occurring in a DV context between 1 July 2000 – 30 June 2009, focusing on service contact behaviours and intervention points for healthcare and child protection workers. This information will be used to highlight the importance of developing and improving service intervention strategies in relation to DV including screening, referral mechanisms and facilitating consistent practices and procedures across agencies and responders.

One in every eight children are reported during their lifetime! Exploring a longitudinal study of child protection reports and its implications.

Rosemary Cant, Research Fellow, Centre for Vulnerable Children, University of Western Australia

Andy Bilson, Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire and Adjunct Professor, University of Western Australia

Maria Harries, Senior Hon Research Fellow, Centre for Vulnerable Children, University of Western Australia and Adjunct Professor, Curtin University.

David H Thorpe, Emeritus Professor, University of Lancaster

This paper will present a study of all reports, investigations and findings of maltreatment of children in Western Australia from their birth in 1990 or 1991 until their eighteenth birthday. It provides prevalence rates of children being reported, investigated and found to have been maltreated. A study of more recent cohorts shows worrying trends in recent years. A key finding is that over 13% of all children born in 1990 and 1991 were reported before reaching the age of eighteen although 71% of them were not found to have been maltreated. International data suggests this rate of 1 in 8 children being reported may be equalled or exceeded in countries with an Anglo-American forensic child protection system. There was also a disturbing increase in reports of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in recent cohorts with an estimate that almost half of those born in 2004 had been reported before their fifth birthday. The session will explore the implications of these findings suggesting the need for social work to take a social development oriented approach to protecting children. In this way social workers can provide support rather than continuing practices involving high rates of surveillance of socially excluded groups and which focus on parental blame.

Self-Control, School Bullying Perpetration and Victimization Among Chinese Adolescents in Macau

Dr Wing Hong Chui, Associate Professor, The University of Hong Kong

Dr Heng Choon (Oliver) Chan, Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong

This study examines the effect of self-control on bullying perpetration and victimization of 365 participants, aged between 10 and 17 years, from two male-only schools (a boarding and a non-boarding school) in Macau. Their bullying perpetration and victimization are measured using the Illinois Bully Scale, whereas their self-control level is assessed by Grasmick et al.’s (1993) Self-Control Scale. Bullying perpetration and victimization are negatively associated with the participants’ self-control level. Regression analyses indicate that the participants’ living arrangement significantly relate to their involvement in bullying perpetration, whereas their age and father’s criminal history significantly associate with their experience of being bullied at school. After controlling for the participants’ demographics, their risk-seeking behavior, self-centeredness, and volatile temper, as indicators for low self-control, are found to have significant effects on their bullying perpetration. Suggestions to foster the adolescents’ level of self-control as way to reduce their propensity to engage in bullying perpetration are offered.

Teaching and trauma: risks and opportunities in training support workers

Dr Anthony Collins, Lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

This paper explores issues around vicarious trauma while training psychologists in the area of child abuse and emotional trauma. This interest arose in the teaching of a postgraduate course in Trauma Studies. It became clear that the course materials were producing vicarious traumatisation in significant number of students, many of whom were then discovered to have had their own personal histories of early trauma and abuse. In response to this discovery, the course was refocused to actively integrate these reactions into the learning process. Rather than simply avoiding the potentially emotionally difficult materials, the process of developing insight into these reactions and creating a holding environment in which these could be integrated, became a central task of the course. The emotional triggers in the course materials were actively explored to enhance the students’ self-understanding. This change allowed a far more effective preparation for future work with child abuse and trauma support by facilitating a more thorough grasp of the students own lived experience of counter-transference, burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatisation. While this new way of approaching the course proved highly effective, it also drew attention to the specific risks inherent in this work. This allowed us to conceptualise more clearly the need for enhanced support and monitoring not only in the traditional practical training and supervision of support workers, but also in their academic introduction to this field.

Perspectives on Protecting Australia’s Children: Reforms in Child Protection and Welfare Policy

Child abuse and neglect continue to be among Australia’s most serious, urgent and deeply compelling challenges.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 created a new dynamic for bringing together major collaborators to tackle Australia’s persistent and crisis driven responses to child protection.

The central strategic message is that, as a national policy based on a public health model, the National Framework now needs to give greater emphasis to prevention, aimed at tackling the underlying causes and precedents of child abuse and neglect, and to responding early to the needs of ‘at risk’ or vulnerable families and children. Of vital importance is the development of an evidence base which will better inform policy makers and service providers to strengthen systems and responses to children, young people and their families

A central proposal is to significantly refocus existing investments towards targeted local or place-based funding responses to better harness the efforts of all Governments and NGOs to meet the specific requirements of high-needs families and children, including responses to mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, disability and other factors which can impede economic and social wellbeing. In these locations, crisis services should be co-ordinated with programs to support families and linked with practice knowledge about children in danger or those being restored to their parent’s care where abuse and neglect had occurred. Such integrated services could respond to situations out of reach of early intervention programs, such as babies abused early in their lives, children whose parents avoid services until a crisis arises, and those affected by substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness.

These presenters will demonstrate how vitally important it is to build on the knowledge and goodwill generated so far and continue to strengthen partnerships and linkages between and across Government and NGO sectors.

Challenges and next steps for the NGO Coalition and the National Framework

Brian Babington, CEO, Families Australia; Australian Capital Territory

Child abuse and neglect continue to feature as one of Australia’s most serious, urgent and deeply compelling challenges.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 is a landmark policy and program with a vital role to play in making a paradigm shift in how Australian society values, nurtures and protects all its children. Adopted in 2009 by all Australian Governments and supported by Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), the National Framework: is Australia’s first ever national plan designed to tackle child abuse and neglect; and adopts a public health model which emphasises early intervention and prevention measures.

This challenge needs a collaborative approach, requiring the continued and combined efforts of Governments, NGOs and academic sectors in joint analysis and planning and implementation. Greater effort is urgently required from parties to this unique collaboration including the community at large—to ‘join-up’ their respective efforts and make sustained and substantial improvements in helping vulnerable children and young people.

The National Framework is based on an innovative partnership between NGOs and National, State and Territory Governments in policy development and monitoring of progress and improvements for children in out-of-home care, their families and carers.

This presentation analyses the many lessons learnt in the first three years of the National Framework and the challenges that lay ahead, particularly in the priority area of improving outcomes for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children and their families.

Embedding research in policy setting, implementation and monitoring for a national framework for child protection

Professor Fiona Arney, Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

In the context of escalating concerns about child abuse and neglect in Australian communities, the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 was developed as a landmark agreement between Federal, State and Territory Governments and a coalition of non-government organisations including service delivery agencies, advocacy groups, peak bodies and academics.

In this presentation, we will explore the use of research and research translation in national policy setting, implementation and measurement of this public health framework for preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect. With a particular focus on the challenges and opportunities inherent in intersectoral collaboration posed by the common, and at times, competing priorities of the three cultures of research, policy and practice, we will describe the strategies used to facilitate an evidence-based approach to national policy setting, implementation and monitoring with regard to the “wicked problem” of child abuse and neglect.

The presentation will describe linkage and exchange mechanisms and power-sharing arrangements with the third sector, and their role in sustaining momentum for and commitment to evidence-based policy in the field of child protection in the face of changing political priorities and in resource scarce environments.

The Research Agenda for Australia’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children – working together to fill the gaps

Professor Morag McArthur, Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, Australian Capital Territory

In 2009 The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children was launched with a broad and ambitious agenda for reform. One of the priority actions under the National Framework was the development of a National Research Agenda. This recognised that a key element to effective and sustainable improvement to the wellbeing and safety of children is the use of evidence to enable decisions about what to do, based on knowing ‘what works’. Australia’s unique characteristics (e.g., geographical size, remote regions, Indigenous cultures) makes the direct application of international research difficult and sometimes inappropriate. Currently research about child abuse and neglect that is related to the Australian context is limited. The aim of the Research Agenda was to identify research opportunities and priorities and expand the evidence base around issues in Australia relevant to protecting children from abuse and neglect.

This paper outlines the Agenda, its underpinning principles and the iterative and collaborative processes that were undertaken as part of its development. These include the use of research audits to assess the state and nature of evidence in Australia about child abuse and neglect, which enabled critical gaps in policy and practice knowledge to be highlighted. In the paper we examine the implications of the content and methodological gaps identified through these collaborative processes. We also assess the Agenda’s potential for successfully increasing the knowledge base available to policy-makers and practitioners, given the modest government funding allocated to fund the Agenda. Finally, we identify other possible strategies that will be required to increase the resources – this will be critical if improved outcomes for Australia’s children are to be achieved.

The National Framework: What difference has it really made on the ground?

Andrew McCallum, Chief Executive, Uniting Communities, South Australia

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children launched in 2009 was in large part the product of sustained lobbying by Child Welfare advocates and NGO’s seeking national leadership and approaches to promoting the wellbeing and safety of children and young people.

Expectations were high about its ability to produce coordinated policy and improved child and family welfare practices in a traditionally fragmented environment. After almost 4 years into the Framework’s 12 year life, it is important to test how well the Framework has lived up to these expectations.

This paper examines the deliverables from the perspective of non-government agencies operating on the front line in providing child and family welfare services. Specific focus is given to how the Framework has performed in shaping and improving practice from early intervention programs to the provision of out of home care.

Through direct input from a coalition of more than 100 NGOs operating across Australia, an assessment is made about the level of penetration achieved by the Framework on Child Welfare practice. Particular reference is given to the impact of ‘headline’ reforms such as the development of national out of home care standards, increasing the responsiveness of adult focussed human services to address the needs of children and parents under the guise of the Building Capacity Building Bridges initiative and efforts to improve the transitioning of young people from out of home care.

Examples of how these reforms have gained traction and changed the practices of those delivering services to children and families provides some optimism for how a national multi jurisdictional reform agenda can have an impact. At the same time evidence suggests that the rate and extent of change remains both slow and patchy and it remains premature to rate the Framework a major success at this point in its history.

Growing our Children up Strong – providing healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people and their families

Richard Weston, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, Australian Capital Territory

Established on the first anniversary of the Apology to Indigenous peoples in Australia the Healing Foundation supports culturally strong, locally run Indigenous healing programs around Australia and funds education and research on Indigenous healing. The forcible removal of children from their families continues to have a devastating impact on our communities. Most forcibly removed children were denied the experience of being parented and cared for by kin. They therefore often lacked the experiences necessary to become ‘successful’ parents themselves (Wilson, 1997). This is a significant, but not well understood, factor in why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be removed from the care of their families today.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up 4.6% of Australian children aged 0-17 years, yet in 2010-11, they comprised 26.1% of children who were subject to substantiated notifications and 31.4% of children who were subject to care and protection orders. In July 2011 the Healing Foundation provided funds to 3 sites to develop healing programs for our children and families that acknowledged and addressed the devastating impact of intergenerational trauma.

The projects improve the wellbeing of young people by strengthening cultural connectedness and identity, providing opportunities for individual and family healing, and building skills to manage pain and loss in a way that allows for a hopeful future.

The presentation will seek to outline the following:

  • Why it is important to move away from a problem-focused approach that relies heavily on tertiary interventions to one that promotes safety and wellbeing for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
  • Key elements of healing programs for children and young people, drawing on the wisdom and strength of culture and marrying this with best-practice approaches to trauma recovery
  • Early outcomes and emerging trends from the Intergenerational Trauma Initiative.

MacKillop Family Services’ Immediate Risk Register: Using technology to support client risk management and care

Mr Christopher Craig, Manager, Operational Policy, MacKillop Family Services, Victoria

Liz Greig, Manager, Evaluation, MacKillop Family Services, Victoria

MacKillop recognises that all children and young people requiring protective care have experienced some form of trauma and enter care with a range of behaviours and needs. However, some clients engage in more extreme behaviours, requiring an organisational response commensurate to the level of client risk.

MacKillop’s response to this issue was the launch of Immediate Risk Register (IRR) (2012). The IRR is an innovative technological approach for identifying and communicating about clients at risk, and supporting timely therapeutic responses aimed at managing and reducing risk.

Placement of clients on the IRR immediately communicates risk to senior staff, including the CEO, Executive Director of Operations and the Divisional Director. It also provides a link between program staff and MacKillop’s Principal Practitioner, facilitating case practice support and allocation of external and internal resources for timely and targeted responses to clients.

Regular updates, completed by program staff, track the supports and management responses put in place, and allow staff to monitor the appropriateness and effectiveness of therapeutic responses, until such a time as the client’s risk has decreased sufficiently enough for the case to be removed from the IRR. An internal evaluation, completed in 2013, considered the implementation and effectiveness of the IRR to date and provided valuable information on ‘what works’ and areas for improvement. This presentation will provide an overview of those findings, and provide lessons learnt relevant for using technical tools to improve responses to children and young people at risk.

Using the Integrated Framework as the basis for case conceptualisation in high risk families

Professor Sharon Dawe, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Helping to reduce the risk of child abuse in high risk families requires programs that go beyond simple parent training approaches. An ecological approach that addresses multiple domains of family life is essential. In this presentation we will provide an overview of the Integrated Framework (IF), a conceptual model for helping to guide assessment and intervention in families with high risk of child maltreatment. This practice framework, informed by existing models of child development and family functioning, moves beyond simply identifying the presence of risk and protective factors, to articulating how and why specific risk and protective factors are important for a particular family. The starting point of the IF is the child: to determine current child functioning in social, emotional, cognitive and behavioural domains. Proximal factors that directly influence functioning in these domains are then assessed next with a particular focus on (i) the quality of the attachment between child and carer and (ii) parenting skills and values. Contextual factors including parent’s state of mind need to be assessed as these directly influence a carer’s capacity to provide a nurturing and consistent environment. Finally, broader social context is considered. The importance of using both interview and well validated measures of family functioning will be demonstrated (30 minutes).

The use of the IF will then be illustrated using the Parents Under Pressure program ( to give a case example of how the PuP program can be implemented within the IF. This will provide practitioners and clinical staff with a real world example of the use of the IF. The case example will require participants to consider a case vignette and will work in pairs or small groups to identify how the case material can be conceptualised within the IF (30 minutes).

This in turn, leads to a discussion of the goals that arise from this conceptualisation and how the family can be supported to reach these goals. The goals need to be clearly specified, manageable and observable in order to be clear whether these goals have been achieved. Managers will have an opportunity to see how can be applied in high risk families (30 minutes).

Parents matter: The importance of parental affect regulation in the development of child emotional regulation

Professor Sharon Dawe, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Moana Harlen

Dr Paul Harnett, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Queensland

The ability to regulate emotions is a key developmental task for children and is the foundational step in the acquisition of social skills, cognitive development and adaptive functioning. While there has been extensive investigation of the role of emotional regulation (ER) in the development of childhood psychopathology: both internalising and externalising problems, there has been a surprising paucity of research investigating parental characteristics that may be associated with poor child ER. We under took an investigation of the relationship between child ER, child behaviour problems and parental characteristics in a sample of families drawn from high populations (families in contact with child protective services) and community parents (N=75). Parental psychopathology (depression anxiety and stress), parental emotional regulation and parenting skills were all associated with poor child ER. Further, poor child ER was associated with child behaviour problems. This study underscores the importance of targeting parental affect regulation when helping children with significant behaviour problems. Parents play a key role in helping young children first learn how to recognise their own emotional state and then to learn how to manage their emotions and develop the capacity for behavioural control. We conclude with a discussion of evidence based approaches that may be considered when working with parents with extreme affect dysregulation.

Quality of care giving in mothers with substance misuse problems: How research can inform our clinical practice

Professor Sharon Dawe, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Mrs Denise Hatzis

Dr Paul Harnett, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Queensland

A/Prof Leah Bromfield, Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

If a mother is able to provide love, warmth and respond sensitively in her day-to-day interactions with her baby, her baby, in turn will develop a view that the world is a safe and trusting place. Such infants will feel secure in the presence of their mother, enabling them to venture forth in early childhood thereby providing the grounding to develop as secure, confident, and sensitive adults. However, not all infants experience sensitive and nurturing caregiving in their early lives, and children living in families with maternal substance abuse are particularly vulnerable with problems compounded by multiple environmental stressors (e.g., domestic violence, criminal behaviours and parental relationship breakdown) and social and financial disadvantage. We undertook a systematic review of 36 published studies on the quality of caregiving in substance misusing mothers. Inclusion criteria required that the study used observational methodology to assess caregiving and that children were under 3 years of age. Notably, not all mothers had compromised caregiving. Further interrogation of this literature led us to conclude that concurrent psychopathology, in particular diagnoses associated with poor impulse control and affect dysregulation, was predictive of compromised care giving. These finding highlight the importance of addressing both the quality of caregiving and the attachment relationship in these high risk dyads as well as ensuring treatment has a focus on helping mothers manage dysregulated affect.

Perinatal Family Conferencing for at risk Newborns

Ms Melinda George, Manager Client Services, Department of Family and Community Services, New South Wales

Ms Katrina Hurley, Clinical Projects Manager, Child Protection, Sydney Local Health District, New South Wales

Ms Michelle Maiese, Director-Child Protection, Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales

Ms Chrissie Witherdin, Director Child and Family Metro Central Region, Department of Family and Community Services, New South Wales

Perinatal Family Conferencing is a collaborative pilot project between Metro Central Community Services (CS) and Sydney Local Health District (SLHD). The project uses family conferencing to promote early engagement and interagency planning with pregnant women and families at risk of their newborns entering out of home care at birth.


  1. Early engagement aims to reduce risks and the number of infants assumed into care and/or the identification of an appropriate carer prior to birth.
  2. The project utilises a strengths based model which promotes a participatory and transparent process for parents and families.


Twenty two referrals with nineteen births to women and families participating in perinatal family conferencing. Of the nineteen who have given birth, twelve unborn infants were safe with plan and have been discharged into the care of their mothers and family.

Qualitative feedback has been obtained via interview with prospective parents, Health, Community Services and non government agency professionals. These responses spoke to the model facilitating voices of clients, establishing clarity regarding role responsibilities, confidence in addressing risk issues, collaboration between clients and agencies, improvements in sharing information between professionals and empowerment of clients to identify their own strengths and concerns.

Quantitative data collection measuring outcomes for infants including developmental paediatric assessment, immunisation status , number of assumptions of care , numbers of children in kinship care or foster care, number of changes in placements, number of risk of significant harm reports and injury presentations to health services will commence in August 2013.

Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in an early intervention context

Ms Zoe De Re, Care & Protection Solicitor, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd, New South Wales

Recent proposed changes to New South Wales’ Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act highlight the State Government’s focus on early intervention and attempts to engage with families with child protection and risk concerns. Two solicitors from the Aboriginal Legal Service discuss their experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, in an early intervention context. They will discuss their challenges and the advantages of engaging with parents and families, prior to removal of children. As solicitors, they will talk about their role in engaging parents and families to seek to make positive changes in their family, community and for their children. Looking to the future, the two solicitors will comment on the proposed new early intervention strategies, and the current options available to the Department when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities. They will comment on their expectation for the preservation of families and community through real engagement, and invite listeners to think about how they engage with families in an early intervention context. They will also discuss the legislative imperative for the Department of Family and Community Services to consider cultural connection in every decision that is made concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children – including those decisions made prior to removal from family, community and land.

Working together – how a non-government agency in WA has integrated the Signs of Safety approach to working with the State Child Protection agency and families in keeping their children safe

Ms Pauline Dixon, Executive Manager, Wanslea, Western Australia

Ms Peta Hart, Operations Manager, Wanslea, Western Australia

Wanslea is a non-government agency in Western Australia and is in its 70th year of operation. Wanslea provides a range of services to families and children including: parent skilling, out of home care, support to children of parents with mental illness, support to Grandcarers and child care services. Wanslea works collaboratively with the Department for Child Protection and Family Support in a number of home based programs that aim to prevent children coming into care and in some situations return children to their parent’s full time care. Wanslea staff are part of a team of professionals that engage in Signs of Safety meetings with families, that seek to clarify the safety concerns for the children and what the adults need to do in order to keep the children safe. Wanslea actively participates in the collaborative process to engage families and operationalise their safety goals that have been established at the Signs of Safety meeting as part of the intervention. Wanslea’s role is one part of a complex process that requires ongoing assessment and communication between all parties to ensure safety of children. Wanslea staff will share stories of success and give an insight into the process as it is experienced by non-government professionals.

