September 17, 2018

Emerging Minds response to ABC report: “Australia facing an ‘epidemic of child abuse and neglect’, according to experts”, 16 Sept 2018

Infancy and childhood sets an essential foundation for lifelong mental health and wellbeing.

Adversities such as poverty, drug and alcohol misuse, physical and mental illness, and trauma are highly prevalent in our community and can have immediate impacts on children, but also lifelong consequences for their growth, development, physical and mental health as they journey into adolescence and adulthood.

Professor Fiona Arney’s work with the South Australia Department of Child Protection (reported by the ABC on 16 Sept 2018 provides a valuable and detailed picture of what impacts on children’s safety and wellbeing, including how many children, parents and families are struggling with issues that have immediate consequences for child safety and wellbeing. Professor Arney’s work also issues a warning to governments and experts interstate that the crisis is being replicated in all Australian jurisdictions.

Whilst it is important to acknowledge the work happening in Australia to address these issues, including the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009 – 2020 and the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse, Brad Morgan, Director of Emerging Minds, says that there are several key strategies that policy makers, professionals, and community members can take to make a positive difference for children and families.

“Children’s social and emotional wellbeing is everyone’s business. We would like to see a ‘children in all policies’ lens applied to ensure that decision making at all levels of government considers the impacts for children’s wellbeing, safety and development.

“Professionals working with children, parents and families need to be supported by their organisations and funders to join up the service responses that they provide to families. Most organisations specialise in responding to the immediate presenting adversity, but often lack the resources, tools and confidence to support the whole family and the impacts of adversity on children.

“This also includes professionals working within adult services where an understanding of parental stress and how this can impact on parenting offers an opportunity to support the parent-child relationship and engage in early intervention at the stage when problems first present.

“A strong focus of Emerging Minds’ work is to assist and equip organisations and professionals in the health, social and community sectors with the resources to join together to wrap around children and families experiencing adversity early; rather than waiting for children to come to the attention of child protection services and/or specialist mental health services.

“These data tell us is that we need to act now to reduce the emotional, developmental and educational impacts that abuse and neglect have on children’s daily lives. Early intervention and prevention are key along with substantial investments in the development of services that can address the impacts of developmental trauma.”

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