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Children put at risk by overburdened system

By Ray Cleary - posted Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Child Protection services in Victoria and throughout Australia are under duress as they are in many parts of the world. As families continue to buckle under the pressures of modern living, children are increasingly suffering from abuse and neglect.

This spreading disease must stop.

We cannot continue plugging holes in the Child Protection system with sandbags but rather must invest earlier to ensure all children receive the care and nurture they require from the day they are born. Quite obviously, not all children receive this on a daily basis.


This is not someone else’s responsibility but ours.

The recent Ombudsman’s report in Victoria acknowledged the state’s policy framework as leading the way in responding to the needs of children.

However, the report also identified systemic failures which let down vulnerable children and their families.

The Ombudsman also identified failure in the court system with the implication that some children are placed at further risk as a result of their decisions.

Anglicare Victoria’s data from across the state shows that more than half of all families who come in contact with our Family Service programs need help with general parenting issues while just over a third report problems managing the behaviour of their children.

These cases have the potential to become more serious as families come under increasing stress but if acted upon early with community support and guidance, parents can improve their skills and children can remain safe and secure.


Roughly one quarter of Family Services cases are complicated due to issues such as mental health or family violence. These families need specialist support from professional Family Services staff to identify and tackle the root causes of their issues. With the right help over a longer period, these families can learn to manage or overcome their issues and nurture their children.

Only a relatively small number of cases seriously threaten the immediate wellbeing of children. In these cases, government Child Protection workers need the time, skills and support to help these children quickly and effectively.

But the current system is failing them. The Ombudsman’s report highlights bottlenecks, inconsistent risk assessment and a time intensive children’s court system draining time and impeding the effectiveness of the Child Protection system.

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About the Author

Dr Ray Cleary is the Chief Executive Officer at Anglicare Victoria, the state’s largest provider of support services for children and families.

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