Linking Research to Practice – how an agency in WA is working towards better outcomes for vulnerable families

Ms Pauline Dixon, Executive Manager, Wanslea, Western Australia

Wanslea is in its 70th year of operations, having served families and children in Western Australia since the Second World War. Wanslea’s home based parenting services have undergone considerable expansion over the last four years. At the same time practitioners engaged in a process of co-production of a practice framework that took existing practices and linked them to research evidence. The resulting practice framework aims to build on practice wisdom and enable vulnerable families to receive evidence based interventions. Wanslea partnered with the Parenting Research Centre in Victoria and has been following an implementation approach developed by the National Implementation Research Network to fully imbed the framework in daily practice. This has included the introduction of evidence based assessment tools and a model of individual and group coaching in addition to clinical supervision. Social Workers and Parenting Practitioners have embraced the new framework and are seeing the benefits in their interventions with families. The process of co-production and implementation will be described with reflections from those who have been integral to the process.

Managing known Child Sex Offenders in the Community; Proactively & Collaboratively

Cleave McDonald, Victoria Police

Kelly Strange, Victoria Police

This paper examines how the introduction of multi-agency collaboration and the pro-active management of offenders has become the heart of the Sex Offenders Registry’s function, with a distinct move away from being an administrative record keeper for legislative purposes towards an improved, informed and involved approach to Sex Offender Management. In this paper I aim to evaluate how having a multi-disciplinary team comprising sworn police members, criminal intelligence analysts and forensic psychologists allows complex analysis and support to be provided to those directly managing the offenders, providing positive influence to the behaviour of offenders. Also covered in this paper is the challenge of a common risk rating system for offenders, which looks at both static and dynamic risk factors and uses this to formulate Offender Management Plans, which are tailored to individual offenders. The other key piece of work for the Sex Offenders Registry is incorporating the management of Violent Sex Offenders and Serious Sex Offenders, who pose a significant threat to community safety yet due to the nature of their offending are not deemed by legislation to be ‘Registered’ Sex Offenders. This paper investigates how this ongoing work should be the primary focus of the Sex Offender Registry and its partners, and what needs to be done by Victoria Police to ensure that best-practice requirements are met in the management of these offenders and the subsequent reduction of risk to children in the community now and in the future.

Child Abuse Taskforce – A Multifaceted Approach to Child Protection in the NT

Ms Casey Eyden, Team Leader, Child Abuse Taskforce, Northern Territory

Ms Carman Butcher, Child Abuse Taskforce, Northern Territory

Ms Karen Hill, Child Abuse Taskforce, Northern Territory

The Child Abuse Taskforce is a multiagency team consisting of investigators from the Northern Territory Police, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Office of Children and Families (OCF). Originating in 2006, it was identified that a more coordinated approach to large scale child sexual assault investigations was required. Over time, CAT has evolved in an attempt to meet the needs of the children within the Northern Territory. Early on CAT realised that the only way to keep children and families safe and ensure their ongoing safety, was to combine the reactive criminal investigations with preventative measures. The criminal investigations identified and dealt with the offenders and current victims, while preventative measures help children and families protect themselves before the abuse can occur. Along with the barriers normally associated with children disclosing childhood sexual abuse, the Territory also has added obstacles such as language, culture, isolation and an intergenerational history of welfare, poverty and overcrowding. In light of these obstacles, CAT now has a number of different approaches that run concurrently in order to decrease the barriers to children disclosing, families reporting concerns around child sexual abuse, and enhancing children’s own abilities to protect themselves. These include:

  • Protective Behaviours – run by CAT investigators with schools, community groups and service providers
  • Community Engagement – spending time in communities not in an investigation capacity
  • CAT Website – a new initiate that aims to provide education and awareness of issues of child sexual assault
  • Partnerships with other agencies/initiatives such as;
    • Bikkies
    • Safe4Kids

Children between Families: Accomplishing Reunification of Children in Care

Professor Elizabeth Fernandez, University of New South Wales

Over the last five decades it has been acknowledged that reunification of children from protective care with their families is extremely challenging, and an overlooked component of children’s services. It is accepted in principle that parents should have access to services and supports to enable them to resume care of children removed from them, and that children are entitled to have the opportunity to be reunited safely with families that they want to return to.

This paper reports research which examined patterns and outcomes of reunification through a three year study of 168 children in foster care. In addition the research explored, through in depth interviews with social workers, foster carers and parents their experiences of the challenges of reunification.

To assess baseline needs and/or risk of harm and post intervention change, the research used the validated assessment tool the NCFAS-R (North Carolina Family Assessment Scale. Reunification (Kirk and Reed, 2000), a multidimensional indicator framework which conceptualises family functioning into seven domains (Environment, Parental capabilities, Family Interactions, Child Wellbeing, Family Safety, Caregiver/Child Ambivalence and Readiness for Reunification.

Results indicate: a higher rate of reunification in the first year; an interactional effect between children’s age and reasons for protective care, overall NSFAS-R at closure significantly predicted reunification with parents and kin; NCFAS-R ratings at reunification demonstrated greatest improvement demonstrated in the domains of Family Safety and Child Wellbeing; overall NSFAS-R at closure significantly predicted reunification with parents and kin. Worker, carer and parent insights on the reunification process will also be discussed and implications for policy and practice addressed.

Children’s Courts: Challenges and Possibilities Responding to care and protection and juvenile justice in New South Wales

Professor Elizabeth Fernandez, University of New South Wales

Jane Bolitho (PhD), Lecturer in Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales

This paper reports findings from a national study into Australian Children’s Courts focusing on the Care and Protection Jurisdiction within the NSW Children’s Court. It examines the current and future challenges faced by Children’s Courts in care and protection from the perspective of judicial officers and other key stakeholders and explores their degree of support for reforms that have been canvassed in Australia and overseas.

76 participants were involved in the NSW study which included 45 structured interviews and 7 focus groups. Stakeholder groups included 12 magistrates, 19 legal practitioners, 20 NGO/Community practitioners, 17 Government practitioners, 3 government policy stakeholders, 3 clinicians and 2 academics. A cross-section of stakeholders representative of the demographic diversity of NSW included,17 participants based in regional/rural areas, 5 participants who were Indigenous, and 16 male participants and 60 female participants.

Themes emerging from the research focus on concerns related to the nexus between care and crime jurisdictions, the complexity of interactions between the statutory department and NGO organisations, case processing within the Children’s Court and the effect of legislative changes on children’s entry into out of home care. Particular attention will be accorded to the respondents’ perceptions of the Wood Inquiry Recommendations related to increased specialisation of judicial officers use of a rural children’s court circuit, increased emphasis on alternative proceedings such as Alternative Dispute Resolution and Family Group Conferencing, and alternative procedural models for vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous communities.

NSW Child Wellbeing Units- reshaping agency responses to child wellbeing and protection

Ms Rosemary Fitzgerald, Director, Child Wellbeing, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, New South Wales

Ms Anna Morris, Director, Child Wellbeing, NSW Department of Education and Communities

Child Wellbeing Units were established in several NSW Government agencies, including Health and Education, following significant reform to the child protection system in NSW in 2010. One key component of their establishment was that the Units would be staffed by specialists with knowledge of the work of the particular agency as well as child protection expertise. This paper will explore the roles of Child Wellbeing Units, including the benefits and challenges of agency specific service models. The role and impact of the Units in cultural change and in reshaping the way that agencies respond to child wellbeing and protection concerns will also be discussed. The paper will highlight the evidence to date as to the effectiveness of Child Wellbeing Units in enhancing the capacity of individual workers and agencies to respond to children and young people at risk, and to meet the need of vulnerable children, young people and families. While agency specific, it has also been critical that the Units establish mechanisms and practices which promote and support collaboration across human service agencies. These too will be explored. As will the Units’ alignment with the Commonwealth child protection agenda.

‘But what else can I Do?’ Children have the right to be Taught NOT Hit

Mrs Karen Flanagan, Senior Child Protection Technical Advisor, Save The Children, Victoria

This paper will describe an effective international parenting programme that is relationship based and covers ages 0-18.

Article 19.1 of the UNCRC requires the protection of children, irrespective of gender or disability, from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, exposure to violence.

Physical punishment increases the risk that children will be injured, develop mental health problems such as depression, and grow into teenagers and adults who see aggression as a legitimate means of solving conflict. There is now an overwhelming amount of research and evidence that show that physical punishment can have a negative impact on a child’s development and at worse children die at the hands of a parent.

Physical punishment contributes to child injuries and fatalities in 3 ways:

  1. The parent hits the child intentionally
  2. The parent hits the child impulsively
  3. The child resists the punishment

Save the Children International commissioned Dr Joan Durrant and her team at Manitoba University to develop an approach to parenting called Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting, and an approach to teaching called Positive Discipline in Everyday Teaching. Positive Discipline is a relationship based approach to parenting that teaches children and guides their behaviour, while respecting their rights to healthy development, protection from violence and participation in their learning. Positive discipline is based on extensive research on children’s healthy development, and effective parenting, and founded on child rights principles. We are rolling this programme to parents around Australia.

WITHDRAWN Professional Practice and Father Engagement

Dr Joseph Fleming, Post-Doctoral Fellow, KAMSC (Inc), Western Australia

Social change and social expectations for both maternal and paternal responsibilities has highlighted more than ever the need for services for families to better understand the role of a father in family relationships. More specifically, there has also been an emerging trend to understand the challenging task of recruiting and maintaining mens involvement in child and family services programs, particularly those fathers that are deemed a risk to children and mothers, are violent or have been separated from their children. For child and family services to make a dedicated effort to work with fathers is a relatively recent phenomenon. Following criticism that services have

been too geared towards the assumption that mothers will be the main adult clients.

The purpose of this paper is to report on a study undertaken to examine how child and family welfare workers engage fathers in their work. The study reported in this paper attempted to establish what kinds of services were being provided that were consciously attempting to engage with fathers. It will also describe some the social and health benefits to fathers and their children and conclude with identifying some key practice factors necessary for father’s to be involved in family life.

Seen, but not seen to be anybody’s business: children of parents in the criminal justice system

There is a growing body of evidence detailing the wide ranging impacts of parental offending and incarceration on children, including increased risks of family violence, homelessness, mental illness, housing instability, parental drug and alcohol abuse, and social isolation. Despite such complex needs and an estimate that some 67,500 children each year have a parent appear as a defendant in a Victorian criminal court, these children remain virtually invisible during their parents’ journey through the criminal justice system. Subsequently, there is little known about how children of offenders are adversely affected by the ordinary functioning of that system. This symposium will highlight these outcomes, and key responses in Victoria.

Factoring parenting into the criminal justice process: drawing attention to the needs of children

Dr Catherine Flynn, Senior Lecturer, Monash University, Victoria

Ms Tess Bartlett, Researcher, Monash University, Victoria

Drawing on data gathered from interviews conducted with incarcerated parents, carers and children in Victoria, as part of a large ARC funded study, this paper will explore the invisibility of children within the adult criminal justice system. It will argue that children of offenders are perceived as ‘appendages’ by key organisations. By considering children only in relation to their parents, there is a consequent lack of responsibility for children within the criminal justice system and, as a result, children’s needs are left unmet. By clearly highlighting where the experiences of children intersect with the adult criminal justice system, gaps will be highlighted and news solutions offered to old problems, to ensure that these children are brought in from the margins.

Child-focused prison visiting: the views and experiences of family members

Ms Shehara Devadason, Honours Student, Monash University, Victoria

Mr Michael Wells, State manager, SHINE for Kids, Victoria

SHINE for Kids is a not-for-profit organisation working across NSW, the ACT and Victoria. Its core business is supporting children with a parent in the criminal justice system. SHINE provides a range of child-focused services, including a facilitated visiting program – The Prison Invisits Program. This paper will outline the impact of this program on children and families participating at Barwon prison and the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in Victoria, drawing on data gathered from families. Findings indicate the value of activity-focused visiting as a strategy to facilitate communication between children and their imprisoned family member, as well as its role in normalising contact.

Family and child support within the criminal justice system

Ms Melanie Field-Pimm, Manager Communications and Development, Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders

Ms Romy Same, Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders

What are the potential linkages between the criminal justice system and family support, who should be responsible and why does it matter? In 2013, VACRO commenced the Family Links project at Geelong Magistrates Court for high risk/need families with dependent children of adult defendants who are at risk of incarceration. It utilises the criminal court in an international first program as a gateway to treatment and support, reconnecting families with local services and minimising harms arising from the court process and outcome. A critical referral component for this is VACRO’s SKY program providing intensive family therapy for children and parents/carers who are traumatised by the impact of parental contact with the criminal justice system. In outlining current initiatives, VACRO asks the question, ‘are there further opportunities for partnership and collaboration?’

Policing Online Child Exploitation: Perpetrators without borders

Leading Senior Constable Simon Fogarty, Senior Project Coordinator, Sexual and Family Violence, Victoria Police

Taskforce Astraea was setup by Victoria Police in February 2012 to focus on people who access, produce and distribute child exploitation material online. This includes those who target children to commit serious and devastating offences, and the increasing prevalence of sexting and online child grooming.

Leading Senior Constable Simon Fogarty will talk about the challenges of policing what has become an increasingly borderless crime, and the need for greater collaboration between police forces globally. Through an international case study, this presentation will highlight advances in technology and image classification that enable improved investigation and prosecution, and better outcomes for children affected by this insidious crime.

Health Anxiety of Parents (AKA FII) - treatablity ??

Mrs Sue Foley, Senior Social Worker, New South Wales

Dr Kasia Kozlowska, Senior Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, The Department of Psychological Medicine, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead

This presentation will describe the dilemmas for mental health, paediatric and child protection agencies. The condition known as FII (Fabricated or Induced Illness) is frightening for clinicians because of the risk of significant harm or even death. The dilemma is further accentuated because understanding motivation and potential for change requires time and analysis of the family system, attachment issues and the meaning of the symptoms. Where the behaviour includes symptom induction or significant fabrication, the risk of harm needs serious elucidation. The presentation will provide information and case studies about current therapy and case management practices being used by the authors.

Way out there ?? .... Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) as a Trauma treatment strategy

Mrs Sue Foley, Senior Social Worker, New South Wales

Ms Dianne Starkey, Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice, New South Wales

Trauma treatment models all highlight the importance of some kind of exposure accompanied by addressing triggers, emotional arousal and distress and core personal beliefs. Developmental trauma, physical and sexual abuse and other events that create threat all leave disempowerment and distress at various levels.

The presenters are senior clinicians with experience of over 35 years working with children and families. This presentation will use selected case studies to discuss the place of EFT as an adjunct to other trauma and mental health treatment. The connection between EFT processes and other models will be articulated. Trauma practitioners and therapy models identify the place of personal awareness is ensuring that we can listen to and focus on the needs of others. A practical and reflective session will also provide an introduction to the tools that EFT offers in the context of other therapies for trauma. It will offer an opportunity to consider the place of deactivating traumatic memories

Child and Family sensitive practice: a response to evidence that parental problems are risk factors for children.

Mrs Helen Francis, Project Manager, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

There is compelling evidence that parental problems such as mental illness, substance misuse, homelessness and family violence are risk factors for children. In child death inquiries the role of adult services such as those focused on mental health, alcohol and other drugs, homelessness and family violence has been identified as a policy priority. The clients of such services can often have multiple and complex needs that negatively impact on children’s lives. Consequently, attention is being directed to harnessing the efforts of both child and family services and adult focused services to improve the safety of children. Through the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, the Australian Government funded the Australian Centre for Child Protection to develop ‘Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges’. This initiative aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of practitioners in understanding the impact of adult problems on the lives of children in order to better support parents to meet the needs of children in their care (building capacity); and to strengthen collaboration between child and family and adult services to improve the way that families with multiple needs experience the service system (building bridges).

Over a thousand practitioners from a variety of services in twelve communities across Australia have already collaborated in an exploration of how child and family sensitive practice can support vulnerable children and their families.

This workshop provides an opportunity to develop an understanding of how child and family sensitive practice can support clients to recognise and respond to their children’s needs.

This interactive workshop will use case studies to explore

  • The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children as the policy context
  • Incorporating a child and parent focus in assessment processes
  • Engaging with adults, who are parents, about their parenting and the impact of adult problems on children
  • Skills for talking with adult clients about their parenting needs and children’s needs
  • Talking with parents to reduce the risk of child protection intervention

Border Protection vs Child Protection

Ms Kate Gauthier, Chair, ChilOut – Children Out of Immigration Detention, Australian Capital Territory

In 2003, five children held in an immigration detention facility applied to the South Australian Family Court for release on the grounds detention conditions breached their welfare. The Australian Government appealed to the High Court, not addressing the question of neglect, arguing instead that the South Australian Family Court has no jurisdiction over these children. The appeal was upheld.

This case highlights the legal no-man’s land in which detention centers operate, and more importantly, the lack of protection for children in detention. Detention is run for profit, with no enforceable minimum standards. Child protection laws, standards for education or accommodation do not apply. Unaccompanied children are detained in remote locations, visits from advocates are discouraged and even denied. Studies of detained children have shown the long-term traumatic effects of detention on mental health and development. Child protection has been abandoned with the idea that the neglect of these children and the abuse of their human rights will deliver border protection for Australia.

ChilOut – Children Out of Immigration Detention has long argued that whether a child receives a visa is an immigration issue. How you treat that child during the process is a child protection issue. This talk will outline the neglect of children in immigration detention and put forward concrete proposals on how the mainstream child protection network can get involved in extending child protection to all children, regardless of immigration status.

Enhancing the safety of vulnerable children by improving interprofessional communication

Ms Christine Gibson, Community Research Liaison Coordinator, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Mrs Helen Francis, Project Manager, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

The Australian Centre for Child Protection’s project, Protecting and Nurturing Children: Building Capacity, Building Bridges, has improved interprofessional communication through a complex and interrelated series of strategies. The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 was used to draw different professions into a shared understanding regarding their joint responsibility for realisation of a common vision. Initially the project convened locality-specific discussions involving diverse providers about child-centred collaboration. Visits to interested organisations followed to identify key change champions and to allow the scope to be widened to encompass local conditions. Embedding the local context into the progressive development of this project required the development of collaborative partnerships with Communities for Children providers and each state/territory statutory child protection authority. During the project’s second stage, child and family sensitive practice workshops were offered around the country; tailored to each particular audience. Invitations were targeted to providers of both child and family and adult services particularly those focused on mental health, drug and alcohol, domestic/family violence and homelessness.

This presentation will elaborate the different levels at which strategic approaches were taken to improving interprofessional communication as well as identify the challenges inherent in sustaining it beyond this project.

Electronic information systems and child protection services: exploring the reasons for current problems to inform future design

Dr Philip Gillingham, Senior Research Fellow, University of Queensland

Internationally and nationally, evaluations and reviews have been highly critical of current forms of electronic information systems (IS), commonly known as Client Management Systems or Management Information Systems, which have been implemented in child protection services. In particular, IS have been criticised for undermining frontline service delivery as practitioners struggle to meet the needs of services users and the demands of IS. In this presentation, the initial findings of a three year program of research, funded by the Australian Research Council, will be shared. The aim of the research is to generate knowledge that will inform the future design of IS for human service organisations, in order that they support rather than hinder service delivery. As this process proceeds, though, it is important to understand not just how IS have become problematic, but why, so that the mistakes of the past can be avoided. To explore why, findings from ethnographic research with a number of human service organisations and engagement with a wide range of research literature will be drawn upon.

Making Best Practice a Reality

Mrs Robyn Goodman, Program Manager, Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health Services, Queensland

Ms Joanne Stout, Acting Community Services Manager, Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health Services, Queensland

The Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health Services (TATSICHS) has thirty-nine years of experience delivering health and community services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Townsville region. TATSICHS has substantial knowledge of what works and why and just as importantly, what doesn’t work and why in relation to service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. TATSICHS has also been delivering recognised entity, foster and kinship care and family support services FIS (IFSAR) for over ten years in the Townsville area. TATSICHS Recognised Entity (RE) and the Family Support Services (FSS) share many clients and have developed a relationship that enables each service not only to work towards its own individual role within the Queensland child protection system, but also one that appropriately shares relevant knowledge to ensure that we provide the best service possible to help our children and families. RE is a legislated service under the Queensland Child Protection Act (1999). The FSS is not a legislated service but must operate within the legislation. Both services are fully funded by the Queensland Government.

This paper will demonstrate how these two very different services, with very differently ‘defined’ clients and different scopes of practice have developed a best practice framework to reduce the contact between our children and families and the child protection system. More importantly, this paper will show a way forward within the context of the recent Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry report.

Hope for Children and Families: An evidence based approach to intervention

Ms Jenny Gray, President, ISPCAN, United Kingdom

Dr Arnon Bentovim, United Kingdom

Child & Family Training (UK) has developed an innovative Helping Families Training Programme, “Hope for Children and Families” (HfCF). It consists of evidence based approaches to identifying, assessing and evaluating protective and risk factors; and, provides modular targeted interventions for abusive and neglectful parenting and the associated impairment of children’s health and development. The programme is derived from the distillation of common practice elements from approximately 40 research papers focused on preventing the recurrence of abusive parenting and the impact on the emotional, behavioural, development and health impairment of children and young people. When evidence based interventions are examined there is little consistency in approach, a range of interventions are described. A practitioner is faced with a bewildering range of choices and tends to adopt one therapeutic approach and apply it to all circumstances irrespective of the evidence on if, and when, it works. Barth (2011) based on the work of Chorpita and Deleidan (2009) advocated the value of a Common Practice Elements Framework, which conceptualises clinical practice in terms of generic components which cut across distinct treatment protocols and identifies specific clinical procedures to evidence based practice. Outcome research on child maltreatment interventions was examined. The resulting practice elements were integrated into Practice Guidelines consisting of a set of around 40 modules. These can be integrated to provide a therapeutic approach which fits the needs of individual children and families across the spectrum of maltreatment. They can be delivered by frontline practitioners in different linguistic, cultural and economic contexts.

Improving Therapeutic and Judicial and Wellbeing Outcomes for Children and Young People who have experienced abuse

Ms Natalie Hall, Director Child Advocacy Centre, Parkerville Children and Youth Care, Western Australia

Victims/survivors of sexual violence be they children, young people or adults (and their families) seek flexible and practical forms of support, advocacy and information in the immediate aftermath of sexual violence.

Advocacy services - tailored to their individual needs, promote their safety and recovery, prioritise support and improve collaborative interagency work regardless of if the ‘case’ has a legal pathway. Advocacy roles have enhanced the work of multi-disciplinary or interagency teams, enabled other service providers such as police to focus on their core duties, improved the participation of victims in decision making and processes, decreased the attrition rates in justice systems and have even led to increased reporting to police.

The Child and Family Advocate role in Western Australia is an independent role, available to children and their families from the time of referral for forensic interview or medical examination. The Advocate works with the child and family to address family issues, assist parents to support their children well and to help children, young people and parents participate in decision making process and navigate the service systems.

An overview of the recent literature reviews, development of advocacy standards and a advocacy training package and web resources will be provided.

Encouraging the use of evidence-based practice amongst front line workers in child protection: The importance of case conceptualisations and structured professional judgement

Dr Paul Harnett, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, University of Queensland

Professor Sharon Dawe, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Practitioners working in the child protection field, whether primarily concerned with decision-making or family support, are being encouraged to adopt evidence-based approaches to assessment and intervention. This has lead to a growing interest in determining the characteristics of evidence-based assessment and treatment approaches, and the conditions under which they are adopted that are most likely to promote the uptake and sustained use of EBP. A key factor for practitioners is that the EBP adopted has the potential to improve clinical practice. Structured decision making systems and manualised intervention strategies that are seen to be overly prescriptive and/or fail to acknowledge the important contribution of professional judgement, are seen as unhelpful. While some proponents of EBP raise the concern that professional judgement can be flawed, others are advocating for ‘structured professional judgement’—professional judgment in the context of EBP.

This presentation will argue that structured professional judgement requires a core skill that has not been adequately defined in the child protection field, namely case conceptualisation. Structured professional judgement will be most appropriately exercised when practitioners have a sound theoretical framework with which to understand child development, parenting and family functioning. This presentation will illustrate how an evidence-based assessment model, in which practitioners are provided with an online feedback profile of a family, can be successfully implemented into child protection practice when a conceptual theoretical framework that promotes structured professional judgement accompanies the feedback.

Talk Less Listen More™ - online parent education - solutions to children’s difficult behaviour - Indigenous version

Mr Michael Hawton, Psychologist, Parentshop, New South Wales

Talk Less Listen More™ is a book. It provides parents with strategies to discipline their children calmly. The book has been recently transformed into a standard and an Indigenous online versions. The online course is taught by way of 22 short-duration video clips (average of 4-10 minutes). There are free examples of the standard online course on the author website. Benefits of the TLLM Indigenous online parent education program:

(i) It can be completed from any location and at any time on
a smart-phone, personal computer or tablet.

(ii) It can be completed over several ‘sittings’ by a wide group
of parents from different socio-economic levels.

(iii) It is presented in an easy-format* and blended
presentation format using: video examples, PDF
downloads, written exercises, expert commentary,
animations, interactive exercises and powerpoint slides.

In this workshop, I will show participants:

  • The learning outcomes for the online course.
  • Content summary
  • Sample exercises conducted in the online course.
  • How this online course has been adapted for Indigenous parents.
  • User experiences of the standard version of the course.
  • Plans for the program to be adapted to a variety of NESB groups.
  • Sample lessons from the program.

The interactive component of the program will involve workshop participants completing different exercises from the Talk Less Listen More™ online parent education program.

*Parents play, stop and restart sessions as they progress through the course. At the completion of each unit participants’ progress is noted on course progress bar and they receive completion badges as units are completed. (If a parent can use Youtube, they can use this program.)

Cyberbullying: among children and Adolescent. When “Just Kidding” hurts

Macarena Herane Bustos, PhD Candidate, Universitat oberta de Catalunya, Spain

Using social media Web sites is among the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents. Bullying, which is a type of aggressive behavior, has now entered the electronic age in the form of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the new form of teasing which can be very harmful and insidious. Teasing is ambiguous, on the one hand, is typically negative (hurting, humiliating) but on the other hand there is often a positive component of teasing as well. Teasing is central to human social life. Children and adolescent tease each other for a variety of reasons: to gain attention, to socialize, to flirt, resolve conflicts, to be funny, to play, entertain, express affiliation, even love. In this paper, the author examine how Catalán children and adolescents of two schools of Barcelona conceptualize Cyberbullying, its components, participant motivation for engaging in it, how children socialize in the Internet, how they hide some of there actions, as cyberbullying, justifying that they are “just kidding”. Although it is often seen as innocent and playful by the teaser, it tends to be considerably more malicious by the target. Adults often refer to these practices using the word “cyberbullying” but children and adolescent are more likely to refer to the resultant fights and their digital traces as “just kidding”, children share a code that is really difficult for adults to see it “you know it, when you see it”.

Child abuse prevention and the public health approach: Balancing universal and targeted services to enhance family environments for children

Dr Daryl Higgins, Deputy Director (Research), Australian Institute of Family Studies, Victoria

Families can play a crucial role in protecting children by providing a safe and supportive environment. Internationally, best practice in child abuse prevention is grounded in a public health approach – identifying risk factors, and putting in place strategies to reduce the ‘burden of disease’ by altering the risk profile of the entire population. Currently statutory child protection systems in Australia focus on those at the ‘high risk’ end on a continuum of needs – usually after abuse or neglect has already occurred. The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children promotes safe and supportive family environments; however, beyond research looking at the most ‘at-risk families’, we know relatively little about how children’s wellbeing is affected by different family environments in the broader Australian population. To illustrate, I use data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, which show three broad family environments: cohesive, disengaged, and enmeshed (particularly where conflict between parents seeps into relationships between parents and children). Public-health strategies can be enlisted to identify and respond to the needs of children in families characterised by disengagement or enmeshment (e.g., parenting programs, public information campaigns) and using universal services to lower the risk of dysfunctional family environments and target referrals for more intense services. This combination shifts the risk profile of the entire population of families, as well as targeting those who need a more intense service. Changes in the family environment and child outcomes over time suggest that policy interventions to address family environments can produce tangible outcomes for children.

The role of Inquiries in shaping child care practice: Is there a role for evidence to inform policy?

Professor Cathy Humphreys, Alfred Felton Chair of Child and Family Welfare, University of Melbourne, Victoria

Ms Marilyn Webster, Director of Social Policy and Research, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Victoria

Mr Julian Pocock, Director of Policy, Practice and Research, Berry Street, Victoria

Inquiries in the child care field have arguably had more impact in shaping policy and practice than any research evidence that has been rigorously undertaken and peer reviewed. This paper examines the application of research in public policy formation through an examination of public inquiry processes into child neglect and abuse and the well-being of vulnerable children in two different states of Australia: The Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry (2012); and two reports in The Northern Territory, (Growing Them Strong, Together (2010) and the Little Children Are Sacred Report (2007). We examine the inquiries’ processes, the way in which research was used, and the significance of ‘what counts as evidence’; in the case of the Northern Territory we briefly explore the role of research in the inquiry outcomes and implementation.

Our focus on the role of public inquiries is motivated by our current policy preoccupations as policy workers and researchers who have spent conspicuous amounts of time writing submissions, organising oral presentations, inputting into reference groups for inquiries, as well as intensively reading and responding to the Inquiry reports once released. We are struck by the fact that recommendations from public inquiries are highly significant in producing policy and practice change, yet have not necessarily been referenced as a primary arena for research translation.

Maintaining connectedness: family contact for children in residential care

Ms Marie Iannos, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Mr Stewart McDougall, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

There is evidence to suggest that children in out-of-home care (particularly foster care and kinship care) may experience benefits if they are able to maintain contact with family members during their placement. This does not have to be with biological parents, but also siblings, relatives and other significant adults. Children are usually placed in residential care facilities as a ‘last resort’ option, following multiple foster care placement breakdowns. The distress created by repeated placement instability in addition to the original abuse experienced means that these children represent a highly vulnerable group who may be significantly disconnected from their family of origin. To date, little is known about the type of family contact experienced by children living in residential care in Australia. This paper presents the findings of a descriptive survey describing the needs of children in residential care. 56 workers from 12 statutory residential care units in metropolitan Adelaide were interviewed regarding a total 73 children in their care. Workers revealed that nearly a third of the children (32%) had no contact at all with their biological parents, and sibling contact was the most common form of family contact. The majority of the children (66%) were reported as wanting to reunify with, or increase contact with their families, even if it were not possible or safe to do so. This descriptive study also highlights the barriers and facilitators to maintaining children’s connectedness with family and significant others in a residential care setting.

Human rights vs protection: The way forward.

The papers in this symposia consider the ways in which the child protection system might better position itself to be more responsive to children of parents with disabilities and children from culturally diverse backgrounds; and national and international promising approaches and programs that promise better support for parents while protecting children.

Rights of parents with disabilities

Ms Fiona May, CEO, ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service

Consideration of people with disabilities, in particular people with cognitive impairments, and their role as parents must take place within a human rights framework. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) establishes the right to family and much national and international attention has been focused on contraventions of the Convention through sterilization of women with disability. While many advances have been made and sterilization rates are falling, setting this positive outcome against the increasing representation of parents with disability in the care and protection system is concerning. We do not meet our obligations as a Party to the UNCRPD if we do not put in place appropriate supports and services for people with disabilities.

The unintended consequences of child protection intervention with South Sudanese families

Ms Ibolya (Ibi) Losoncz, Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory

Data from in-depth interviews of 38 South Sudanese community members and community development workers are analysed to demonstrate how intervention from authorities responding to reports of abuse, dominantly in the form of corporal punishment of children by parents, was perceived as an attack from the government which destroys the authority and responsibility as parents. By feeling constrained from physically punishing their children some parents felt demoralised by their sense of losing their rights to discipline their children. In response they withdrew their parenting efforts leaving a vacuum in the behaviour management and mentoring of their youth who at the same time were learning and testing their liberties and responsibilities in their new environment.

Obstructions to responsiveness in child protection

Professor Valerie Braithwaite, Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory

Child protection authorities in Australia work under enormous pressures to evaluate claims of abuse and neglect and put in place measures to protect children. At the same time, their working relationships with partner agencies that can contribute constructively to finding solutions for families and children are poor. This paper reviews evidence of pressure on child protection authorities and of poor coordination of sources of help. Reasons for failure to build networks of support across agencies include reliance on systems that are overly bureaucratised, rule dominated and dismissive of the idea that care for children can be genuinely shared across communities.

Engagement: Ways forward

Ms Mary Ivec, Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory

Multiple routes exist for building the engagement necessary across regulatory networks and statutory authorities. Specific programs that support parents have been found to successfully keep children at home safely. In addition, the development of consumer movements, grounded in the experiences of affected parents, families and their professional allies calling for system reform have also shown impact on service deliver and system responses in the USA. By building on proven successful models we can create different and more responsive systems and institutions which better serve our children.

Child Wellbeing and Child Protection Priorities in Community Health Intake and Assessment Procedures

Miss Laura Jenson, New South Wales

Child Wellbeing and Child Protection Policy in NSW requires intake and assessment procedures to comply with certain child wellbeing and child protection priorities. Two of the major influencing factors to the level of compliance of services within Community Health are models of access and the consideration of safety, welfare and wellbeing. This paper looks at how intake and assessment systems consider child protection and child wellbeing, as well as models of access and the notion of child safety, welfare and wellbeing and how it is considered, whilst also considering the interaction of these three areas. Additionally, this research involves a discussion of the impact and advantages of early detection and intervention in cases involving vulnerable children or those for which safety, welfare or wellbeing concerns are held. Furthermore there is a discussion of ways in which these principles and priorities can be incorporated into practice, particularly into intake and assessment procedures and systems, and how this could improve the support provided to vulnerable children and young people.

Preventing Abusive Head Injuries in Australian Infants

Dr Melissa Kaltner, Senior Research Fellow, Queensland Health

Abusive head trauma (AHT), including both shaken baby syndrome and inflicted traumatic brain injury, has been reported to be the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in physically abused infants. Approximately 30% of Australian infants admitted to a hospital suffering from AHT die as a direct result of injuries sustained during the AHT incident, with enduring cognitive limitations reported for surviving infants. Recent Australian costing indicated lifetime cost estimates of $2.5 million AUD for moderate brain injury and $4.8 million AUD for severe injury per case. Studies have demonstrated an incidence of AHT in Australian samples comparable to that of international settings, where prevention models have successfully been implemented to significantly reduce incidence.

The current presentation overviews key features of international prevention approaches implemented in the past decade, and discusses outcomes of their respective evaluations. Implementation of AHT prevention models in Australian contexts to date will also be discussed, with preliminary efficacy results over viewed and suggestions for applied and feasible evidence-based prevention strategies discussed.

Cultural Competence in Child Protection Workshop

Ms Jatinder Kaur, Director, JK Diversity Consultants, Queensland

Australia is a multicultural society, with one in four (5.3 million) Australians born overseas and speaking over 260 languages. In 2012, there are 39,621 children and young people in out-of-home care across Australia, yet the numbers of children and young people from Culturally and linguistically Diverse (CALD) or Refugee children is unknown. In 2001, the National Research Audit (2011) identified that ‘there is limited research regarding cultural issues within statutory child protection services in Australia’ and proposed that future research priority should focus on families from CALD backgrounds (p38-39). In 2007, the author conducted the first Australian research study examining how child protection practitioners assessed families from CALD backgrounds and their level of cultural competence. As there was no survey assessment tool which explored cultural competence in child protection, the author developed the Cross Cultural Child Protection Survey. This research study found that child protection officers did not receive adequate training, resources and lacked CALD specific knowledge on how to deal with cross cultural issues when working with CALD families (p17, Kaur 2007). She has published two papers: Children Australia (32:4, 2007) and Developing Practice (Kaur, 2009, Issue 23, 2009). In July 2012, she launched the ‘Cultural Diversity and Child Protection’ report, which reviewed all the available Australian research evidence to establish ‘baseline knowledge’ for policymakers, practitioners and researchers. Since 2007, the author has been advocating for child protection authorities to become more culturally responsive to the needs of CALD and refugee families and presented at two child protection inquiries (Victoria and Queensland) provided feedback into the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children. In 2011, she established JK Diversity Consultants, which specialises in working with CALD and refugee communities and developed a 1 day training workshop on ‘Working with culturally diverse and refugee families in the child and family welfare setting’, which has been endorsed by the Australian Association Social Workers (AASW) for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for social workers and has been delivered across Australia. In 2013, she was a project consultant for the Australian Psychological Society (APS) to develop the ‘Cultural Sensitive Practice’ online training modules (covering both Indigenous and CALD clients) as part of the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health Services (CMHS) initiative training and clinical support project.

  • This Cultural Competence in Child Protection Workshop will cover the following topics:
  • What is ‘Cultural Sensitive Practice’?
  • Working with CALD and refugee in child welfare setting
  • Cross cultural communication skills
  • Cultural support needs of CALD & refugee children/ young people in out-of-home care.

Online Child Sexual Exploitation in Taiwan

Dr. Wen-Li Ke, Researcher, National Immigration Agency, Taiwan

Dr. Li-Kung Hsieh, D.G., National Immigration Agency, Taiwan

With the fast development of Internet and new technologies, different types of online networks and platforms are emerging as new forms of social communication in the 21st Century. As a result of that, the Internet offers children the opportunity to meet and chat with people from all over the world.

However, many of the risks that children face in the real world also exist in the online environment, The Internet gives Child sexual offenders a opportunity to befriend children and gain their confidence without having to physically confront them. There is considerable evidence suggesting that the dynamics of this threat has changed over the last few years significantly, today the period of time between initial engagement with a child and an offending outcome is often extremely short.

In Taiwan, the prime targets of victims of online child sexual exploitation are from single parent families and low socioeconomic status households, and had their physical, behavioural, academic and emotional and boundaries violated and crossed. Unfortunately, under the protection of the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”, and “Child and Youth Sexual Transaction Prevention Act” and “Human Trafficking Prevention Act” in Taiwan, it is still a challenge for us to stop issues of online child sexual exploitation.

This presentation will provide an overview of the cases study of online child sexual exploitation in Taiwan, and the presenter will also explore common challenges encountered in online child sexual exploitation.

Working in the Cloud - making personal records accessible

Dr Margaret Kertesz, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, Victoria

Professor Cathy Humphreys, Alfred Felton Chair of Child and Family Welfare, University of Melbourne, Victoria

Many adults who have experienced out-of-home care speak eloquently about their sadness at having few, if any, mementoes of their childhoods, and how important these are for having a sense of who they are. The photos, memorabilia, family stories and other memories marking the passage through childhood are easily lost or buried because they are not part of the official record.

Rather than requiring an already overburdened workforce to add extra records management tasks to their administrative load, the Working in the Cloud project is exploring the possibilities of a digital storage space for these personal documents. This ‘virtual locker’ would store both digital copies of the personal documents of children in care and a location index for physical items such as the original birth certificate.

The ‘virtual locker’ is designed primarily for the benefit of those who are, or have been in care, so young people’s perspectives and relationship with technology is central to the project. Young people are working as expert consultants alongside researchers to design a ‘virtual locker’ which stores information that is relevant to children in care, in an easily accessible format for all users - children in care, and their workers and carers. The security of the personal information held is also paramount and is a significant feature of the research.

This presentation is an opportunity to report on work in progress and to stimulate discussion of these issues with others in the out-of-home care sector or interested in records.

