One of the key reforms in child protection in Australia recently has been the adoption of overarching child protection frameworks to ensure that practitioners have suitable training and competencies and that models of practice and tools are clearly defined and based on evidence.
So far, these reforms have not produced the expected results, with an increase in the rate of children on substantiated notifications, care and protection orders and in out-of-home care. It is for this reason, the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) commissioned academics at the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia to examine current frameworks in Australia.
The intention was:
…to develop a benchmarking tool identifying the key components of child protection practice frameworks and a procedure for assessing the extent to which the approach within each component reflects good practice based on best available evidence. (1)
The report provides a concerning picture of the state of child protection frameworks as a whole. The researchers analysed 12 frameworks, including some from South Australia, and identified four significant gaps and limitations:
- Inconsistency and lack of child focus so that outcomes tended to emphasise parental and practitioner satisfaction, or decreasing expenditure.
- Lack of guidance as to what practitioner skills, knowledge or experience might produce better child protection practice.
- Little guidance on the models, techniques and tools needed for each aspect of child protection practice.
- Lack of an evidence base for the frameworks being used or, in some cases, evidence that indicated that the frameworks used were actually producing negative or contrary outcomes.
The review indicates that further work is clearly needed, including a bench marking tool and quality assurance procedure to assist with framework selection and development.
(1) Assessing the Quality and Comprehensiveness of Child Protection Practice Frameworks is now available on the Guardian’s website.