Capacity building

Sisyphus and the system: Criminal justice reform in the Australian Capital Territory

Author/s (editor/s):

Holder, Robyn

Publication year:

2009

Publication type:

Journal article

Cite the publication as

Holder, Robyn, 2009, ‘Sisyphus and the system: Criminal justice reform in the Australian Capital Territory’, Currents: New Scholarship in the Human Services, 8, 1, 16pp

No 18 - From the perspective of parents: Interviews following a child protection investigation

Author/s (editor/s):

Harris, Nathan
Gosnell, Linda

Publication year:

2012

Publication type:

Working paper

This report is based on interviews with 156 parents who had been investigated by a statutory child protection agency following notifications that concerned 219 children. The aim was to understand how parents perceived the investigation, how they felt about what had happened, and how they had responded to it. This study took place as one component of an Australian Research Council funded Linkage Project titled Community Capacity Building in Child Protection through Responsive Regulation. The report provides an initial overview of parents’ perceptions across a range of areas including perceptions of what child protection workers did and how they went about it, what parents thought about the report that instigated the investigation, the response of parents’ social networks, feelings about being a parent, and expectations of the future.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Although participants came from a range of social-economic backgrounds, the interviews suggest that relative poverty is an important factor for a significant proportion of families. Thirty-three percent of participants had incomes below the relative poverty line and for single parents this percentage (46%)was even higher (Table 2).
  • In only a small proportion of cases did parents recall being informed that the concerns about their child or children had been substantiated (13%). In comparison, 46 percent said that they were told the allegations were not substantiated (Table 17). But when asked if there had been times when the situation was not ideal for their children most parents in the study (70%) agreed that this was true to at least some degree (Table 18).
  • Most parents reported that negative situations for their children were contributed to by other circumstances, such as financial difficulties, health problems, stress or other mental health issues, relationship problems or domestic violence, alcohol or drug problems, and housing difficulties. Almost 60% said that at least one of these factors contributed ‘very much’ and many more said that they had contributed to a lesser degree (Table 20).
  • Almost 20 percent (or one in five) cases were instigated by concerns about the behaviour of the child or young person, typically teenagers, rather than an allegation of abuse (Table 4).
  • Investigations invoked considerable fear in the majority of parents. Fifty percent of parents said that they were very fearful of what child protection might do, while only 22 percent weren’t fearful at all. Nearly as many parents said they felt intimidated by the process and that they felt powerless (Table 13).
  • A majority of parents felt positive about the child protection workers, with most parents saying that the child protection worker was professional (74% in the top 2 response categories) and 68 percent saying that the worker had treated their children appropriately. A significant proportion of parents said that they personally liked their worker (56% in the top 2 response categories) (Table 10).
  • Most, but clearly not all, parents felt that they had been treated fairly: child protection workers explained things clearly to them, that they had a chance to explain things from their perspective, that child protection wasn’t biased, and that the child protection worker was respectful towards them (Table 8).
  • Even though most parents felt respected as a parent by child protection workers, a significant number felt that they would not be able to put the allegations behind them, even though child protection had made sure their children were safe. Forty-six percent felt quite strongly they would be judged forever because of the report (Table 9).
  • The majority of parents were sceptical about the benefits of investigation. Fifty-four percent did not feel that it had helped their children at all and 51 percent didn’t think it had helped them (Table 24).
  • The vast majority of parents said that ultimately they would do whatever the child protection agency asked them to do, with only four percent of parents saying that they would not comply at all (Table 24).

Download/View publication

AttachmentSize
PDF icon ROP18.pdf1.51 MB

'Resetting the relationship' in indigenous child protection: Public hope and private reality

Author/s (editor/s):

Ivec, Mary
Braithwaite, Valerie
Harris, Nathan

Publication year:

2012

Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9930.2011.00354.x/abstract

A qualitative study explored the private realities of forty-five Australian Indigenous parents and carers who had experiences with child protection authorities. Interviews focused on the nature of the relationship between parents and authorities, how these regulatory encounters served to enlist or dissolve cooperation, and how child-focused outcomes could be delivered. The descriptions of encounters with authorities challenged the public hope for reconciliation between government and Indigenous Australians through reports of procedural injustice, failure by the authority to communicate and demonstrate soundness of purpose, and through lack of interest in identity affirmation and relationship building. In spite of these perceptions of integrity failings in how child protection authorities have operated, a positive role was acknowledged for authorities' future involvement, albeit with different strategies from those currently experienced. How this progression might be facilitated by principles of restorative justice and responsive regulation is discussed.

No 22 - Parents and Family Members Matter: A Charter of Rights and Responsibilities for Parents and Family Members with Children in the Care of Child Protection Services in Australia

Author/s (editor/s):

Hamilton, Sharynne
Braithwaite, Valerie

Publication year:

2014

Publication type:

Working paper

We spend a lot of time as a local, national and global community considering the wellbeing of children and what is in ‘the best interest of the child’ when they are at risk of abuse and neglect.  We spend much less time considering the rights and responsibilities of parents and other family members who have children in the care of child protection services.  Many Australian families face a range of complex problems: poverty, homelessness, mental health problems, substance misuse, domestic and family violence or disability; sometimes in isolation, more often in combination (see Hamilton and Braithwaite, 2014).  Many suffer social exclusion and low levels of social capital and come under the watchful eye of Australian child protection authorities as high risk segments of the population (Hamilton and Braithwaite, 2014).Children belonging to high risk groups are far more likely to be the subject of a statutory child protection intervention (Mullender, 2001; Kantor and Little, 2003; Huntsman, 2008; Stanley, Cleaver and Hart, 2010; Sterne et al, 2010; Mason, 2010; Collings and Llewellyn, 2012).

In our own research in the ACT, data collected by community workers of clients with a child protection intervention confirm that parents and family members have lives that are full of stress: economic, social, personal, and interpersonal. Our interviews with community workers also revealed the unhelpfulness of child protection interventions that traumatise families and use threatening tactics, particularly around removing a child or children from the family home. In the worst of these situations, reported across Australia, parents are exposed to unfair, non-­‐transparent and unsupported processes where they are given inadequate or virtually no information (Harries, 2008; Ivec, Braithwaite and Harris, 2009; Family Inclusion Network, 2007; Mason, 2010; Hinton, 2013).  They are not treated respectfully nor are they empowered; they are marginalised and stigmatised; and they quickly come to hold little to no trust in the child protection system (Hamilton and Braithwaite, 2014).

An understanding of the rights and responsibilities of parents and families is needed to mitigate these negative effects on them and ultimately, their children being ‘protected’.  Rights ensure that all parents are treated with kindness and respect, communicated with transparently, and heard and included in decision making about their children.  Some parents will lose their right to parent. But such parents, their children, their families and the community workers who support them need to know why, and have confidence that the reasons given are legitimate and honest, and the process transparent and fair. Developing a charter of rights and responsibilities, such as that below which sets out basic principles for operating within a culture of respect, could assist to guide the way for establishing more productive relationships between child protection workers, parents and family members and their support networks. Potentially this could lead to decision-­‐making forums in which family problems which deem children at risk can be resolved before removal and child protection orders are administered, and create more genuinely collaborative care arrangements for those children who are in care into the future.  Children deserve to have all these parties working to ensure that they have a better future. Committing to this charter is the first step in that direction.  

Cite the publication as

Hamilton, S. & Braithwaite, V. (2014) Parents and Family Members Matter: a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities for Parents and Family Members with Children in the Care of Child Protection Services in Australia (August 2014), Regulatory Institutions Network Occasional Paper 22, Australian National University.

Download/View publication

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet