Supporting families with complex problems key to child protection

Associate Professor Leah BromfieldDeputy Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Child Protection, Associate Professor Leah Bromfield, says the one of the main problems seen by child protection services is the co-occurrence of domestic violence, drug and alcohol misuse and mental illness.

“Our research shows that it’s no coincidence that these problems co-occur; they are related. We need to be designing our service systems to better suit the reality of life for individuals with these problems,” A/Prof Bromfield says.

A/Prof Bromfield’s comments come on the release of a research paper examining issues for children’s safety and wellbeing in families with multiple and complex needs.

The paper, written by A/Prof Bromfield with the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Alister Lamont, Robyn Parker and Briony Horsfall, aims to better inform child protection practitioners about how adult problems impact parenting and put children at risk.

“While our child protection practitioners know a lot about adult problems as risks to children, they don’t always know enough about how these problems manifest in individuals and the effects they can have on parenting skills.”

“The other implication of our research is the need to work with adult services – such as drug and alcohol, domestic violence or mental health – to better equip practitioners in these services to identify their adult clients as parents and link them to appropriate services that will support their parenting and the children in their care.”

The Australian Centre for Child Protection is currently undertaking a national workforce development project to address exactly this issue.

Funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Building Bridges, Building Capacity initiative is being rolled out in 12 Communities for Children service sites around Australia.

The project aims to enhance the skills of practitioners in adult services to identify parents and their needs, and to strengthen collaboration between children services and adult services to support families.
Download the full report: Issues for the safety and wellbeing of children in families with multiple and complex problems