Responding to child sexual assault in Aboriginal communities: systemic challenges and solutions

Mr Steve Kinmond, Deputy Ombudsman/Community and Disability Services Commissioner, NSW Ombudsman

In January this year, the NSW Ombudsman released his fourth and final report detailing the findings and recommendations of a comprehensive, three-year audit of the implementation of the NSW Interagency Plan to Tackle Child Sexual Assault in Aboriginal Communities. The issues explored by the audit cut across many of the specific themes identified for this conference, including child protection system reform; health, therapeutic and criminal justice responses; and prevention and early intervention approaches. This paper will provide an overview of the audit’s wide-ranging findings and recommendations, and the NSW Government’s response (which is currently being considered). More specifically, the paper will focus on the critical importance of place-based service delivery, including an intelligence-driven approach to child protection, in the context of high demand and stretched resources. It will tease out some of the key challenges for the child protection system in identifying and responding to vulnerable, high risk children and young people - including the need for statutory child protection services and police to work together in a more effective way. Given the currency, breadth and evidence-based focus of the audit – and the practical applicability of its recommendations – the paper will be of equal interest to researchers, policy makers and practitioners.

Kith and kin care: What’s the story with the kith?

Ms Meredith Kiraly, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, Victoria

Annie McMahon, Kinship carer

Friends, neighbours, teachers and other community members have long risen to the occasion to care for children when families break down. In the past, many such caregivers underwent assessments as foster carers. With the rise of kinship care, also known as ‘Kith and Kin care’, or’ Family and Friends Care’, such carers are now identified as part of the kinship care cohort. However to date, little attention has been given to unrelated kinship carers, with common assessment and support arrangements for both related and unrelated carers. The number of unrelated kinship carers appears to be growing, and there are indications that among this group are some whose prior connection to the children may be limited. While many such arrangements provide secure care for as long as needed, international research has found that the breakdown rate of such arrangements is significantly higher than for familial kinship care.

This workshop will look at what is currently known about unrelated kinship carers, and describe a research project to build a knowledge base to inform assessment and support processes. One of the presenters will be an unrelated carer who raised two children to adulthood. She will discuss her experience, including issues relating to the care of the children and connections to their family, and the support that unrelated carers may need. It will be an interactive session in which practitioners will be invited to share their experiences, with a view to exploring issues for policy and service delivery. Participants can expect to gain a better understanding of the differences between related and unrelated kinship care, and the issues that require further exploration and associated policy development.

The dynamics of CEM offending - is there any pattern?

Dr Tony Krone, Associate Professor, University of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

This paper will explore the nature of digital child exploitation material (CEM) offending as revealed by police investigations. What we know from past law enforcement operations will be described. Developments in offender behaviour and organisation will be analysed over time. The focus will be on the two main concerns about escalation of offending and possible connections between CEM offending and physical offending for individual offenders. The implications for law enforcement and child protection will be examined.

Safe from the Start - responding to children exposed to family violence and abuse

Mrs Nell Kuilenburg, Development & Research Manager, The Salvation Army, Tasmania

The intended outcome of the workshops is to increase knowledge regarding the impact on children living with violence, how to engage a child using activity based play and describe the Safe from the Start project. The outline includes describing the resource kit and the SFTS training program and provide evidence of the impact that young children witnessing family violence has on the brain development of children including the importance of working in partnership with specialist children’s services, project evaluation and in response to feedback incorporate Indigenous and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse components within the project.

The project focused on children aged 0-5 and:

  • Identified key elements of best practice
  • Identified and formed a register of intervention activities and therapeutic play which children’s workers and parents can use
  • Developed a training program using the resources developed.

The project was a community-based piece of action research and involved input from community sector workers and steering committee to trial resources within their workplaces that described in detail the impact of violence on young children but also give hope for healing. A child who lives with violence is forever changed, but not forever ‘damaged’ and there is a lot that we can do to improve their future prospects (Baker and Cunningham, 2007) was the inspirational quote that informed all aspects of the project.

The project research reports will be summarised:

  • ‘States of Mind’ (Assoc Prof Erica Bell – UTAS)
  • ‘Safe from the Start’ (Education and therapy to assist children aged 0-5 who have witnessed domestic violence), Dr Angela Spinney
  • Safe from the Start Indigenous project (2013) Dr Angela Spinney, Swinburne University, Vic.
  • Safe from the Start – Culturally & Linguistically Diverse project in partnership with Migrant Resource Centre – Phoenix Centre for torture and trauma counselling – 2013 Dr Angela Spinney, Swinburne University, Vic.

The Safe from the Start resource kit will be shown with descriptions of why each resource was chosen and how the specific resources can be used in ‘activity based play’ or ‘play therapy’ with children who have experienced family violence or abuse. Participants will be invited to contribute to the discussion regarding how using the resources can assist in engaging children.

The aim is to encourage the child to express their feelings and encourage workers in refuges, child protection services, foster carers, children’s contact centres and family counselling services to feel confident using the resource tools. The NAPCAN ‘Children See, Children Do’ film clip and two Safe from the Start Training DVD video clips demonstrating activity based play will be shown and participants invited to comment on these.

A number of resources will be tabled and distributed including:

  • Brochure: Seeing, hearing and feeling violence changes the way your child’s brain grows.
  • Posters: Children growing up in a non-violent home are likely to do well at school.....
  • Training DVD: a professional training DVD with seven film clips with professional counsellors working therapeutically with children (eg book A Terrible Thing Happened).

Family discipline strategies with babies in their first year of life

Dr Julie Lawrence, University of Otago, New Zealand

Mr Andrew Gray, University of Otago, New Zealand

Associate Professor Rachael Taylor, University of Otago, New Zealand

Professor Barry Taylor, University of Otago, New Zealand

Disciplinary practices within families are known to have life-long effects on children’s well-being. There is limited knowledge about the strategies parents and other caregivers use during the first year of a child’s life. We describe the strategies used by 802 New Zealand families in an ongoing longitudinal study ( in guiding their children’s behaviour, in particular, the prevalence of strategies used with babies at age 6 and 12 months.

At 6 months, positive strategies such as smiling, praising and distracting are most common (≥87% for both mothers and partners). Negative strategies such as smacking, time-out and shouting are among the least commonly used (≤8% for both). Most strategies become statistically significantly more common at 12 months, including negative strategies with shouting used by 18% of both mothers and partners at this age. There are statistically significant differences in the use of some strategies between the child’s mother and her partner at 6 and 12 months but there is no evidence of differences between mothers and partners for distracting, praising, smacking, or shouting at either age.

Associations between discipline strategies and maternal/partner age, deprivation score, infant sex, maternal/partner education, maternal/partner ethnicity, and maternal/partner employment are examined with statistically significant differences noted by parity and ethnicity.

These findings are particularly interesting in the New Zealand context. In 2007, with the passing into law of the Crimes Amendment (Substituted Section 59) Act, the policy framework for families and their children changed by abolishing the use of force for the purpose of correcting children.

The effectiveness of situational prevention in preventing sexual violence and abuse

Dr Benoit Leclerc, Senior Lecturer, Griffith University, Queensland

Situational prevention is an additional strategy for preventing sexual violence and abuse. However, its effectiveness in preventing this phenomenon is still unknown, which is mainly due to the difficulties and complexities associated with the completion of such research. In this presentation, and using a current research project funded by the Australian Research Council as an example, I will present an approach to investigate the effectiveness of situational prevention techniques to prevent sexual violence and abuse from the offender’s perspective. I will first briefly outline the situational prevention approach and its principles and describe a key innovation in criminological research - the use of crime script analysis which provides the opportunity for examining the effectiveness of situational prevention and designing promising and targeted techniques. Of particular interest in the project is also the emphasis put on situational prevention techniques such as the presence of guardians to prevent sexual violence and abuse. Using previous research, I will show how this project will help determine the circumstances in which guardianship works best for preventing sexual violence and abuse.

Resilience in frontline child protection workers: A study of job demands, job resources and personal resources

Ms Kerry Lewig, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

To date most research examining the retention of child protection workers has focused on organisational factors. Unfortunately child protection organisations are difficult to change at the structural and systems level and under the current climate of increasing child protection notifications and diminishing resources factors such as heavy workloads are likely to be difficult to address, at least in the short to medium term. Recently interest has been expressed in the role that resilience might play in retaining child protection workers. Many of the personal resources underpinning resilience are theorised to be state-like constructs amenable to change. If it can be shown that relationships exist between these personal resources, organisational resources, resilience and retention, inexpensive organisational interventions can be implemented to improve staff well-being and retention.

This presentation discusses the results of a cross-sectional quantitative study involving 139 frontline child protection practitioners that examined the role of job demands (role overload, role conflict and role clarity), personal resources (hope, optimism and self-efficacy) and organisational resources (supervision and autonomy) in promoting resilience and retention.

Using the Job Demands Resources Model as a theoretical framework for analysis, hope, professional supervision, autonomy and role clarity were found to significantly predict resilience which in turn predicted retention intentions.

Interventions to maintain/build hope, ensure role clarity and support supervision focused on staff clinical practice and professional development may aid in retaining front line child protection workers and ensuring their well-being.

Strengthening Families: Positive Outcomes from Intensive Family Support

Dr Katrina Lines, Executive Director Programs, Research and Education, Act for Kids, Queensland

This paper presents the results of an evaluation of the pre and post intervention outcomes of families provided services through the Act for Kids Intensive Family Support service on the Gold Coast. The large service works with more than 450 families per annum and provides a collaborative case management service for families referred by Child Safety Services, other Government departments and self-referrals by families. Families are referred for a variety of concerns including mental health and substance issues, unemployment and poverty related problems. All families are at high risk of abuse and neglect of children. The aim of the program is to provide intensive support services to families to assist them with problems and divert them from the statutory system. Analyses of pre and post outcome measures indicate that, on average, families experience significant improvements in all domains of functioning (family safety, material wellbeing, connections, health, child wellbeing, parenting and family interactions). In practical terms, the whole sample showed an average of 21% improvement in functioning across domains. Families rated as most challenged experienced an average of 27% improvement. For the whole sample, an average of 48 contacts and 39 hours of service were provided during engagement. The seriously challenged families received more intensive service, with an average of 65 contacts and more than 50 hours service delivery. Results for these families from Child Safety Services’ longitudinal study show a promising reduction in the number subsequently reported for suspected child abuse or neglect.

Differential approaches and outcomes to inquiry-led reforms of protective systems

Professor Bob Lonne, Discipline Leader Social Work & Human Services, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology

Professor Mel Gray, Professor of Social Work, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, New South Wales

Professor Maria Harries, Adjunct Professor, Curtin University and Senior Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Western Australia

Australia’s relentless inquiries into child protection service system failures over the past 25 years have been initiated and undertaken at national and state/territory levels, by judges, politicians and Ombudsmen, and in response to particular tragedies and scandals, or as a broader inquiry into systemic issues and outcomes. In this paper the authors provide a critical analysis of the approaches taken by inquiries and the variety of subsequent recommendations and outcomes. The strengths and limits of inquiry-led reforms are identified. They describe the similar findings and key recommendations, identifying a range of impacts upon child protection policy frameworks and practice.

The iatrogenic outcomes upon these system’s approaches are examined, including the advent of dominant discourses of risk, legalism and increased state intervention into family lives, as well as the emerging competing narratives around parental and child rights. The authors highlight the emerging evidence of the benefits of inquiries established to broadly review systemic issues and outcomes instead of exposing individuals and systems to public gaze in a name and shame process. Of importance are the politicisation of public child protection approaches, yet the increasing cross-party and community support for ongoing reforms. In what is a highly contested area of social policy, the authors critically examine the developing consensus concerning the balancing of the need for intrusive protective interventions by the state, and ensuring accountability and transparency in the exercise of statutory authority, as well as supporting highly needy and vulnerable families, while promoting shared responsibility for children’s wellbeing across the community.

The impact of relationship on child protection and family support interventions

Professor Bob Lonne, Discipline Leader Social Work & Human Services, School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology

A/Prof Ingrid Wagner, School of Public Health and Social Work, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology

Ms Kerri Gillespie, School of Public Health and Social Work, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology

The 2009 National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children articulates the necessity for a public health approach and advocates for increased early intervention and prevention approaches. Yet, so far, there is little empirical evidence to show progress with policy reform and associated initiatives. In this paper the authors summarise the results of the recently published Victorian Department of Human Services’ large-scale quantitative Child and Family Services Outcomes Survey, which examined parents’ and carers’ viewpoints about their service experience and the effectiveness of interventions for child protection, family services and out-of-home care family cohorts. Important differences were identified between these groups leading to the conclusion that the route to accessing family support services has a bearing upon service users’ assessments of the assistance rendered.

These results highlight the centrality of relationship quality upon key outcomes including improvements in the parents’/carers’ parenting skills, and the child/young person’s health and wellbeing. Logistic regression analysis undertaken by the authors demonstrates that the ways in which workers, whatever their role, relate with parents and provide rights-based information about their interventions can have a profound impact upon their service experience and assessment of intervention effectiveness. Overall, the results indicate cause for confidence about the positive impacts of interventions to support struggling families and protect children from harm. The authors highlight the need for the continued reform of the protective system to implement early interventions and preventative approaches via appropriate access to services providing effective family support and assistance to help families with multiple and complex needs.

Fostering Together- innovative support for foster carers’ own children

Mr Stephan Lund, Executive Manager, Wanslea Family Services, Western Australia

Mrs Wendy Prete, Co-ordinator, Wanslea Family Services, Western Australia

One group of children who are seen as playing a significant role in the success of placements is that of the foster carers’ own children. There has been a significant research interest in the last 20 years in the biological children of foster carers and the support that they receive. Wanslea has partnered with Edith Cowan University to develop electronic and printed resources to assist foster carers and support agencies to better support children of foster carers. The research team conducted focus groups with foster carers and children of foster carers to inform the resources to be developed. The resources include stories of children of foster carers and interactive sections to encourage biological children to explore their experience in foster families with their parents and support staff.

This workshop will present the innovative resources that have been developed and give examples of how to use them. Included in this workshop will be the opportunity to view and discuss the DVD which features biological children of foster carers giving their view of the challenges and rewards of fostering.

Evaluation of a new child protection strategy for Aboriginal communities in Western Australia

Mr Glenn Mace, Director, Department of Child Protection, Western Australia

Professor Martine Powell, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria

Despite numerous government inquiries and reforms, child sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities is a well-documented, ongoing problem. Established in Western Australia in 2009, Operation RESET is a multi-agency proactive community engagement initiative designed to improve the ability of communities and supporting agencies to detect, respond to and prevent child sexual abuse through the implementation of community engagement, capacity building and educational strategies. This paper describes the core principles of Operation RESET as well as the preliminary findings of a multi-method evaluation of RESET consisting of qualitative stakeholder feedback, survey responses and measurement of changes in reporting of child abuse in control group versus RESET communities.

Socially inadequate misfits or sexual predators? A study of the backgrounds, characteristics and sentencing of South Australian child exploitation material offenders

Ms Sarah Macgregor, Senior Research Analyst, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Capital Territory

Ms Samarah Symons, University of South Australia

Dr David Plater, Lecturer, Law School, University of South Australia and Senior Legal Officer, South-Australian Attorney-General’s Department

The recent English case of Mark Bridger, convicted of the horrific sexually motivated murder of a six year old girl, has given renewed impetus to the important issue of the potential link between viewing child exploitation material (CEM) and contact sexual or other offending. This issue has increasingly emerged over recent years and attracted considerable pubic and professional concern with the growth of CEM offending. CEM offending is rightly viewed as a serious crime that involves the systematic and perpetual sexual abuse and exploitation of children via the production and sharing of images over the internet. However there has been only limited study, especially in Australia, of the background and characteristics of CEM offenders and the sentencing outcomes for these offenders, and the nature and extent of any link between CEM offending and contact offending is still unclear.

This study is intended to help address these major gaps in the existing research. The present study involves analysis of the sentencing remarks of all CEM offenders sentenced from January 2011 to June 2013 in South Australia (presently 83 to date). It is believed that this is the first such study of its kind in Australia. The study looks at the background characteristics of the South Australian CEM offenders, the circumstances of their offending, the factors taken into account by the courts at sentence (especially the use of various scales to assess the gravity of the CEM images) and the sentencing outcomes. This study also examines the nature and extent of the potential link between CEM offending and contact offending and considers whether there are different categories of CEM offenders, which include those who are socially isolated, lacking social skills, and unlikely to commit contact offending (as the early studies suggested), as well as the potential sexual predators who may well commit contact offences (as more recent studies suggest for at least some offenders).

Some preliminary findings of the study include a general absence of alcohol or drug misuse (which is often present with other types of offending); the diverse and varied social and occupational background of offenders; the progression from adult pornography to CEM; the presence of family and social isolation; high incidence of mental illness, intellectual disability and/or childhood trauma experienced by the offender; offender’s generally having prior good character and employment history before offending; offender’s commonly either having no prior criminal history or a history involving prior sexual charges; and the significance of contact offending manifest in offenders’ prior history or present offending. The preliminary findings suggest that a notable proportion of CEM offenders in the sample also committed contact sexual offending against children, however further research is required to determine whether viewing CEM is a causal factor for contact offending or vice versa.

The preliminary findings suggest that courts sentence, whether wittingly or unwittingly, CEM offenders as ‘social misfits’ (often assisted by the expert psychological reports tendered to courts) which means that the true gravity of the offending and/or the risk posed of contact offending may well be overlooked or obscured. There appears to be an ineffective and inconsistent approach to sentencing CEM offenders with an overreliance upon various ‘scales’ (significantly there is no one agreed scale) as to the number and nature of the CEM images at the expense of other significant circumstances, including those identified by this study. The preliminary findings cast doubt on the utility and consistency of current sentencing outcomes and strategies and support the need for a more sophisticated approach to sentencing better tailored to the circumstances of the individual offender and offence.

This study aims to identify and support effective strategies and outcomes for promoting community and child safety, law enforcement and sentencing and management of CEM offenders.

WITHDRAWN A Critical Analysis: Addressing Child Sexual Abuse in Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Malaysia

Ms Nagasayee Malathy, Executive Director, Protect and Save The Children, Malaysia

Ms Thency Gunasekaran, Training & Education Executive, Protect and Save The Children, Malaysia

Among the myriad of child protection issues that exist, child sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the most difficult issues to speak about within the context of multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia. The cultural and religious diversity in Malaysia has sometimes posed a challenge to Protect and Save The Children’s (PS The Children) mission to build safer communities where children are protected from all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Since 1999, our approach has been to advocate for and establish culturally and religiously sensitive effective prevention education for both the adults and children of the communities that we work with. Besides prevention programmes, the organization also focuses on the intervention and treatment aspects of CSA while actively advocating for policy changes that are in the best interest of the child.

Using the UNCRC as a guiding instrument, PS The Children uses a multi-pronged, multi-professional approach by networking and engaging various stakeholders like the government, corporate sector and, civil society organizations to play an active role in addressing child sexual abuse and child protection concerns.

This paper looks at the various initiatives and programmes that have been executed to address the issue of child sexual abuse in Malaysia, providing a critical analysis of the approaches and strategies utilized by PS The Children in addressing the issues and various learning gained from these approaches. We look at some of the challenges faced in the culturally and linguistically diverse communities that we work in and the strategies used to successfully overcome them.

Association between adolescent online behavior and victimization on social networking sites (SNS)

Dr Mary J Marret, Associate Professor, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Ms Mogana Subramani, Graduate student & research assistant, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Dr Wan Yuen Choo, Associate Professor, University of Malaya, Malaysia


This study aimed to look for associations between potentially risky online behaviour and online victimization among Malaysian adolescents who use SNS.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in 12 randomly selected schools in Negri Sembilan. The questionnaire included demographic information, experiences of online victimization and behaviour on SNS such as revealing personal information, interacting with strangers as well as harassment and sexual solicitation of others.


