Territory Stories

Current issues in child protection policy and practice : Informing the NT Department of Health and Community Services child protection review



Current issues in child protection policy and practice : Informing the NT Department of Health and Community Services child protection review

Other title

Adam M. Tomison.


Tomison, Adam M; National Child Protection Clearing House (Australia)


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).


Date:2004-02; Cover title. Written for the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services.

Table of contents

Child protection and family support services -- Developments in child protection practice -- Responding to child abuse and neglect in Indigenous and rural-remote communities -- Evidence-based practice in child protection – How do we better inform practice -- Conclusion: child protection and family support in the 21st Century.




Child abuse -- Australia -- Prevention

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National Child Protection Clearing House

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v, 89 ; 30 cm.

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Check within Publication or with content Publisher.

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CURRENT ISSUES IN CHILD PROTECTION POLICY AND PRACTICE 50 Northern Territory Depar tment of Health and Community Services organisation of such information. One approach to this issue, is to support practice experience (and the concomitant provision of supervision), with a guide to inform practice. Such guides are not meant to be used to make the decisions, but to highlight issues for consideration and to provide a framework for conceptualising and justifying a decision. The United Kingdom experience Although researchers in the United Kingdom have investigated various means of improving the prediction or assessment of the likelihood of future maltreatment (e.g. Greenland 1987; Browne & Saqi 1988), Britain has generally been more hesitant than either the United States or Australia in adopting structured risk assessment instruments. In 1988 the U.K. DoH introduced guidelines of extraordinary detail (Howe 1992:501), known as the Orange Book, which was over 90 pages long and comprised of 167 questions. The Orange Book was developed to enhance the quality of assessments made by social workers and to assist in the identification and prediction of risk of future harm to a child (Howe 1992). However, the emphasis was on ensuring a thorough assessment was completed, rather than risk assessment per se. In 1998 the NSPCC published Assessing Risk in Child Protection (Cleaver et al. 1998), a report of a research and development project commissioned by the DoH. The project was designed to feed results of research into risk assessment into social work practice, making it accessible to social workers, trainers and students (Cleaver et al. 1998). The resultant package includes a brief review of salient aspects of the research literature, a discussion of the findings which resulted from a study of workers perceptions of assessing risk (based on a series of interviews with workers), and an outline of the subsequent development and refinement of two decision aids. These were: a chart to assist with the recording of essential information at referral; and a data book to summarise some basic findings to assist with the identification of the full range of services required by the child(ren) and family. They were designed to: meet the needs of less experienced workers, and to cover basic requirements, since both the research literature and the present fieldwork indicated considerable difficulties for less experienced staff in dealing with child protection and other child welfare inquiries (Cleaver et al. 1998:31). Another aid, a manual which could give specialist knowledge on topics such as parental mental illness, substance abuse, disabilities and domestic violence and their relationship to child maltreatment and child protection, was met with considerable enthusiasm, but was beyond the remit of the project (Cleaver et al. 1998). The assumption underlying the research and the resultant package was that evidence-based practice, not the use of structured risk assessment measures, should form the basis of effective child protection and child welfare practice. Specifically, that structured rusk assessment tools are no substitute for rigorous observation and assessment of the child and family, and the subsequent development of an action plan which can deal effectively with the child maltreatment concerns and other family issues which may increase the likelihood of maltreatment in the future. Such an approach would appear to provide some of the uniformity and rigour of structured risk assessment measures, providing a useful guide to some of the salient factors (risk and protective) which may affect an assessment of risk, in conjunction with an overall clinical approach. Such a collaborative path has been supported by Webster & Cox (1997), in a discussion of the use of risk assessment when making decisions as to the mental state or dangerousness of particular individuals. They argue for a system where clinicians engage in practice supported by statistical evidence (e.g. risk assessment tools), where possible, but that statistical approaches are not seen as almighty without reference to clinicians reality (the overgeneralization of research findings without due heed to case particulars is inappropriate and misleading [Stricker & Trierweiler 1995:997]). Nomothetic material and ideographic material must be approximately balanced and alternated so as to avoid undue reliance on one kind or the other (Webster & Cox 1997: 1246). Victorian Risk Framework This reflects the view that structured assessment materials should be used as guides to practice, however they should not be limited to case-related factors only (see Cleaver et al. 1998). For example, a generic (across maltreatment types), matrix approach to risk assessment was introduced into Victorian statutory child protection services in 1997 in order to guide risk assessment (McPherson et al. 1997).

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