Protection system

Driving cultural change across Victoria’s child welfare system

Credit: Monash University

Partnering and working with mothers to improve family functioning could help reorient Victoria’s child welfare system and achieve better outcomes for children, a new study from Monash University has found.

Monash researchers interviewed 30 mothers impacted by domestic and family violence who had undergone child protection intervention, with the findings published today in the report Stronger together: Strengthening families to Improve Issues for Children. Researchers also spoke with 13 community legal center practitioners who have assisted surviving victim mothers to seek the return of their children to their care.

The research was carried out by the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Center in partnership with Women’s Legal Service Victoria and funded by a Knowledge Grant from the Victoria Law Foundation.

The findings reinforce calls by the Victorian government to transform the state’s child and family system and reorient child welfare services to focus on improving family functioning and supporting children to stay safe in their homes.

Research shows that putting policy into practice requires consistent practice that is trauma-informed about domestic and family violence, and a strengths-based approach to enabling children and families to thrive.

“Government’s ambitious pathways to support the policy provide a window of opportunity to reinvent the child protection system and generate lasting, evidence-based transformation of child protection service values ​​and practices” , said lead researcher Dr. Naomi Pfitzner.

“Better outcomes for children and strong parent-child relationships are more likely to be achieved through collaborative relationships with client families and by supporting parents/guardians to address concerns while families remain intact.

“Recovery from domestic and family violence is complex and time-consuming. Study findings underscore the need for improved child protection responses for mothers, children and families affected by domestic violence Key to this is a holistic, cross-sectoral approach that focuses on the support needs of children and parents/guardians to facilitate better outcomes for everyone.”

Co-researcher Professor Silke Meyer of Griffith University and Adjunct Professor Monash said the study identified opportunities to help deliver the government’s strategic priorities.

“The experiences of mothers in this study revealed the need to provide support to improve their parenting ability and address other issues impacting their mental health and well-being, such as domestic and family violence, difficulties finances and unstable housing,” Professor Meyer said.

“Assistance should include cross-sector collaboration to provide holistic support, timely referrals to recovery services and flexibility with reunification timelines when parents are actively working to address protection concerns and it is in the best interests of the child.”

The researchers said that when families involved in child protection are impacted by domestic and family violence, there should also be an emphasis on the visibility, commitment and accountability of perpetrators, children in the care custody of an abusive parent being likely to suffer negative impacts on their social, emotional life. and physical well-being.

“Child protection responses should hold perpetrators of domestic and family violence accountable as caregivers and abusers,” Dr. Pfitzner said.

“When a parent/guardian’s use of domestic and family violence raises concerns for the safety of children, partnering with victim-survivor parents/guardians to support safe and secure parenting practices is an investment in recovery. and the well-being of children.”

Other key recommendations from the study include the development of a shared strengths-based practice framework across the Victoria Child and Family System, as well as the integration of practices for trauma-informed children through annual workforce training and capacity building of child protection workers to work with parents/guardians who commit domestic and family violence.

Supporting children after trauma

More information:
Stronger Together: Strengthening Families to Improve Outcomes for Children.…kids_/19353284/1

Provided by Monash University

Quote: Driving cultural change across Victoria’s child protection system (April 6, 2022) retrieved April 10, 2022 from

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