Results are reported for 1364 SNS users comprising 91.7% of the sample population (n=1487). Thirty-five percent of SNS users began before the age of 13 years. Respondents reported having an average of 185 unknown persons in their network. About 51.6% had a list of more than 500 “friends”. Almost a third practiced 3 or more of the following 5 activities: posting personal information on publicly accessible profiles, sending personal details to strangers, interacting with strangers, online harassment of others and sexual solicitation of others. Online aggression had been directed towards 47.5% respondents while 19.1% reported becoming targets of unwanted sexual solicitation. Participation in 4 or more of the listed online activities increased the risk of victimization by 94 times.


Online victimization is not uncommon among adolescent SNS users. This study adds to available evidence regarding types of online behavior associated with online victimization and escalation of risk with multiple risky activities. Practices common within this population such as initiation of SNS use before 13 years and large networks which include many unknown persons should be addressed in managing this problem.

Community Risk-Mapping Exercise

Ms Holly-ann Martin, Managing Director, Safe4kids, Western Australia

Community Risk-Mapping exercise is a visual display and gathers qualitative data that can give adults the insight into where and why children participate in risk taking and private behaviours, also areas in community where they feel safe and unsafe. Then feedback can be given to Local Councils, Police and other agencies to help improve the conditions around the communities to help children feel safe for example better lighting in some areas or condom trees where people are performing sexual acts, etc. The purpose of the community map is to identify areas:

  • where children/students feel safe
  • where children/students feel unsafe
  • where children/students participate in risk-taking behaviour
  • where children/students perform private acts
  • where children/students observe others performing private acts
  • where children/students are shown private pictures or movies

Community members can imagine, believe, suspect or even know of many things that go on within their community. But there is always amazement and dismay at the information that is revealed with

community mapping, as it is irrefutable evidence of the scope and magnitude of the problems facing communities in relation to their young.

Whole Community approach to Abuse Prevention Education

Ms Holly-ann Martin, Managing Director, Safe4kids, Western Australia

This unique approach to Abuse Prevention Education is underpinned by a whole community focus, engaging schools via staff and students, parents and carers, local police, Department for Child Protection staff, community health officers, childcare practitioners and other community groups in the process of creating safer communities. Emphasis is placed on developing a language and culture of safety for children and adults alike, improving communication between them and broadening the Networks available to children when they are feeling unsafe.

This model was developed for working in remote communities and works remarkably well at engaging all members of the community, and it especially provides opportunities previously overlooked for working with men’s groups. It works equally as well in rural communities as the metro area. By using the local school as a focal point, and firstly creating a working environment with teachers and their students, it is a natural progression to invite the community into the program by having the students teach the adults what they have learnt.

Innovative, Interactive Resources for Child Protection

This informative workshop should not be missed as it will provide you with innovative and effective ideas and tools for teaching Abuse Prevention Education to all children, including those with special needs. Areas that will be covered are; teaching Public and Private as a whole concept, The Safety Continuum, The Three Safety Questions, Feelings, Early Warning Signs, Networks, Social Distance, Saying No’s and Secrets.

The resources being presented have been designed to make teaching protective education realistic, topical and engaging. They have been developed out of a need for having functional, customised tools for delivering the essential Protective Behaviours concepts to children of all developmental abilities. These resources also provide a structure or platform which can be easily integrated into the family home, a childcare centre or school curricula.

As a result of this presentation, participants will see how to apply a step by step teaching method using a whole of community approach. Emphasis is placed on developing a language and culture of safety for children and adults alike, improving communication between them and broadening the networks available to children when they feel unsafe. This involves teaching the basics in easy to understand ways that are encouraging and non-threatening.

The importance of doing the simple things well - learning from child death inquiries

Ms Mary Mcalorum, Manager, Commission for Children and Young People, Victoria

Reviews provide the opportunity to learn about how the child protection and related service system has worked with these particular children and their families and what this might tell us about improving outcomes for all vulnerable children, young people and their families. We have conducted many child death inquiries and have found that some barriers to effective practice persist, despite many changes designed and implemented to address identified service gaps and challenges. Our 18 years of inquiries data have provided an opportunity to explore whether there are discernible changes in practice pre- and post- the implementation of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. We have asked if the new policy frameworks, strategies and initiatives are being translated into the operational reality of daily practice and service delivery. We are presenting four papers on the following topics: service collaboration (based on a group analysis of 41 child deaths); a cumulative harm perspective in youth suicide inquiries; child focus and family participation; and service responses to highly vulnerable children known to both Child Protection and Disability Services. These papers consider the important questions of whether or not there have been the anticipated improvements in practice and if not, what has preventing these from occurring. This learning will provide insight into how to transfer agreed knowledge into practice to better address longstanding barriers to effective information gathering, risk assessment and service collaboration.

Kinship Care - Issues and Challenges

Ms Lynne McCrae, Senior Manager, Child and Family Support Services, OzChild, Victoria

Ms Bronwyn Harrison, Assistant Manager, Kinship Care, OzChild, Victoria

Kinship care has become the preferred placement for children entering out of home care, with over 50% of children in OHC now in a kinship arrangement. The indicators are that this placement option is likely to grow. In 2010 Victoria introduced its new kinship care program and rolled out significant funding to non-government organisations to support the children living in both statutory and non-statutory kinship placements. Victoria is now three years into the new Kinship care program and this presentation aims to reflect on the issues and challenges for the new Victorian kinship care program.

OzChild has a 15 year history of delivering a kinship care program and is now the largest single provider of kinship care services in Victoria, being funded to deliver support to 138 statutory placements and a number of non-statutory placements. OzChild proposes that although there is much strength to the current service model there is still some room for service improvement. This presentation will reflect on the key learnings of the first three years of the new program and make some suggestions that could strengthen Kinship care services. This presentation will build on two earlier presentations - one given to the Centre for Excellence in 2011 and one at the ACWA conference in 2012. In addition, OzChild is now entering into a number of research partnerships with a range of agencies and organizations. Some updates about these upcoming research agendas will be included in this presentation.

The Shifting of Risk: the implications of an emerging normalisation of risk for contracted CSOs and services users in an integrated Family Services system

Ms Kelsey McDonald, PhD Candidate, Federation University, Victoria

In 2011/2012, research was undertaken as part of the PhD project, Playing it Safe?: The implications for Community Service Organisations of the current government/non-government partnership rhetoric. This project was designed to assess how risk management impacts on decision-making in case management and allocation for Community Service Organisations (CSOs) who contract with government for the delivery of ChildFIRST and Family Services. The context of this research was the 2007 reforms to the Victorian Government Child, Youth and Families Act (2005). The research framework involved a critical enquiry approach using a qualitative methodology, with the researcher embedded at two Victorian CSOs for a 12-month period. Individual cases were tracked over the long term in order to identify links between organisational decision-making and case pathways and outcomes. The researcher attended weekly ChildFIRST case allocation meetings as a participant observer and conducted quarterly interviews with Family Services practitioners. Interviews were also conducted with CSO executive and management. Findings suggest that there has been a significant, sustained rise in the level of high risk in cases agencies are managing. While the CSOs view this rise in risk as an impediment to crucial early intervention and prevention work, the research has identified a concomitant rise in the level of risk CSOs are accepting into, and tolerating within, the workplace. This normalisation of risk is contributing to families ‘spiralling up’ and ‘churning through’ the family services system. Countering organisational risk tolerance may involve targeting awareness, specialising in-house services and a redefinition of legislated risk benchmarks and thresholds.

Interventions for children prenatally exposed to alcohol: A review of the literature

Mr Stewart McDougall, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

The impact of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other substances is a significant issue for both research and practitioners. However little is known about how to support children and families affected by this issue. The objective of this literature review is to examine the existing evidence for interventions supporting child prenatally exposed to alcohol and their families A structured search of electronic databases was conducted, in which the following databases were searched; PsycINFO, Social Sciences Citation Index, EMbase, Medline and ScienceDirect. Peer-reviewed papers published since 2004 reporting interventions for children prenatally exposed to alcohol and other substances were reviewed. Interventions with parents of children prenatally exposed were also included in the review. These papers report a number of behavioural and parenting interventions that show potential to support children across a range of important domains including social relationships, self-regulation, metacognition and educational attainment. Taken together, these studies indicate several common behavioural and skill development strategies that are applicable across a range of settings to support the development of young people affected by alcohol and other substances prenatally. The inclusion of parents in psycho-education and skill development was seen as beneficial. The implications of these findings for practice are highlighted and suggestions made for future research.

The contribution of child maltreatment to social phobia: a review of the published literature from 2002-2013

Mr Stewart McDougall, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia


Social anxiety disorder is a disabling psychiatric condition that affects a significant proportion of the population. Previous research has shown strong support for the relationship between childhood abuse or maltreatment and a number of psychiatric concerns later in life. The relationship between child maltreatment and social anxiety disorder is less well examined.


A systematic search of a number of databases was conducted and the following databases were searched: PsycInfo, CINAHL, Social Sciences Citation Index, EMbase and ScienceDirect. The searches were limited to peer-reviewed literature published between 2002 and 2013 and available in English.


An extensive review yielded a total of seventeen studies that met inclusion criteria. These papers report a range of studies linking childhood maltreatment to psychopathology later in life, using a number of methodological techniques and across a range of settings. Taken together the results of this systematic review would suggest emotional abuse and neglect are important risk factors for the development of social anxiety disorder.


Childhood abuse and neglect play a significant role on the on-set of a range of psychopathology. Emotional abuse and neglect have a larger impact upon social anxiety disorder than physical or sexual abuse. A number of common methodological limitations are identified within the literature, including reliance upon retrospective reports of child abuse and inconsistency with the definition and measurement of abuse subtypes. Implications for future research are discussed.

A systematic review of executive functions of maltreated children: implications for out-of-home care

Mr Stewart McDougall, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Mrs Lisa Smith (nee DeGregorio), Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

The needs of maltreated children entering out-of-home care are complex. One factor that may be influential for children in care is the negative impact of early life adversities on brain development. Exposure to trauma, abuse and neglect has been argued to give rise to neurocognitive impairments that influence the child’s brain, learning and behaviour. A systematic review was conducted at the Australian Centre for Child Protection on the neurocognitive abilities of children in care due to abuse or neglect. A search was conducted using the following databases: PsychINFO, Medline, Social Sciences Citation Index and Science Direct. The search was limited to peer-reviewed literature, published between 1992-2013 and available in English. This extensive review yielded a number of studies investigating the neuropsychological functioning of maltreated children. Conceptual and methodological issues involving operationalization and measurement of neuropsychological functioning limited the generalizability of these findings. Despite the limitations of the current literature, the results of this review suggest that maltreated children are at greater risk of experiencing impairments in global cognitive functioning, memory, attention and executive functioning. Executive functioning abilities were identified as a particular concern for maltreated children in out-of-home care given the associations between executive functioning impairment and poor impulse control, difficulty monitoring or regulating performance and poor reasoning ability. The implications of these brain based difficulties for children’s learning and behaviour across a range of social situations is discussed. It is argued that there is an urgent need to develop supports for children experiencing difficulties with executive functioning.

Creating Criminals – The institutional neglect and indifference toward children in State care

Ms Kath McFarlane, PhD Candidate (Law), University of New South Wales and member of NSW Corrective Services’ Women’s Advisory Council

Children in out of home care are 68 times more likely to appear on criminal charges before the NSW Children’s Court than their non-care peers. Over a third of the girls and a quarter of the boys in the State’s juvenile detention centres have been in care, and they comprise almost half of all Indigenous and over a quarter of non-Indigenous NSW adult prisoners. They tend to begin offending at an earlier age and do so more frequently, persistently and more violently than those who have never been removed from their families. Despite these statistics – which are consistent with international findings – little is known about the pathway from care to crime. Despite professed government interest in crime prevention, there are no programs or policies that specially address this easily identifiable group, notwithstanding its incredible and disproportionate social impacts. This paper presents the findings of PhD research into the factors that have contributed to the care population’s over-representation in the criminal justice system and examines the dynamics behind the institutional neglect and indifference exhibited toward children in care.

Australian media representations of asylum seeker children: A human rights perspective

Dr Helen McLaren, Lecturer, Social & Policy Studies, Flinders University, South Australia

Dr Tejaswini Patil, Research Assistant, Flinders University, South Australia

The management of asylum seekers in Australia, particularly the ‘queue jumping’ discourse implying notions of deviancy for those arriving by boat, has been the subject of increasing social and political debate. In addition, issues of children in detention and off-shore processing of children have been topical; accounting for rising concerns about the security of human rights for these individuals. This paper reports on an analysis of Australian print media in its representations of the asylum seeker children, both implicit and explicit. Despite large numbers of asylum seeker children entering Australian waters by boat, when compared to adults, analysis of media representations of the asylum seeker child in previous research is largely absent. By employing a human rights framework, our research questioned whether media representations were sufficiently sympathetic to the rights of the child. Alternatively, we wondered whether media representations served to veil issues pertaining to the rights of asylum seeking children as they relate to protection from harm and other forms of exploitation. It was found, while media was sensitive to particular human rights issues for children, that these were often counteracted by representations that positioned children within broader discourses of deviancy based on the nature of passage to Australia and/or by association with adults who facilitated their journeys. We conclude that particular media representations of asylum seeker children are an example of how discourses may infringe children’s rights and be harmful, such as when they present as attacks against children’s identities, their families’ reputations and negatively influence engagement with them.

Synthesising research and practice wisdom in case management decisions

Ms Mirian Meade, Lecturer, Navitas College of Public Safety, Victoria

Dr Marg Liddell, Senior Lecturer, RMIT University, Victoria

In an environment where case management practice is not universally understood and the pressures to utilize evidence based practice are mounting, solutions for sound decision making and professional practice continues to be a critical area worthy of attention.

The problem of how practitioners apply knowledge to practice has been identified in the literature as an area for further exploration and research. This workshop presents practical strategies and introduces a decision making framework relevant for case managers who are responsible for the care and protection of young people in both statutory and community settings. The workshop will be based on action research conducted in the State of Victoria, Australia with Child Protection and Community Service Organisations. Using a collaborative design, the research involved case managers in twelve months of focus groups.

The research explored the evidence surrounding the suitability of ‘Unconditional Care ‘as an approach to professional practice. The approach is derived from one of the ten essential elements utilised in Wraparound, a wholistic system of care developed in the United States. It explored the concept of Unconditional Care from a fresh perspective and examined it as an approach to professional practice defined by principles rather than by evaluation within a Wraparound program. This curiosity regarding professional practice (rather than systems) influenced the choice of action research methodology.

The research confirmed the continuing need to close the gap between research (evidence) and practice. The findings are consistent with the literature which highlights the struggle case managers experience in making evidence based decisions. It showed that case managers utilise personal knowledge and practice wisdom significantly more than theoretical or empirical evidence.

The solution proposed during the workshop focuses on the provision of strategies for enhancing decision making. It will present the findings from literature and the research which illuminates how to connect scientific evidence with practice in areas such as neuro development and trauma. The workshop invites attendees to consider a framework which can assist the identification of professional strengths and weaknesses. It will also contribute to the development of practice in areas where improvement is identified. The workshop is designed to address the dilemmas related to applying evidence and theory to practice, including consideration of how to integrate evidence into practice wisdom. Participants will be invited to reflect and problem solve using a toolkit provided for attendees to utilise during the session and to take back to the workplace.

Attitudes of child protection practitioners: Implications for the selection of out-of-home care placements

Miss Jenna Meiksans, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Professor Fiona Arney, Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Ms Marie Iannos, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Child protection practitioners are frequently faced with the challenge of making decisions integral to achieving the best possible outcomes for children and young people at risk, and are often the key decision makers in the placement of children in out-of-home care. Despite the increasing numbers of children removed from their homes in Australia, and the importance of selecting the ideal out-of-home placement to improve outcomes for these children, relatively little research has focussed on the factors influencing child practitioners’ placement selection. This presentation describes a study which aimed to develop a psychometric measure to evaluate attitudes of child protection practitioners about selecting an of out-of-home care placement. The measure was piloted with a sample of practitioners from the Australian out-of-home care sector. Results of the study will be discussed in terms of the relationship between practitioner attitudes and professional decision making, as well as the pragmatics of placement decisions, and provide an insight into why children are not always placed in the preferred placement. Barriers to adherence to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, which may have important implications for the improved placement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, will also be discussed.

Reforming the Practice Culture in Victoria - A Trauma Informed Case Practice Model

Robyn Miller, Chief Practitioner Human Services, Director, Office of Professional Practice, Department of Human Services, Victoria

This presentation will focus on understanding the experience of children who have been traumatised and the system wide reform in Victoria to respond more effectively.

The impact of cumulative harm and the cultural reform to develop more coordinated early intervention and support, to vulnerable children and their families over the past seven years, will be presented.

The Best Interest Case Practice Model has provided a shared, trauma informed language which has been used across sectors in Victoria.

The presentation will draw on several Specialist Practice Resources from the model to highlight the importance of evidence informed practice and building a practice culture of critical reflection.

Building Self-Regulation Skills: a multidisciplinary approach

Mrs Annika Moody, Psychologist, Act for Kids, Queensland

This paper presents a successful partnership between psychology and occupational therapy in assisting children who have suffered trauma to build self-regulation skills. One of the most common difficulties that children who have suffered abuse face is the ability to regulate their emotions. Poor emotional literacy means that children struggle to recognise and understand the feelings in their bodies and are unable to reduce uncomfortable feelings, such as anger or sadness by themselves. As a result these children display behaviours that are often referred to as “naughty” or “attention seeking”. This can have significant negative impacts on their schooling, relationships and self-esteem. One factor that perpetuates this is that children who have suffered abuse often have distorted ways in which they receive, process and respond to information coming in through their senses. Poor emotional literacy, as a consequence of abuse and neglect, is not only an area for counsellors and psychologists. The sensory processing component of this challenge lends to the area of occupational therapy. In order for children to heal from their experiences and develop skills which will ultimately lead to them forming meaningful relationships and succeeding at school, a multidisciplinary approach needs to be adopted. This paper presents a case study highlighting the benefits of a partnership between the fields of psychology and occupational therapy when responding to the effects of abuse and neglect. The paper also provides evidence towards incorporating a sensory integration approach as part of the overall healing journey.

Compassion, natural justice and authenticity: Where do they fit in statutory child protection work – do they fit at all?

Ms Kylie Noakes, Senior Practice Development Officer, Department for Child Protection and Family Support, Western Australia

Ms Helen McMahon, Director Case Practice and Coordination, Department for Child Protection and Family Support, Western Australia

Compassion, natural justice and authenticity are the cornerstones of “good” child protection practice. In the contested and anxious environment of child protection, caseworkers struggle to balance the drive for compliance with administrative and legalistic expectations with this “good” practice. In trying to juggle the expectations that many practitioners find confusing and contradictory, practice can become event driven, and defended; practitioners can become risk adverse, reactive and defensive and cannot find the space for compassion, natural justice and authenticity.

This paper will explore the theory/ literature around assessments and decision-making in child protection and then, using a case example we will track the decision making in a case where compassion, natural justice and authenticity were conspicuously absent and hypothesise how the addition of compassion, natural justice and authenticity would have changed the trajectory for the whole family.

Challenging behaviour in foster care: A systematic review of supports

Ms Olivia Octoman, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Challenging behaviour and mental health issues feature strongly amongst children living in foster care. This means that foster carers are extremely likely to encounter difficult and challenging behaviour on a regular basis. Ensuring that foster carers are adequately supported to manage the challenging behaviour issues they encounter is vital. This presentation will present the findings of a systematic review, conducted to determine what supports were available to foster carers in relation to managing behaviour.

A systematic search was conducted of peer reviewed literature that examined support for foster carers management of challenging behaviour. Five databases were searched including PsycINFO, Social Science Citation Index, CINAHL, Informit and Medline. Searches were limited to English language articles published between 2007 and 2012.

Twenty studies were identified that examined the nature of support provided to foster carers. Fifteen of these studies examined support provided to foster carers in the form of behavioural training programs. Six of the 20 studies explored the types of support that foster carers desired.

Results of this systematic review highlight several common elements of formal foster carer training that appear to be effective. These will be discussed and implications for practice will be highlighted. The review also provides useful information about the nature and form of support desired by foster carers. This will be discussed in the context of service delivery and development.

Challenging behaviour in foster care: What supports do foster carers want?

Ms Olivia Octoman, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Foster carers frequently report not receiving enough or adequate support, highlighting the need to understand what types of support foster carers want. Challenging behaviour in the foster home has been linked to dissatisfaction, intention to leave the caring role, foster carer strain, and foster placement instability. This in turn, can result in poor outcomes for children who experience multiple placements; loss of relationships, school and community connections. Placement stability has additionally been shown to further exacerbate children’s behavioural difficulties. It is therefore vital to hear foster carers views about how they can be better supported to manage behavioural issues from children in their care to ensure better outcomes for both foster carers and children in care.

This workshop will present results of an ongoing program of research conducted at the Australian Centre for Child Protection which aims to understand foster carer views about how carers can be supported to manage challenging behaviour. This program aims to gain foster carer perspectives on the types of support foster carers would find helpful and their view on the best method of delivering supports in relation to challenging behaviour.

In this workshop, we will present the results of a large survey of foster carers from around Australia that provided quantitative and qualitative information about supports that would be helpful in relation to challenging behaviour.

The results highlighted that foster carers desire accurate information about children’s behaviour prior to the commencement of fostering and quality relationships with professionals. Foster carers thought the optimal method of delivering support was in-home support being delivered by other foster carers.

These findings provide more detailed insight into the optimal support for foster carers and can be used to enhance current support and implement new training programs desired by foster carers.

Outcome for workshop participants:

This workshop will provide participants with an understanding of the types of support that foster carers want. It will also provide its participants with the opportunity to discuss the implications of these findings in relation to their practice and will challenge participants to think creatively about how their services can better accommodate the needs of carers. This workshop will allow for participants to highlight and discuss examples of current best practice and how this is achieved in their service.

Session plan:

In this workshop the results of the program of research will be presented to participants. This will be followed by an opportunity to discuss the implications of the results in a small semi-structured group format. Throughout the workshop participants will be encouraged to reflect on significant questions arising from this research including:

  • How can my service best accommodate the support needs of foster carers?
  • How can services better engage carers in supporting others?
  • What opportunities arise for carers and workers to think differently about support?

Children at risk of repeated involvement with child protection services: A longitudinal study using child protection data.

Ms Olivia Octoman, Research Assistant, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

A/Prof Leah Bromfield, Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Ms Julie Petersen, Principal Research Officer, Families SA, South Australia

In SA in 2009-10, there were 36,046 notifications relating to 16,158 children, showing there is a population of children who are re-referred to child protection. However, we do not know the proportion of children with re-referrals, the average number of referrals, or the pathways through child protection for these children. The population of children multiply referred is likely to be substantial. For example, in NSW over half of maltreatment reports in one year related to only 20% of children. Research has shown that re-reports are a valid indicator of chronic maltreatment. Chronically maltreated children have been shown to exhibit more problem behaviours, problems with peers, and have lower IQ than children who experience isolated incidences of maltreatment. In this presentation, we will present the results of a population cohort longitudinal analysis investigating chronic and isolated involvement with child protection services using administrative data. The study analysed child protection administrative data for all children born in the year 2001 who had contact with Families SA between 1 January 2001 and July 2013. Extracted data were converted into a longitudinal dataset using client ID numbers allowing for examination of children’s involvement with child protection over time. Findings provide an understanding of the extent of chronic maltreatment in SA. These findings increase understanding about the varying patterns of involvement with child protection, the characteristics associated with different categories of involvement, and the typical pathways through child protection for different groups.

Entering out-of-home care during childhood: Cumulative incidence study in two developed countries

Dr Melissa O’Donnell, NHMRC Early Career Fellow, Western Australia

In Australia and Canada, like many other developed countries, increasing numbers of maltreated children are being placed in out-of-home care and at an earlier age. This increases the overall proportion of children experiencing out-of-home (OoH) care, as well as the length of time children spend in care and associated costs. Monitoring of these changes requires analyses that reflect changes in the timing of entry into care for cohorts of children instead of cross sectional estimates reported by government agencies.

We used linked longitudinal population level data from the Western Australian (WA) Departments of Health and Child Protection and from Manitoba’s Population Health Research Data to determine the cumulative incidence of OoH Care for cohorts of children over time. Survival analysis was utilised to determine factors associated with earlier entry into care.

Manitoba had a larger proportion of children entering OoH care compared to WA. Over time children entered care at a younger age in both WA and Manitoba. Similar factors in both countries were associated with earlier age at entry into care including Aboriginality, young maternal age, and maternal hospitalisations for mental health and substance use.

Cumulative incidence estimates highlight the impact of policy on the proportion of children in the population placed in OoH care. This information is important for planning purposes as the burden is not uniform across all sectors of the population. Cumulative incidence estimates allow us to compare across countries the impact of regional policies about placement into care and its timing.

Alice Springs Integrated Response to Family and Domestic Violence, the Family Safety Framework

Ms Liz Olle, Project Manager, Integrated Response to Family and Domestic Violence in Alice Springs, Office for Children and Families, Northern Territory Government

Ms Suzie Gye, MAC Facilitator Alice Springs, Office for Children and Families, Northern Territory Government

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children holds the safety of children at its core; the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children holds the safety of women and their children at the core. The Framework and the National Plan intersect where children’s safety is impacted upon by Family and Domestic Violence (F&DV). The Integrated Response project, of which the Family Safety Framework (FSF) is part, derives its objectives from the National Plan. Commencing in July 2012, the Alice Springs FSF provides action-based, integrated service responses to people at imminent risk of serious injury or death through F&DV. It developed as a bottom up approach from a community deeply concerned about the level of F&DV in Central Australia, and was endorsed from the top down authorising the process. The FSF is led by Police through its Alice Springs Domestic Violence Unit in coordinated partnership with government and non-government agencies including the Office of Children and Families and Department of Attorney General and Justice. Key components include common risk assessment, information sharing protocol, fortnightly Family Safety Meetings, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation. The approach ensures partner agencies’ capacity to collaborate in providing timely, action-based and on the ground support in crisis situations. This praxis review includes data and analysis from progress reviews. Notable developments to date include improved communications and relationships between FSF partners and between services and victims; and development of innovative agency procedures and practice keenly attuned to responding to high risk F&DV.

Out of home clinics- will they improve health, or simply document the extent of the problems?

Dr Sue Packer, Paediatrician, ACT Health

Yi Deng, ACT Health

Ms Adele Clifton, ACT Health

Children entering out-of-home and kinship care are known to have a high prevalence of acute and chronic health problems and developmental delays. Much work is under way across Australia to introduce health assessment clinics for these children, aiming to address health problems and improve outcomes. The favoured option at present is multidisciplinary clinics staffed by paediatricians and health professionals.

In the ACT, there has been a simpler, nurse-led Out-Of-Home-Clinic operating since 2008. It is run as part of the Child-at Risk Health clinic and staffed by experienced paediatric nurses, who can refer to the CARHU doctors and other staff if necessary. The ACT should be advantaged as a “city-state”, with single office child protection and one referral clinic for all children. Many of the referrals can be managed within the community health system. A medical student (YD) conducted a clinical audit of referrals to the clinic during one calendar year (2012), and selected the three most frequent referral types, which were then analysed for uptake of referrals and completion of identified treatments. The three types of referrals studied were immunisation, dental and hearing. The most positive finding was that 94% eligible children attended the clinic. For the referrals studied, the mean rate of referral was only 51% (range 77% to 34%). This is despite the advantages recognised in this study. The findings and their implications for service development are discussed.

Working with asylum seekers in community detention: Reflections on parental uncertainty for their children’s life chances

Dr Tejaswini Patil, Research Assistant, Flinders University, South Australia

Dr Helen McLaren, Lecturer, Social & Policy Studies, Flinders University, South Australia

Life chances pervades all aspects of life, including life chances for those children who find their way to Australia through refugee and asylum seeking processes. With this in mind, this paper reports on the pre-empirical stage of our research that brought together our scoping of literature with our theoretical reflections on volunteering with refugee and asylum seeker families in South Australia. The majority of families informing our reflections were from Afghanistan and Iran, and the key areas of theoretical interest were the plight of these people to improve their and their children’s life chances. However, upon coming to Australia these families found themselves caught in a series of conflicting discourses, that were reinforced within literature, and which positioned them as either deviant for arriving ‘illegally’ or welfare needy. In applying life chances theory to the way we reflected on these families, and the literature concerning them, we were able to move away from deviancy and neediness discourses towards constructions that were potentially more supportive and empowering. A fundamental shift in thinking meant that if families universally were conceptualised as being in need of life chances, then policy and interventions may better serve refugee and asylum seeking families more equitably with Western families. It was decided that a conceptual shift in the way that refugee and asylum seeker families were constructed, away from people who need special charities to viewing them as people who need life chances, will inform the subsequent empirical stage of our research with refugee support services and refugee families.

Finding the needle in the haystack– locating evidence of “what works” in reconceptualising child protection systems

Ms Julie Petersen, Principal Research Officer, Families SA

Mr Tony Kemp, Director Practice and Policy, Families SA

This paper is about a journey to prod the haystacks (the mounds of reviews, inquiries and process reports on Child Protection) to locate the needle (evidence of what was working elsewhere) to inform the reconceptualisation of Child Protection in South Australia.

In Australia and internationally, there is acceptance that Child Protection systems are in crisis - in Australia alone there have been at least 29 recent reviews and enquires. Within that context, and our awareness of the urgent need for reform, we went looking for reforms that were actually delivering the optimum Child Protection structure, approach and system.

Importantly, our reconceptualisation task was not in response to a review or enquiry so we were not working to a tick list of recommendations.

Our task was to:

  • Build a case for redesign based on what was not working,
  • search for alternative systems and structures that were showing promising outcomes and
  • work out how we get there

Our assumption was that, given the state of Child Protection the world over, there would be a rich vein of literature and evidence which would inform our thinking. Our experience was quite the contrary. While there are haystacks of reviews and enquiries, the evidence for informing Child Protection Reform was as elusive as the proverbial needle in a haystack! Rather than finding a needle, we have “knitted” together our very own needle. We are now on the way to redesigning the child protection systems and services in South Australia. This paper is primarily written to assist others looking for those needles.

“Who is looking out for the Territory’s children? “ A review of the emergency response strategies for children and young people in crisis in the ACT.

Ms Anita Phillips, ACT Public Advocate, ACT Government

Ms Donnita Medway, Senior Advocate, Public Advocate of the ACT

The Public Advocate of the ACT (PA ACT) has a statutory role to monitor and foster the provision of services for the protection of children and young people and to advocate for their rights, specifically those who are in need of protection from abuse, exploitation, or neglect. In response to a media report that children had been accommodated in an emergency residential placement that had no beds, poor heating and a broken window, in the midst of a Canberra winter, the ACT Public Advocate was requested to investigate the situation. An Interim Report was prepared for the Minister. One of that report’s recommendations was for the PA ACT to conduct a more comprehensive Review. This was agreed to and the resultant Review found that the situation of children placed in emergency “stopgap” placements was not an aberration but the result of a system in crisis. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the two phases of the review process which found some instances of good practice, but highlighted many instances of systemic failure which impacted on practice, and the responses to the review recommendations which has led to significant progress towards reform of the sector.

Utilising a child-focussed case management model to address developmental issues in children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Dr Kaye Pickering, Regional Director, Act for Kids, Queensland

This paper examines the strategies used by the Act for Kids Intensive Family Support (IFS) service to address developmental issues in young children who have experienced child abuse and neglect, or are at significant risk. The IFS typically has around 1000 Gold Coast children on its caseload. It is well accepted that child abuse and neglect can significantly impair physical and emotional development in children. As Australian Early Development Index statistics for the Gold Coast indicate more than 25% of children at school entry have developmental delays in more than one domain, it is likely that this figure would be even greater for IFS children who typically have been exposed to childhood trauma. The IFS service is a holistic, child focussed, case management model incorporating specialist early childhood services and interventions to ensure the best outcomes for children and their families. Specific child focussed initiatives include provision of book packs, developmental milestone booklets, facilitating referrals to infant mental health specialists, paediatricians, paediatric neurologist, dentists and other specialists. The service also employs a multidisciplinary early childhood team that includes speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychology and offers assessments and interventions in both individual and group format for IFS children 0-5 years. Children identified with specific disorders are engaged with appropriate services. Outcomes of this early intervention program are considered, particularly in light of early indicators that there is a decrease in re-reporting to Child Safety for these IFS families.

Police officers’ strategies for coping with the stress of Child Internet Exploitation investigation

Professor Martine Powell, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria

Mairi Benson, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria

Peter Cassematis, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Queensland

Professor Stephen Smallbone, Director, Griffith Youth Forensic Service, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Queensland

Professor Richard Wortley, Head of Department, UCL Department of Security and Crime Science, United Kingdom

Research shows that Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) investigators cope well with the range of stressors their work exposes them to, but little is known about how they manage to cope. The current study attempted to expand knowledge and address the limitations of prior research by using a broad, open-ended anonymous interviewing strategy that differentiates between individual and organizational coping resources in the first study conducted with Australian investigators. Participants were 32 ICE investigators from all nine Australian jurisdictions. Results were organized thematically in the following headings: selection of ideal applicants, indicators of poor coping and coping strategies. The overriding conclusions and their implications for police managers are discussed.

Evaluation of an online training program in investigative interviewing of children

Mairi Benson, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria

Professor Martine Powell, School of Psychology, Deakin University, Victoria

The current study adopted a pre- post-training design and a standardised measure of performance to evaluate the effectiveness of a fully online practical training course in investigative interviewing of children. Course participants included 61 social workers, police and psychologists. The course consisted of 12 modules of approximately 3 hours duration, focusing purely on the skill of eliciting a disclosure of sexual abuse and a narrative account of the offence(s) from a child. Results revealed a significant improvement in interview performance from pre-training to immediate post-training. For the 25 participants who also completed a 6 month follow-up assessment, performance was found to be maintained. A description of the course, the implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.

What’s the problem with viewing child pornography? A study of social attitudes with implications for research, law and policy.

Dr Jeremy Prichard, Senior Lecturer, University of Tasmania

With continual advances in Internet capability the market for child exploitation material (CEM) is experiencing a boom in demand and supply. However, attempts to reduce the market have focused heavily upon supply reductions strategies. This paper suggests that consideration be given to demand reduction strategies. Results from a survey of tertiary education students (N=431) are presented which indicate that some participants consider viewing and distributing CEM as harmless activities. Those who reported such opinions were more likely to be male, to disagree with the censorship of pornography and to believe that CEM involving computer generated (fake) images of children should be legal. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Strengthening Contact through psycho-education, modelling and coaching: a program for parents with a child in out-of-home care

Mrs Marion Rabuka, a/Service Manager, Child Protection Counselling Service, SWSLHD, New South Wales


The program addresses the contact needs of children and young people in Out of Home Care (OOHC) at risk of further developmental trauma.


  • In 2012 the program expanded from the 2006 foundation group. Strengthening Contact competencies were developed and reflect the ability of the parent to engage in a successful contact relationship with their child.
  • This program has been facilitated with 4 intakes since 2012.
  • Contact supervisors provided quantitative feedback on parents pre and post group competencies.
  • Parents provided pre/post quantitative feedback, post group satisfaction survey and qualitative feedback.


Contact supervisor evaluations indicated that parents demonstrated an observable improvement after the group. The majority of parent evaluations were rated worse at the end of the group, possibly demonstrating an increase in their understanding of contact competencies required to engage in successful contact relationships and insight for change. This was a more realistic view, as parents had initially minimised negative behaviours. A high level of satisfaction was identified by all parents who attended the program to date.


Children and young people in OOHC have benefited from this program with the majority of parents demonstrating observable change in post group contact visits.


CPCS is assessing:

  • pre-group counselling to address parents own issues in relation to having their children in care.
  • Incorporating further screening and evaluation strategies.
  • Development of a ‘contact supervisor’ seminar to provide education about ‘good’ contact and the role of Strengthening Contact competencies.

Improving the identification of adverse childhood exposures in developmental clinics: Does it make a difference?

Dr Shanti Raman, Medical Director- Child Protection, Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales

Dr Kalpesh Jain, General Paediatrics Fellow, Wollongong Hospital, New South Wales

Dr Romy Hurwitz, Developmental Paediatrician, South Western Sydney Local Health District, New South Wales

Dr Alex Hendry, Research Coordinator, Ingham Institute, New South Wales


Adverse childhood experiences (ACE), including child abuse and neglect (CAN), have medium and long-term consequences for children’s health and development. Studies have shown that children with disabilities have greater risks of CAN. Our aims were to identify children at risk of abuse or exposed to ACE in the population attending child development (CD) clinics in South Western Sydney, to estimate the prevalence of CAN and ACE in this population and determine if use of a checklist improves clinicians’ identification and support of vulnerable children in CD clinics.


Clinicians filled in a one-page ACE checklist for all children attending CD clinics between October 2012 and May 2013. Demographic information, diagnoses, and ACE risks were entered into an Excel database. Qualitative interviews were conducted with clinicians about use of the tool.


Seventy-seven children attended CD clinics in six months, average age 4.7 years. ACE score of ≥1 was identified in 39 (51%), eight (10%) had a score of ≥ 4; family disruption the most common ACE category. Children with ACE scores ≥4 were more likely to have Community Services involvement, be exposed to CAN and be in foster-care; children with the highest scores were in foster-care. Clinicians using the checklist found it useful in identifying especially vulnerable children.


Half of the children attending developmental clinics in metropolitan Sydney have ACE identified; 10% have significant burden of early life adversities. The ACE checklist may be a valuable adjunct to paediatric clinics, to improve identification and support for at-risk children.

Improving pathways to paediatric assessment for infants of substance using mothers: Are we getting it right?

Dr Shanti Raman, Medical Director- Child Protection, Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales

Dr Joanna Alexander, Community Paediatrics Fellow, South Western Sydney Local Health District, New South Wales

Dr Terrence Yoong, Community Paediatrician, Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales

Dr John Eastwood, Director, Community Paediatrics, Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales

Ms Belinda Mawhinney, Child Wellbeing Coordinator, Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales


There is documented correlation between parental substance abuse, child maltreatment and poor child health outcomes. In two districts in Sydney (site A and B), there are programs to support mothers with substance abuse concerns through pregnancy. Since 2007, specialised paediatric (“Branches”) clinics were established to provide comprehensive assessments for infants of substance abusing mothers (ISAM). We aimed to determine whether there was a difference in health and social outcomes between infants who attended Branches Clinic versus those who did not, and identify differences in robustness of pathways and functioning between sites.


We analysed immunisation status, hospital visits and child protection reports of ISAM referrals to Branches clinic in 2011. We held key stakeholder meetings from services in both sites to describe existing service components, identify strengths and weaknesses of current processes.


In 2011, 55% attended Branches clinic in Site A, compared to 80% in Site B. Three-quarters of all ISAM had at least one child protection report, child protection service involvement and being in foster care appeared to increase clinic attendance. There were some differences in health indices between ISAM who attended clinics and those who did not. Gaps in service integration, lack of database and differences in pathways between sites were identified from stakeholder meetings.


Significant differences exist in pathways and engagement with health services for ISAM between sites. Attending clinics appears to increase Community Service involvement and health protection. Transparent communication, service integration and shared learning can improve service provision for this vulnerable group.

Review of Serious Events in cases of (suspected) child abuse and/or neglect: A Rose by any other name?

Dr Shanti Raman, Medical Director- Child Protection, Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales

Ms Michelle Maiese, Director-Child Protection, Sydney Local Health Districts, New South Wales


We present a unique model for the review of serious events (RoSE) in cases of suspected child abuse and neglect within health services.


