Our research projects aim to find better ways to build cooperative relationships, and improve capacity to care.

We have investigated how different groups engage with and evaluate the child protection systems in Australia. We have examined the views of parents and carers, of child protection agency staff, of community workers and professionals, and the many working alongside child protection agencies, including 'supporting' institutions accused of child sexual abuse. 

A fundamental piece of work that has guided our research was undertaken for us by academic and lawyer from the University of Haifa, Dr Tali Gal, on the rights and needs of children.

Our major funding was provided through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant (2006-2011) to study prospects of capacity building through responsive regulation.

Click on the links below to read more:

Parents and carers

Mary Ivec, 2008
Interviews with 45 Indigenous parents and carers in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, which focused on perceptions of fairness in processes, quality of decision making and practice in child protection cases.
 
Nathan Harris and Linda Gosnell, 2009-2010
Interviews with 126 parents having first contact with child protection in the Australian Capital Territory. The interviews including questions about the experiences of the parents, how they felt about the intervention, and whether they and their children benefited.
 
Ibolya Losoncz, 2010-2012
Interviews with 41 South Sudanese community members, leaders and supporters in relation to migration experiences in Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. The interviews explored whether cultural traditions meshed with child protection agency expectations around child care and development.

Child protection agency staff

Morag McArthur and others, 2009
Web survey of 859 child protection staff working in a statutory child protection context. Research questions included: 

  • Do child protection staff have values that are punitive toward families or are they more concerned about helping families care for their children?
  • How strong is the social work ethic among child protection staff?
  • How satisfied are child protection staff in their work and are they supported by their senior managers?

Working alongside child protection agencies

Mary Ivec and Valerie Braithwaite, 2010
Web-based survey of 427 third party staff. The survey was completed by community workers, health professionals, police officers,teachers, lawyers and social workers among others. The survey covered perceptions of whether child protection agencies were performing at a high enough level to meet  national standards, what these third parties thought were impediments to good performance, how trustworthy they found child protection agencies and how open they were to cooperating  with them.
 
Sharynne Hamilton and Valerie Braithwaite, 2012-2013
Data collection on child protection services and clients involving 12 non-government service providers. Five of these organisations assisted with providing client intake data involving 126 cases, and nine of these organisations participated in semi-structured interviews regarding their working relationship with the child protection authority for the Australian Capital Territory.

Meredith Edelman, 2014-2016
The purpose of this PhD project, The Justice Gap: Responses to the Catholic Abuse Scandal, is to understand how Catholic organisations and states have responded to the child sexual abuse scandal, and which responses have proven most useful in bridging the gap between the sense of injustice identified by so many observers and survivor advocates and the efforts to do justice taken by civil society and the Church itself. 

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Funding for research

An ARC linkage grant was awarded in 2006 to researchers from the ANU, the Australian Catholic University, and the University of South Australia (Nathan Harris, Valerie Braithwaite, Morag McArthur, and Dorothy Scott), and the ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services. The objective was to demonstrate how safety for children could be improved and how care capacity in a child’s local community could be more effectively harnessed through a responsive regulatory approach.

A responsive regulatory approach means that every effort is made to support, educate and engender responsibility in families to provide care, and to respond to need in a family through ever widening circles of involvement of community and authorities. The priority is to use a variety of mechanisms to strengthen community resources to support parenting before separating children from their families.