Research from the perspective of community workers and those working alongside child protection authorities.

Hamilton, Sharynne & Braithwaite, Valerie (2014) Complex Lives, Complex Needs, Complex Service Systems: Community Worker Perspectives on the Needs of Families Involved with ACT Care and Protection Services. Regulatory institutions Network (RegNet) Occasional Paper 21. Canberra: Australian National University.

Abstract

This paper is the follow-up to a 2011 pilot study, The needs of parents and family members with children in the care of child protection services in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT): A pilot study. A quantitative analysis examines the service needs of parents and family members with child protection interventions who are presenting to services in the Australian Capital Territory. A qualitative analysis of interviews with community workers within these services provides a unique insight into the difficulties for parents, family members, and workers. Disproportionately high numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and families where disabilities were represented in the data. Additionally, families with one parent, those who are socially marginalised, reliant on Centrelink benefits and living in public housing featured disproportionately. Community workers consistently reported arbitrary and inconsistent decision-making by child protection: they believed processes were unfair on families, there was an absence of accountability to the community for decisions made, and outcomes for families were poor. In addition, community workers also felt stigmatised when attempting to provide advocacy and support for parents. Developing meaningful relationships between all parties is required in order to avoid excessive economic and social costs in the future.

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Hamilton, Sharynne (2011) The needs of parents and family members with children in the care of child protection services in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT): A pilot study. Canberra: Regulatory Institutions Network.

Abstract

There are no dedicated services to assist parents and family members to navigate the child protection system in the Australian Capital Territory. The best available service that is provided to parents and family members is given most often by community workers within agencies which parents are accessing for other concerns, for example homelessness, or substance misuse. This pilot study examines the capacity of organisations to assist parents and families, in addition to meeting their own service delivery obligations. The findings are first that the needs of these families is complex and diverse. Second, community workers struggle to meet the needs of these families, and struggle particularly with the knowledge and skills required to traverse the legal system. The pilot study signals the need for further work and recommends the ACT government consider a specific advocacy and support service to assist parents with child protection interventions.

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Ivec, M, Braithwaite, V & Reinhart, M (2011) A National Survey on Perceptions of How Child Protection Authorities Work 2010: The Perspective of Third Parties - Preliminary Findings. Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet) Occasional Paper 16. Canberra: Australian National University.

Abstract

This report is based on a survey of 427 people from all Australian states and territories who logged on to an ANU web survey and answered 217 questions about the way in which child protection systems across Australia are operating. The focus of the survey was on government child protection agencies – how well is government doing in overseeing the child protection system and how well does government work with third parties (including other government agencies such as police) to ensure that children are being cared for. The results reflect systematic criticism with the way in which child protection agencies are connecting to others who occupy professional roles, to families and to carers. Yet there is no evidence that those responding to the survey did not share the same belief that child protection agencies had very important work to do. They simply believed that child protection agencies needed a different way of doing things and needed to work more with other agencies and groups who could offer assistance.

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