Child abuse and neglect (CAN) is a major public health problem, and child protection is core business for public health services. CAN cases are complex and may involve a range of health professionals from different services. When things go seriously wrong such as a child death or near miss, cases are reviewed and health services and health professionals may be subject to intense scrutiny. Scrutiny is both internal to the health system, via critical incident investigation, and external review, such as multiagency child deaths reviews by the State Ombudsman. While there are a variety of mechanisms to review critical incidents in health services, there is no formal process for the review of cases after a serious event involving child protection concerns in Australia. We aimed to develop a robust systematic process to review serious events in cases of suspected CAN across a large health district in Sydney, so that shared learnings could fuel system changes, whilst maintaining a strong focus on the child throughout.

Development of the Model:

Drawing upon the mapping, review and literature findings and using clinical practice improvement methodology, the multidisciplinary project team developed a model for a systematic process, named Review of Serious Events, in suspected cases of CAN. The RoSE model has the key features of: being child and child protection focused; seeking to examine care over a period of time; using child protection staff as lead reviewers; involving health professionals/services in the review who know and have been involved with the child and family’s story; and developing practice and systems change at the local level with the support and endorsement of senior health management. The RoSE model includes:

  • Criteria for inclusion as a serious event.
  • Pathways and feedback loops to ensure review recommendations are followed-up.
  • Step-by-step guide for the review, a checklist for documenting contributing factors, case summary and reporting templates.

The RoSE model is being piloted through 2013 and progress with implementation being monitored. This work is timely given the NSW Ombudsman Report of Reviewable Deaths for 2010-2011 recommends that if a child dies or is seriously injured in suspicious circumstances within 12 months of receiving care from a NSW public health facility; these should be the subject of internal review.

Session Plan

  • Critical review of the literature on serious case reviews in health and social services
  • Development of the RoSE model
  • Interactive session with participants enacting a real life review using the RoSE model
  • Feedback and critical evaluation of RoSE model

Participants will gain:

  • Knowledge on promising international review processes in health and social services
  • Critical insight into an innovative model for reviewing serious events involving CAN, which is strongly child focused
  • Knowledge on making the review serious of events involving CAN an integral part of critical incident review systems

“the most valuable resource we have” - a unique practice support model for statutory child protection workers

Ms Aqua Robins, Director Clinical Issues Unit, NSW Department of Family and Community Services, New South Wales

Good casework practice in child protection involves the use of evidence based approaches and contemporary knowledge of the many issues that contribute to child abuse and neglect. Even the best caseworkers can’t have all the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions about what may best help children and families with reported issues such as substance misuse, mental health and domestic violence. Seeking the expertise of other professionals is necessary for holistic assessment and case planning, but often access to that expertise is difficult in the required timeframes. There are well known and ongoing barriers to effective information sharing and collaboration between statutory child protection workers and mental health, domestic violence and drug and alcohol services. It can be particularly difficult when a caseworker is seeking advice from clinicians for whom the parent or carer is the client, rather than the child. The NSW Department of Family and Community Services established a team of internal clinical experts in 2009 following the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection to provide fast access to child focused clinical advice and to improve caseworker practice in managing cases where there were reported clinical issues impacting on parenting. The work of the Clinical Issues Unit from 2009 to the present has been independently evaluated. This presentation will outline the findings on how this unique practice support model has had a positive impact on caseworker practice.

“Listen to me”: Emphasising children and young people’s voices in child protection practice

Dr Mary Salveron, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (Signs of Safety), Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Ms Samantha Finan, Psychology Honours Candidate, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

A/Prof Leah Bromfield, Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasise that children have the right to express their own views in all matters affecting their safety and wellbeing. However, the translation of this into reality is questionable in child protection with children’s voices and perspectives still inconsistent and missing in aspects of the process. Much of the research available examining the perspectives of children and young people pertain to those in the out-of-home care system when children are already in care, as opposed to children who are subject to an ongoing child protection investigation. In this presentation, we will present the findings from a study of n = 7 children subject to a recently closed child protection investigation in West Australia. In this study, Participatory Action Research methods were employed to garner the views of children on a rating tool originally designed to gather the views of children about the degree to which caseworkers engaged them and enabled their participation in child protection investigations. Participants were recruited through the WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support, parents and children consented to participation in the research. The research methodology and rating tool will be described and the findings presented regarding both (a) children’s views of the methods and tools; and (b) the degree to which children felt they participated in the child protection investigation. Implications for future research and practice will be discussed.

A journey to a new parent identity: Recovering from trauma and negotiating practice in child protection settings

Dr Mary Salveron, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (Signs of Safety), Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Professor Fiona Arney, Director, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Very little has explored the psychological impacts of child removal, and subsequent work, with parents on the ability or desire of parents to maintain relationships and make lifestyle and parenting changes necessary for them to maintain a role in the lives of their children.

This presentation details findings from a grounded theory analysis of 58 interviews with parents, carers and workers about the psychological factors which inhibit or promote the maintenance of relationships between birth parents and children after their removal and placement in out-of-home care. Drawing on Identity Control Theory, the study presents the experience of parents and the conflict or fighting they endured internally and externally which had positive-negative and internal-external dimensions that extended throughout the child protection process, and especially during face to face access or physical contact. The presentation will discuss parents’ journey of self-recovery including getting in the right state of mind, revival of hope, determination and the management of their emotions. Parents’ identity negotiation for their children and their parent identity assisted with the trauma of removal, engage with workers and begin the reconstruction of their identities harnessing their cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual resources in their fight to get their children back. The research has implications for child protection policy, research and practice. It suggests that meaningful engagement with parents supports the reconstruction of their parent identities (especially during contact) so they are ultimately better able to safely care for and maintain relationships with their children, themselves and their families.

Do risk indicators associated with neglect differ from other types of maltreatment?

Dr Deborah Scott, Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), Victoria

Dr Lil Tonmyr, Injury and Child Maltreatment Section, Public Health Agency of Canada

Dr Masako Tanaka, Research Fellow, Offord Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Canada

Dr Daryl Higgins, Deputy Director (Research), Australian Institute of Family Studies, Victoria,

Dr Andrea Gonzalez, Research Fellow, Offord Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Canada

Professor Harriet MacMillan, Dan Offord Chair in Child Studies, Offord Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Canada

Many researchers and practitioners hypothesise that neglect differs from other forms of maltreatment. This is apparent even at a definitional level, where neglect is characterised as an act of omission, unlike other forms of maltreatment described as acts of commission.

Research has demonstrated links between a number of neighbourhood, family, and individual characteristics and neglect. For example, neighbourhood poverty, poor parental mental health and single motherhood, (particularly where fathers have limited involvement) have all been associated with neglect in various analyses. These risk indicators of neglect, when neglect occurs in isolation from other types of maltreatment, may differ from risk indicators of other forms of maltreatment and thus have an implication on the public health and child welfare approaches for prevention and management of neglect. This study aimed to improve the understanding of differences and similarities in caregiver and household level risk indicators for children substantiated for neglect compared to those substantiated for other forms of maltreatment.

Data from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (2008) were analysed to compare substantiated neglect with other forms of substantiated maltreatment. Using a hierarchical logistic regression model, we found risk indicators that predicted neglect at the household and caregiver level were similar to those for exposure to domestic violence, and emotional abuse, but differed from those for physical and sexual abuse. The paper highlights these similarities and differences and discusses implications for policy and early intervention.

Cross-sector Partnership – U.S. - and the Asia Pacific - Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography

Ms. Bindu Sharma, Asia Pacific Policy Director, International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, Singapore

The presentation would highlight business’ responsibility to safeguard child rights. Child pornography has become a global crisis fueled by the Internet. According to estimates by UNICEF some 2 million children worldwide are victims of commercial sexual abuse. Technology has not created the abuse, but with the advent of the Internet, has added a new dimension to the crime, namely taking it online. Industry is not directly responsible for child rights abuse, but indirectly facilitates the abuse. The financial payments and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry has a role to play, as its e-platforms make possible the online payment for and dissemination of child abuse images.

The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children’s Financial Coalitions Against Child Pornography work to create awareness within industry of the abuse of its platforms and urge industry to take action to eliminate the illegal use of its platforms and hence better serve the needs of children.

The Coalitions faces down the challenge of creating awareness around an issue where legal frameworks are weak and all stakeholders (government, industry and civil society) hesitant to acknowledge the crime. The Coalitions comprises a diverse membership of industry, law enforcement and civil society organizations.

Management of sexual abuse cases in the Family Division of the Children’s Court Victoria

Dr. Rosemary Sheehan, Associate Professor, Monash University, Victoria

Child sexual abuse cases present courts with distinctive challenges. Considerable uncertainty surrounds recognising and defining the breadth of forms that child sexual abuse can take. Legal decision-makers may struggle to make findings of fact in these matters; they are called on to make judgements about parental behaviour and the quality of parent-child relationships - or child and other relationships- as well as to make a determination about an observed act of harm to a child. The Children’s Court of Victoria established for 12 months in 2013 a pilot specialist list offering an intensive case management approach to child sexual abuse cases in the Family Division of the Court. The operation of the list has been evaluated with the support of the Legal Services Board of Victoria to assess the suitability and effectiveness of this approach, to investigate the challenges associated with managing and deciding this class of cases and responding to such complex child protection matters. The interim findings suggest the establishment of a dedicated case list allows greater time for joint discussion of matters with all parties and their representatives; better management of the case in terms of number of hearings and reducing delay (and including a continuity of representation); agreement on issues for the Court to consider and what assessments would be needed to assist this. It provides also unique information about the class of cases and nature of applications put to the Court and the challenges associated with managing and deciding this class of cases.

Framing the best interests of the child: an assessment of the status of and challenges facing the child welfare jurisdiction in Victoria

Dr. Rosemary Sheehan, Associate Professor, Monash University, Victoria

The Children’s Court is a key social institution whose legal decision making has major social consequences for children and families This presentation reports on the findings of a study of the views of Victoria’s Children’s Court magistrates and other stakeholders on the contemporary status of and challenges to the court and their degree of support for a range of possible reforms. This study was part of a larger “national assessment” of Australia’s Children’s Courts. The focus of this presentation is on the Court’s child welfare jurisdiction which hears child protection matters brought before the Court by the statutory child protection service. The findings point to support for change in the approach to, and management of, child protection matters, within a more problem-solving court. Findings also point to the need for research on the understanding of court processes and decisions by parents and families; they point also to the need for training to increase knowledge and understanding of child protection concerns, child development and family functioning amongst magistrates and legal professionals. Further key concerns identified were the need to address the jurisdictional overlaps in child welfare matters in Victoria, and for a greater investment in both secondary and tertiary prevention programs and services for the clientele of the Children’s Court.

Innovative Intensive Therapeutic Family Support to work with a family on the road to recovery.

Ms Jo Smart, Team Leader Child and Family Services, OzChild, Victoria

The Intensive Therapeutic Family Support Program is an innovative family support program that provides short term intensive therapeutic support to families and their children. The service operates in Victoria and forms part of the Integrated Family Support services in the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula catchments and entry to this service is through the local ChildFIRST. The program has been operating for almost 7 years and is well regarded in the local community and Child Protection for creating change in families and improving children’s well being in situations where there are significant concerns about child and family well being. Most families referred to the service have a multitude of risk factors, including mental health, AOD, family violence and parenting issues. The program provides a combination of in-home intensive therapeutic services and case management to assist in the strengthening of the parent/child relationship and works with parents to address often entrenched issues within the family that are impacting on their parental capacity and their chid/rens health and development across many domains. A case example will be used to highlight the programs innovative practices, which include the use of a multidisciplinary team of staff, the development of family, links to social and professional networks, and a trauma and attachment informed approach which supports the parents to understand the impact their own trauma background has on their parenting style as well as the impact of trans-generational trauma on their children’s development and wellbeing.

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words: understanding the theoretical frameworks that underpin the therapeutic values in using art-making process in trauma therapy for children and families

Mrs Jane Song, Team Leader of Sexual Abuse Counselling & Prevention Program, Children’s Protection Society, Victoria

Aim/ Learning objectives:

  • The participants of this workshop will learn more in depth about theoretical frameworks for understanding differences in “art as therapy” and using art in therapy and therapeutic benefits when applying art therapy to working with children and families who are impacted by trauma.
  • The participants will learn and practice articulating the rationales for and benefits of employing art therapy as the main modality of therapy when working with children and conveying them to the other professionals and/or to the parents.
  • The participants will be given an opportunity to participate in an experiential during the workshop to experience focusing on the process of artmaking and then being able to articulate one’s experience and its application to various work settings.

The Sexual Abuse Counselling and Prevention Program at the Children’s Protection Society provides therapeutic support to children and families whose lives have been impacted by trauma of sexual abuse and family violence. The impacts of trauma on children manifest in various ways depending on the children’s age and gender, as their developmental journeys have been disrupted by trauma in many ways. The counsellors in our program endeavour to approach them in client-centred, empathic, and child-friendly ways that are also developmentally appropriate. Art therapy is one of the main therapeutic modalities that are readily employed by the counsellors. Our approach is informed by research that highlights the benefits of creative arts therapy for accessing and processing trauma especially for children.

In this workshop, I will highlight the benefits of using art therapy when engaging children and their families in counselling to address the impacts of trauma of sexual abuse, family violence and problematic sexual behaviour of children. Moreover, I will respond to some of the common questions and feedback by other professionals regarding using art therapy with children and families.

This workshop will incorporate both presentation and experiential learning for the participants to deepen their understandings about theoretical frameworks of art therapy and the therapeutic values in the art-making process, and also to experience and practice articulating those theoretical frameworks and therapeutic values.

Learning from Child Death and Serious Case Review

Ms Pam Swinfield, Assistant Director Child Deaths and Critical Reports unit, Community Services, New South Wales

Community Services (NSW statutory child protection agency) reviews its involvement with the families of children and young people who have died and were known to the agency. Case reviews are also undertaken in cases where children have not died but serious issues have been identified.

This paper will examine what we have learned about learning from review. In particular how we have used an action learning methodology to undertake cohort reviews, and share review findings with frontline staff. We will explore how the findings from key cohort reviews undertaken by Community Services have been used to influence practice improvement. We will also examine the process of review itself, what we have learned and how we have used this learning to further improve our processes in undertaking reviews and developing recommendations. The paper argues that reviews can be more effectively used where there is an organisational culture that supports and promotes learning and recognises the parallels in learning and change.


Mr Mark Tanti, Senior Training Consultant, Department of Human Services, Victoria

The workshop will demonstrate the use of eLearning to educate and support staff, in implementing organisational policies. Organisations working with children develop policies in relation to protecting children and also mitigating risk. Policies are dispersed via a variety of means. Educating and assessing people’s ability to implement policy in work based scenarios can be resource intensive and expensive. eLearning enables the child protection program greater flexibility in delivering training that can be accessed from a desk top computer. Carefully designed eLearning modules (that are interactive and do not over load the working memory) enable workers to learn about policy in a manner that facilitates applying knowledge to work based scenarios. The presenter will demonstrate this with an eLearning module regarding assessing caregivers for kith and kin placements. The module will teach workers about best practice in relation to conducting criminal history checks.

Contact between children in care and their birth parents: what is the evidence?

Dr Stephanie Taplin, Associate Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, Australian Capital Territory

Professor Morag McArthur, Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, Australian Capital Territory

Professor Cathy Humphreys, Alfred Felton Chair of Child and Family Welfare, University of Melbourne, Victoria

Contact between children in out-of-home care and their birth parents can be a contentious, distressing and costly issue, and can have impacts beyond the child protection system. Currently, however, there is a dearth of research evidence on the impacts of ongoing contact with birth parents for children in care, and little guidance to tell us for which children contact with their birth parents is beneficial, in which circumstances, and how to best support it. Children in care already experience poorer mental health and other outcomes than children who have never been in care so it is important to ensure we are not contributing to additional adverse outcomes; contact can be an opportunity to improve relationships, reduce placement disruption, reduce child distress arising from the separation from their parents, and may increase the number of families reunified.

A new three-year ARC Linkage study has been funded with investigators from ACU (Morag McArthur and Stephanie Taplin) and the University of Melbourne (Cathy Humphreys) and agency partners in both jurisdictions. The aim of this research is to develop and trial a new model of delivering contact between children in care and their birth parents which will reduce current and future distress related to contact, improve children’s relationships with their birth parents and increase successful reunifications in the long term.

The current evidence around contact will be outlined in this paper and a brief description of the planned study provided along with its future contribution to the research evidence on contact.

Maternal substance use and child protection responses

Dr Stephanie Taplin, Associate Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, Australian Capital Territory

Substance use is a recognised risk factor for child maltreatment and involvement in child protection systems. While much dependent substance use by parents has significant adverse impacts on children, there is a body of research which has found that it is not the substance use but other factors that are generally of greater importance in increasing this risk. In a large study of mothers on methadone programs in NSW, the factors found to increase the likelihood of child protection system involvement were (i) having greater numbers of children, (ii) being on a psychiatric medication, and (iii) having less than daily contact with their own parents. We also found high numbers of these mothers had their children removed at birth, and that these children tended to stay in care for long periods. Substance use was generally cited as the reason for removal. If there was ongoing contact between the mother and her children in care it was likely to be supervised contact. Some of these mothers, however, were still caring for children, gave birth to more children and had children return to them when they reached an age where they could make their own decisions about where they lived. It is important that substance use per se is not used as the reason for removal of children from their mother’s care without considering and working with the other factors that may impact on their ability to parent.

Sing & Grow in Chronic Crisis: Fostering Connections, Confidence and Safety

Ms Kate Teggelove, Clinical Services Manager, Sing & Grow, Victoria

Mrs Susan Ashley-Brown, Clinical Specialist, Sing & Grow, Victoria

Ms Toni Day, National Manager, Sing & Grow, Victoria

Sing & Grow is an evidence-based music therapy project providing services for young children and their families presenting with complex needs. Programs focus on strengthening family relationships, building capacity in parents to support their children’s development in the early years of life, and encouraging the use of music within communities. This paper explores the role of Sing & Grow when working with families who present in various phases of crises: times of heightened family vulnerability arising from circumstances or situations that exceed a parent and child’s available resources or coping mechanisms, in particular families under Child Protection Assessment (PASDS) OR experiencing homelessness or other poverty related conditions. Being in a state of crisis can see a parent’s feelings of competency and worth severely diminished. Sing & Grow engages families in active music making, offering opportunity for parental confidence to be restored by acknowledging and building on existing parental strengths. Playful music activities during times of crisis ensure some energy is still focused into positive interactions with the child, fostering connections between the parent-child dyad, thereby reducing the risk of chronic crisis impact on the child’s wellbeing and development. Through case studies and evaluation data of families participating in Sing & Grow services in various settings from Caravan Parks to Parenting and Assessment Centres across Australia, this paper highlights the capacity of Sing & Grow to strengthen connections and confidence in families and to enhance the safety and wellbeing of participating children.

Keeping the child central in the complex process of decision making for children in Out of Home Care- an example of practice from an agency in WA that works to return children home safely

Ms Jenny Terry, Clinical Manager, Wanslea, Western Australia

Reunification with their family is the most common goal and outcome for children in out of home care. This paper describes the principles and practices of a child-centred reunification program at Wanslea, in Western Australia. A key understanding informing reunification practice at Wanslea is that children occupy the most vulnerable position in the process. These children have often been traumatised and impacted by the circumstances that led them to be in need of care, and by the care journey itself. In this context, their needs, safety, participation and voice should receive significant consideration in reunification work. It is therefore incumbent on managers and practitioners in reunification to position children right at the centre of their service delivery both conceptually and operationally. This paper outlines the conceptual and operational principles, practices and supports that facilitate child-centred reunification practice, including the collaborative practice with the Western Australian statutory agency, the Department for Child Protection and Family Support. This paper will outline the circumstances in which children can get lost in a process where the development of adult-focussed goals are negotiated in a climate of high emotion. It addresses therefore the challenge for practitioners to hold the perspective of the children firmly in mind, with their safety the primary goal of intervention. The paper will provide an overview of the strategies and tools used by practitioners to keep the child visible and active in the practice and decision-making of reunification. The assessment and theoretical frameworks underlying these practices will be introduced.

