‘Mental health shapes my life’: COVID-19 and kids’ wellbeing 2022

Mental Health, Young People, Children, COVID-19, Health and Wellbeing

In 2022, the Australian Human Rights Commission surveyed 4,559 children aged 9-17 and 2,796 parents and guardians across Australia to better understand the challenges that COVID-19 have posed to children’s wellbeing and mental health. Key findings are detailed in the report which also makes eight further recommendations.

ADM in child and family services: Mapping what is happening and what we know

Young People, Children, Community Services, Family Services

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society has released this report drawing on insights from a workshop series with international experts about automated decision making in child and family services. The report provides an overview of work happening in this space to provide a foundation for future research in this emerging field.

Adverse childhood experiences and trauma among young people in the youth justice system

Youth Justice, Young People, Children, Child maltreatment

This report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) examines the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among young people in the youth justice system based on a South Australian sample. The study had many prevalent findings and provided suggestions on supporting these young people.

Allegations of child sexual abuse: An empirical analysis of published judgements from the Family Court of Australia 2012-2019

Children, Data, Child Sexual Abuse, Journal article, Case Study

This article, published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues, analyses data from Family Court of Australia judgements containing allegations of child sexual abuse. The study found that judges expressed or implied a belief that the allegations were true in only 14 per cent of fully contested cases, and risk of sexual harm to a child was found in only 12 per cent of fully contested cases. The study also found that parenting time with the allegedly unsafe parent was increased in 63 per cent of fully contested cases.

Australian Early Development Census national report 2021: Early childhood development in Australia

Report, Children, Child Development, Report

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has released the latest report on the early childhood development of Australian children. The Australian Early Development Census 2021 found that the percentage of children who were on track on five domains decreased from 55.4 per cent in 2018 to 54.8 per cent in 2021 and the percentage of children developmentally vulnerable on one or more domain(s) increased from 21.7 per cent in 2018 to 22.0 per cent in 2021. The report discusses equity trends and the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has released the latest report on the early childhood development of Australian children. Using data from The Australian Early Development Census 2021 the report also discusses equity trends and the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Avoiding simple solutions to complex problems: Independent Assessments are not the way to a fairer NDIS

Safety and wellbeing, Young People, Children

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) has released this report seeking to understand the experiences of children and young people with disability and their families accessing the NDIS and their thoughts on proposed reforms relating to Independent Assessments. CYDA conducted a survey with 12 per cent of the 270 responses being from children and young people. The study found that less than half (45 per cent) of respondents were satisfied with the services and support received under the NDIS and overall, 80 per cent of respondents had a negative view of the proposed reforms.

Checking in with children and young people on the impacts of COVID-19: Lockdowns 5 & 6

Young People, Report, Children, COVID-19, Report

This snapshot report from the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) investigates children’s and young people’s experiences during Victoria’s fifth and sixth lockdowns in the second half of 2021. Themes include struggles with poor mental health, concerns about the future and educational impacts.

Child poverty and children entering care in England, 2015–20: A longitudinal ecological study at the local area level

Out of Home Care (OOHC), Poverty, Young People, Children, Care Leavers

This article, published by Lancet Public Health, reports the outcomes of a longitudinal study that used linked data to investigate the extent to which trends in child poverty relate to trends in out-of-home care entry in England. The study found many trends, which are detailed in the report.

Children’s participation in child protection—How do practitioners understand children’s participation in practice?

Young People, Client Engagement, Children, Child Protection

This article, published in Child & Family Social Work, explores how child protection practitioners in Australia understand children’s participation. The study found differing understandings among practitioners and suggested a number of systemic changes that are needed to support consistent and meaningful participation.

Children’s voices in a changing world: 2021 UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador report

Report, Children, COVID-19, Research, Data, Report

UNICEF Australia has released this report sharing the findings of the third phase of research into children and young people’s lived experience through the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. The report found that young people aged 13-17 years view climate change and unemployment and limited job prospects as the greatest threats to the future wellbeing and livelihood of children and young people in Australia. The report includes a platform for action that calls on government to respond to the concerns of young people.

Co-constructing Who Am I? Ensuring the voice of the child or young person is at the heart of ‘the record’

Early years, Out of Home Care (OOHC), Young People, Client Engagement, Evidence Informed Practice, Children, Report

This discussion paper talks about the value of developing a coherent, manageable and principled practice framework for co-constructing the child’s personal life story archive. It also includes considerations around trauma, record-keeping, confidentiality,and information technology. Systems and collaborations are essential to translate this into practice.

Consultations with young people to inform the eSafety Commissioner’s Engagement Strategy for Young People: A report on the findings

Education, Young People, Report, Children, Online Safety, Report

Western Sydney University has released this report outlining young people’s insights and recommendations about online safety to inform the eSafety Commissioner’s messaging, resources and ongoing engagement with children and young people. The report was developed using youth-centred, participatory co-research and codesign methods. Key concerns raised by young people in the research included privacy issues, security issues and managing online interactions with others.