A case of ‘mission drift’: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle

Professor Clare Tilbury, Life Without Barriers Carol Peltola Research Chair, Griffith University, Queensland

Angela Webb, SNAICC National Executive, Executive Officer of Aboriginal Child Family and Community Care State Secretariat (NSW) - AbSec

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle is aimed at ensuring government intervention into family life does not disconnect children from their family and culture. Since the 1980s, every Australian state and territory government has adopted the Child Placement Principle in legislation and policy. But the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the statutory child protection system has continued, and hundreds of children are placed with non-family and non-Indigenous carers every year. Across the country there appears to be a limited understanding and only partial application of the Child Placement Principle. The original goal of keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within their own families and communities has been supplanted by a misperception that the Principle is only about a placement hierarchy for out-of-home care. But it is much more than this. The Child Placement Principle recognises the ongoing, negative impact of removing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their parents and communities. It recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the knowledge and experience to make the best decisions concerning their children. It promotes a partnership between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in decision making about children’s welfare, to ensure that the connections are understood and maintained. This presentation sets out the five crucial elements of the Child Placement Principle: prevention; partnership; placement; participation; and connections. For each element, actions that could be taken to improve implementation of the Principle are proposed.

Best interests of the child? An assessment of the status of, and challenges facing, the child welfare jurisdiction of Australian Children’s Courts

Professor Clare Tilbury, Life Without Barriers Carol Peltola Research Chair, Griffith University, Queensland

Associate Professor Judy Cashmore, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, New South Wales

Ms Rosemary Fitzgerald, Director, Child Wellbeing, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, New South Wales

Professor Morag McArthur, Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, Australian Capital Territory

Professor Allan Borowski, Department of Social Work and Social Policy, La Trobe University, Victoria

The Children’s Court is a key social institution whose legal decision making has major consequences for children and families. The focus of this symposium is on the Court’s child welfare jurisdiction, which hears child protection matters brought before the Court by the statutory child protection agency. Presentations will address the current status of, and challenges facing, Children’s Courts throughout Australia in achieving the child’s best interests.

Data from four studies will be presented: from the Victorian, ACT and Queensland parts of a larger Australia-wide study of the Children’s Court, plus a complementary study underway in New South Wales. The studies draw upon multiple data sources, including interviews with judicial officers and other stakeholders.

Despite the complex crossover of legal and child welfare issues being determined, the courts remain adversarial forums that have little capacity to address the underlying problems and social disadvantage faced by the children and parents who are their clientele. The findings point to support for change in the approach to, and management of, child protection matters, within a more problem-solving, and less adversarial, court. Findings also point to the need for research on the understanding of court processes and decisions by parents and families; the need for training to increase knowledge and understanding of child protection concerns, child development and family functioning amongst magistrates and legal professionals.

Given the nature of decisions made by the court, their life-long implications, and the complex human emotions involved, it is vital that the process is more satisfactory for the children, young people and families involved, that they feel listened to and understood, and that the court is perceived to be fair and just. Potential reforms for Australian children’s court are discussed within the context of international developments.

‘Empathy’ – A long term solution to prevention of neglect and child abuse

Ms. Rubina Usman, Victoria

One of the foundations for policies of the Child Safety Act is that all children should be given the opportunity to reach their full potential and participate in society irrespective of their family circumstances and background. Trauma interferes with the development of children and, if it occurs in the early years of their lives, may affect their ability to trust themselves and others. Sometimes, these children become perpetrators themselves in their adult lives thereby continuing the cycle of abuse and neglect.

On a macro level, neglect and abuse are a symptom of larger scale problems that affect our societies for decades to come: poor socio-economic conditions of the families; low level of education; alcohol and drug abuse; and above all personal values that are inherited as a result of generations of these factors are only a few of these problems. Detachment becomes one of the many common survival mechanisms in such a society and if fully engrained, may cause adults to become completely detached from children and use them as means of expressing their own insecurities and unfulfilled needs.

Rubina Usman takes a unique look at empathy using research and her own personal experiences. With her, you will explore the relationship of empathy in creating a society where children are not only loved and protected but adults also have a higher awareness of their social and emotional well-being. Rubina further argues that if we use the education system to instil these social and emotional values in our children and teach them empathy, we can change this world - one child at a time!

Preventing Child Sexual abuse: Evidence Programmes Focussing on Work with Men and Boys

Ms Joan van Niekerk, Childline South Africa National Office

Ms Jenny Gray, President, ISPCAN, United Kingdom

The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect sent a set of questions to international experts and researchers in the field to identify evidence based programmes on preventing child sexual abuse through working with men and boys. The responses were collated and a document developed in order to initiate and stimulate further discussion on the subject at the second Denver Thinking Space, convened by ISPCAN in Denver 13th and 14th March 2013. ( – Denver Thinking Space 2013)

A number of programmes with a clear or promising evidence base were identified. A sample of these will be discussed at this workshop in relation to the prevention typology developed by Smallbones and others (2008) and participants in the workshop will be requested to share programmes and projects from their own practice base.

Beyond data mining: Using and developing evidence to inform practice, management and policy in child welfare services

Aron Shlonsky, MSW, MPH, PhD, Professor of Evidence Informed Practice, University of Melbourne Department of Social Work and Associate Professor University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Data mining has been proposed as one method for improving practice that utilizes information already collected to evaluate the effectiveness of social services. Taking this to the next level, a real-time outcomes focused approach can be integrated into existing information systems, or can be easily developed using next generation database tools, to provide information that is useful at all levels of the child welfare system (practice, management, policy). This presentation details an evidence-informed practice framework to describe how an outcomes-oriented approach, implemented well, can lead to the identification and implementation of effective services and policies. Specifically, it describes an initiative at University of Melbourne that will utilize information collected at the local, regional, and state levels to develop outcomes reporting systems that monitor individual client progress for practitioners as well as overall program performance for social care agencies, moving toward data-integrated implementation of effective programs and practices in child welfare. Case examples from Canada and Australia will be used to demonstrate the model.

From investigation to collaboration: Practitioner perspectives on the beginning phase of parental agreements in Queensland

Ms Jemma Venables, PhD Candidate, University of Queensland

Professor Karen Healy, University of Queensland

Ms Gai Harrison, University of Queensland

Internationally there is a growing trend to prioritise the implementation of differential response in child protection. In Queensland ‘Intervention with Parental Agreement’ (IPA) offers an alternative to court orders when a child is deemed to be in need of protection. This approach aims to mitigate the adversarial and intrusive nature of statutory intervention by working collaboratively with families to address child protection concerns. Unlike most other jurisdictions, Queensland’s use of parental agreements occurs after a full investigation has occurred, rather than constituting an alternative to investigation. As a result, parents are subject to adversarial processes focused on assessing and confirming parental deficit and risk prior to being asked to provide their agreement to work collaboratively with the statutory authority. This paper focuses on practitioner perspectives on the beginning phase of IPA work, where a parent’s role changes from being the subject of an investigation to a ‘voluntary’ partner in the change process. As practitioners are responsible for translating policy into practice, their perspectives provide valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist at this crucial beginning phase of work with families. Illuminating the strategies practitioners use to manage the transition from investigation to collaboration allows for a better understanding of how this shapes their engagement and work with families. This study’s findings highlight the critical importance of skilfully negotiating roles and relationships in the beginning phase of parental agreements in order to bring about change that enhances child and family wellbeing.

GROWING RESPECT - A Community Led Respectful Relationships Education Framework

Ms Angela Walsh, National Manager Growing Respect, NAPCAN, New South Wales

Ms Trudi Peters, Trainer and Program Development Growing Respect, NAPCAN, Queensland

NAPCAN would like to lead a workshop at the ACCAN conference to share our innovative community-led respectful relationships project, which is currently being implemented in 6 communities across NSW and NT GROWING RESPECT is a partnership between NAPCAN and schools, children and young people based on collaboration, mutual learning and respect. This project is currently being implemented in Bowraville, Casino, South Sydney, Tabulum, Wodenbong, NSW and Santa Teresa and Alice Springs NT. NAPCAN builds relationships with each community with a focus on strengths, values and knowledge; knowledge and experiences are shared openly and children and young people’s voices guide the development of the program.

The GROWING RESPECT program provides support to develop, research and evaluate high quality, strengths-based Respectful Relationships programs, as guided by children, young people and their communities. The program is guided by best practice standards for whole of school (4-18 years) programming with high quality professional development for teachers and community services. NAPCAN aims to strengthen partnerships and cross-sectorial collaborations between schools, GOV/NGO community services.

The GROWING RESPECT team is undertaking collaborative community-led research and impact evaluation. The purpose of the research and evaluation framework is to examine:

  • Respectful Relationships Curriculum/Programs: To understand children and young people’s attitudes to respectful relationships to inform locally-relevant, prevention education curriculum; and to comprehensively evaluate the impact of child and youth-led, respectful relationships education in creating attitude and behaviour change in children and young people.
  • Community-led Processes: To create knowledge about and promote investment in what works to strengthen respectful relationships and reduce gender-based violence, as defined by the communities; to evaluate the impact of community-led processes/programming on community networks, systems and assets ecological systems.

Outcomes for Children and Young People

  • Active participation in the development of respectful relationships education and awareness-raising campaigns for their communities;
  • Developing an ethical framework to identify and establish their own respectful relationships;
  • Developing critical thought to make informed choices and have their voices heard.

Outcomes for Communities

  • Enhanced meaningful, trusting partnerships within communities across schools, services, community members, children and young people;
  • Strengthened capacity to deliver whole of school and community approach to respectful relationships and violence prevention projects;
  • A strengthened culture of respectful relationships.

Workshop format

The GROWING Respect session will take participants through the process of how to engage teaching staff, non-teaching staff, children, young people and parents in cultural change around violence against women and child abuse and neglect and how to develop localised curriculum for schools.

Workshop Outcomes

  • The enabling of participants to consider enacting child led curriculum and programming in their schools and services.
  • It will demystify research and evaluation and will encourage participants to embed research and evaluation into programs / curriculum.
  • The session will motivate participants to run engaging respectful relationships curriculum in their communities.

Workshop Activities

  1. Sharing of processes for cultural change.
  2. Exploration of underlying assumptions and beliefs re respectful relationships programming and curriculum.
  3. Sharing of GROWING RESPECT research and evaluation findings to encourage the embedding of research and evaluation into practice and programming.

WITHDRAWN Keeping The Child In Mind

Ms Bernadette Walsh, Child Protection Educator, New South Wales

A collaborative practice improvement project between Child Protection and Paediatrics in South Western Sydney Local Health District.

Objective: highlight indicators of Abuse and Neglect for all medical and nursing staff caring for children and their families across 5 Hospital sites throughout SWSLHD. A systematic review shows evidence that supports the use of procedural changes that enhances professional awareness and documentation of Child Abuse and Neglect ( Carter et al,2006 Archives of Disease in Childhood)


  • Pre audit questionnaire to staff to assess current knowledge of Abuse and Neglect indicators
  • Distribute a card of primary key indicators of Abuse and Neglect to all staff participating in project and ask them to wear the card and refer to it when necessary i.e when they have concerns for a child with regards to Abuse and Neglect- for a trial period of 3 months
  • Posters, with same material as on card, to be placed in staff areas • In-service to staff to introduce the aim of the card
  • Post audit questionnaire to assess usefulness of card


  • Increasing awareness and identification of Abuse and Neglect in children
  • The card will become a permanent fixture along with staff ID and will be rolled out to all staff across the SSWLHD
  • The creation of an E Learning module to ensure sustainability of the project and its outcomes
  • To integrate the project outcomes in to current paediatric specific courses within SWSLHD

To conclude, this project commenced in February 2013 with a completion date of December 2013 with an evaluation report disseminated in early 2014. Our aim is to raise awareness of Abuse and Neglect amongst Health Staff.

Improving the quality of testimony from adult complainants of childhood sexual abuse

Dr Nina Westera, Research Fellow, Griffith University, Queensland

Professor Mark Kebbell, Griffith University, Queensland

Dr Becky Milne, Reader, Portsmouth University, United Kingdom

Many victims of child sexual abuse do not report the abuse to police until they are adults. In these cases corroborating evidence is rare and the complainaint’s testimony is central to determining trial outcomes. Despite the importance of this testimony, little attention has been paid to how to support these adults to provide the courts with the most complete and accurate evidence. One promising means of improving the quality of these accounts is to use the adult complainant’s video recorded police interview as the basis for his or her evidence-in-chief. The more relaxed environment of the police interview and the use of interview methods that encourage free narrative responses are likely to promote more complete and accurate recall and reporting. This presentation reports on the findings of a study that compared the content of the video recorded police interview of adult rape complainants with her live evidence-in-chief (N=10). The findings indicate that a majority of the details in the police interview that were central to establishing the alleged offending were never reported in live evidence. Suffering the proportionately the greatest loss were details about the complainants cognitions, which may be particularly important in explain why she behaved in a way that may on the surface appear counter-intuitive. Why these findings suggest that video-recorded evidence is a promising means of improving the quality of evidence given by adults in cases of historic childhood sexual abuse is discussed.

Ten steps to creating safe environments for children and youth: how organizations and communities can prevent, mitigate and respond to interpersonal violence

Dr. Sinha Wickremesekera, Head of Child Protection Program, Canadian Red Cross, Sri Lanka


The Red Cross will conduct an interactive, participatory workshop on the “Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments” resource to help organizations create protective systems to prevent violence against children.


Virtually every child interacts with or is dependent on the care or services provided by institutions. Whether the nature of the institution is education, health, spiritual, or recreation each has an essential role in addressing interpersonal violence. However, most institutions in many countries lack concrete, user-friendly or evidence-based systems to reduce risk of violence against children.


In Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Australia and Maldives the Red Cross is collaborating with schools and communities to help develop, implement and maintain protective systems through a resource called “Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments for Children and Youth.” The resource has emerged from a combination of research findings, testing and piloting and consultations and feedback with communities.

The Session Plan for the workshop is as follows:

  1. Understand the problem
  2. Recognize children’s vulnerability and resilience
  3. Define protection instruments
  4. Create a prevention team
  5. Complete a risk assessment
  6. Develop policies and procedures
  7. Educate adults, youth and children
  8. Respond to disclosures of violence
  9. Meet the challenges
  10. Maintain safe environments.

Sections 2, 4, 5, and 6 above will involve participants working in small groups. For the workshop to be maximally effective the number of participants should not exceed 30.

The “Ten Steps” resource is structured to provide concrete direction while providing communities and institutions like schools space to identify their own needs, gaps, strengths and to design interventions that are culturally appropriate and contextual. Key resources for “Ten Steps” are 20 hour training for senior leadership; a three hour workshop for managers; a manual for step-by-step guidance; and templates for agencies to adapt or create their own institutional resources.

Mental Health Needs of Young People in Statutory Residential Care: Prevalence of Mental Health Concerns and Workers’ Recognition

Ms Tahlia Winsor, Honours Student, Psychology, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Dr Sara McLean, Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

Children and young people living in statutory residential care are assumed to be amongst the most vulnerable young people in care. This presentation will outline the results of two research studies recently conducted at the Australian Centre for Child Protection exploring the mental health needs of children and young people in statutory residential care. In study one, a systematic review was conducted of the peer reviewed literature in which the prevalence of mental health and behavioural concerns amongst children living in statutory residential group care were reported. A systematic search of Medline, Embase, PsychINFO, CINAHL and SCOPUS databases was conducted. Results from this search of peer reviewed research indicated high levels of overall mental health concerns, in absolute terms and in comparison with children in foster care. In the second study, residential care workers’ recognition of mental health needs was explored in response to scenarios depicting typical mental health and behavioural concerns. Results of these two studies are discussed in terms of the needs of children and young people in statutory residential care and the implications for service delivery and workforce development. The opportunities and limitations of the residential environment for engaging with young people with mental health and behavioural concerns and for optimising young peoples’ development and life opportunities are discussed.

The efficacy of the ‘Community Protection Website’ at reducing sexual violence against children in Western Australia

Ms. Emma Wintle, Univeristy of New South Wales

The introduction of a ‘Community Protection Website’ (the Website) in October 2012 provides members of the public in Western Australia (WA) with access to certain information on convicted child sex offenders in their state. Its objective is to assist in the protection and safety of children. Through enhanced public awareness, vigilance and an increase in the chance of arrest.

The Website provides three tiers of public disclosure. First, ‘missing offenders’ that have failed to comply with reporting obligations have their photograph and personal details published on the website. Second, upon request from a WA resident, a list and photograph of reportable offenders in their locality is provided. Third, parents and guardians may inquire whether a specific person who has access to their child is a reportable offender.

The primary objective of this research is to determine the potential efficacy of the ‘Website’ in reducing sexual violence against children in Western Australia. Therefore, this paper will discuss three key areas. Namely, the Government rationale for introducing the Website, potential barriers to the Website meeting its stated objectives, and possible alternative measures to reduce the incidence of childhood sexual violence.

This paper will provide a critical discourse analysis that examines the production of the Website and the wider discourse in which it is embedded, including concurrent media representations. Furthermore, will discuss how existing theoretical and political constructions, such as the neo-liberal paradigm of risk, may impede the effectiveness of these new provisions.

An analysis of the association between criminal behaviour and experience of maltreatment as a child

Mr Joe Yick, Deputy Director, Reserach and Statistics, Department of Attorney General and Justice, Northern Territory


This study explores the association between maltreatment as a child in the Northern Territory and criminal offending as juveniles and adults. The results are broken down by Indigenous status and gender, as well as offence types.


The NT conviction records from 1990 to 2012 were assessed for individuals maltreated as children and those not known to be maltreated. The study population included all individuals born in the Northern Territory between 1980 and 2000. The maltreated group included 888 individuals who were the recipients of at least one child protection order from NT courts between 1980 and 2012.


Consistent with previous research, the maltreated group had a significantly higher (X2, p<.01) juvenile offending rate than those not known to be maltreated. The maltreated group also had a significantly higher (X2, p<.01) re-offending rate. However, maltreated children who reached adulthood without a juvenile conviction showed a significantly lower (X2, p<.01) adult conviction rate than those not known to be maltreated who also lacked juvenile convictions. An interesting finding was that Indigenous males maltreated as children showed a significantly lower (X2, p<.01) overall offending rate than Indigenous males not known to be maltreated.

Parenting To Prevent Childhood Sexual Abuse

Ms Whitney Yip, Founder of Safe & Happy Kids, Victoria

Using the model of punishment & rewards such as time-outs, and reward charts, are actually making our children more vulnerable to abuse. But what is the alternative for parents & other professionals working with children? We’ll go through a summary and workshop Dr. Thomas Gordon’s P.E.T. model of children’s behaviour, so that we can raise children to be assertive up-standers who understand their own rights for mental, and physical safety.

Intended outcome: Communication model for parents/professionals to use that allows respect and discipline of children. Considerate children, not compliant children. We’ll also explore how this can encourage families to approach body safety education.

Session Plan:

  • Introduction & rationale to P.E.T skills
  • Break off into groups to practice P.E.T skills:
    • Active Listening,
    • I-messages (Confrontative, Declarative & Positive),
    • Shifting Gears, Conflict Resolution (values vs. needs)
  • Debrief about issues, successes etc
  • How that relates to prevention of CSA, & encouraging body safety
  • Introduction to body safety games & activities (Healthy/Unhealthy relationships, Gender Wars, Mindfulness & others)
  • debrief about the games & activities
  • Conclusion

The Healthy Start Program: its Effectiveness in Enabling Parents as First Teachers

Mrs Bernadette Ymson, Program Director, Child and Family Service Philippines, Incorporated

This study was to determine the effectiveness of the Healthy Start Program, a child abuse prevention program in enabling parents as their children’s first teachers. Target population included the 76 families enrolled in the pilot sites. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to describe the basic features of the study and test the hypotheses.

Results show that the program is always effective in enabling parents in promoting optimal childhood health, growth, and development; in supporting the growth of nurturing and emphatic parent-child relationships, and in building strong families.

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