Core care conditions for children and families: Implications for integrated child and family services

Families and parenting, Report, Children, Research, Report

This report from the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute reviews the evidence on the core needs of children and families, the conditions required for parents to meet these needs, and how well these needs are being met. The research then integrates these findings into a framework that can be used to inform service delivery.

Counting the cost to families: Assessing childcare affordability in Australia

Families and parenting, Report, Children, Data, Report

This report from the Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy at Victoria University reviews the available data on expenditure and affordability of childcare in Australia and analyses this to determine how much families are spending. The report finds that childcare is unaffordable for around 386,000 Australian families.

Data snapshot – Child witnesses of family violence: An examination of Victoria Police family violence data

Family Violence, Young People, Children

This report from the Crime Statistics Agency examines the prevalence and outcomes of witnessing family violence for children aged 0-17 in Victoria. It found that over a five-year-period in Victoria, 109,356 family violence incidents occurred with at least one child witness present. Of those child witnesses, over two-thirds were aged 9 years or younger. In 2018-19, over a third of incidents took place in the lowest ranking socio-economic areas in Victoria.

Developing holistic integrated early learning services for young children and families experiencing socio-economic vulnerability

Evidence-Based Program, Report, Children, Research, Family Services, Report

The Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has released this report investigating the role that integrated child and family centres play in meeting the needs of children and families and reviewing what has been learned about the key elements of effective services for families experiencing vulnerability. The research identifies the core features of integrated child and family centres and examines how each element can be implemented effectively.

Factors influencing therapy use following a disclosure of child sexual abuse

Children, Literature Review, Therapy, Child Sexual Abuse, Literature Review

This companion review to the above paper from Child Family Community Australia seeks to identify factors that may influence either engagement with therapy or the completion of therapy following a disclosure of child sexual abuse. The review found that parental attitudes about therapy affect engagement rates and parental involvement in therapy was a consistent factor in therapy completion. It also identified the need for more Australian research in this area.

How do leaders enable and support the implementation of evidence-based programs and evidence-informed practice in child welfare? A systematic literature review

Journal article, Evidence Informed Practice, Evidence-Based Program, Children, Research, Literature Review, Journal article, Literature Review

This article, published in Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, explores how leaders in child welfare organisations can best support the implementation of evidence-based approaches to deliver ‘what works’ to improve outcomes for children and families. A systematic review identified 12 articles and finds that leaders achieve this by providing vision, cultivating organisational culture, proactive planning and investment, developing capabilities, and maintaining relationships required to enable implementation.

Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration

Families and parenting, Children, Support Services, Imprisonment

The Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee have tabled this inquiry in the Victorian Parliament and are awaiting a response from Government. The final report considered parental incarceration, the impacts on children, methods of reducing harm caused to children, government response, increasing children and families’ voices and experiences in the situation, and supports in Victoria for children affected by parental incarceration.

It’s not our difference that is the disability: Impact of COVID-19 in Australia on children and young people with disability, and their families

Disability, Families and parenting, Young People, Report, Children, Literature Review, Report, Literature Review

ARACY has released this report outlining the results of a literature review on the impacts of COVID-19 on children with disability and their families in Australia, and findings from two policy roundtables. The review found that the pandemic exacerbated many of the problems already faced by families with disability, with children younger than school-age being the most negatively affected.

The School of Social Science at the University of Queensland released this report in December 2021. The report details an empirical study of Keeping Families Together, a supportive housing pilot project for families with a young child experiencing multiple vulnerabilities. The project assisted 20 families and the study found that all families exited homelessness in to housing with 95 per cent maintaining their housing for the duration of the 12-month pilot. The project also achieved reduced interactions with child safety and 31 per cent of families with children in out-of-home care had children returned. The study identified a range of success factors.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has released this report synthesising the views of children, young people and families who were consulted to inform the first five-year action plans of Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031. Participants identified housing, mental health and help with basic needs as the most important supports to help children, young people and families to be safe. The report contains 55 recommended actions.

The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) has released its audit report on the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) kinship care model. The audit examined whether DFFH is supporting timely, stable and quality kinship placements through the model. Results and 12 recommendations that were found are detailed in the report.

Learning through COVID-19: Maximising educational outcomes for Australia’s children and young people experiencing disadvantage – Pillar 3 report

Education, Young People, Evidence-Based Program, Children, COVID-19, Report

This report from the University of Queensland builds on two previous reports in a series exploring the impact of COVID-19 on learning to present evidence-based options for action to address disadvantage. Evidence-based interventions and programs were identified across core actions within four priority Action Areas: student mental health, wellbeing and hope; future role of teachers, schools and communities; digital equity; and protections for the most vulnerable students. The researchers assessed 65 programs for implementation readiness in the Australian context. The findings reveal key evidence gaps and the report urges government to take action in 16 areas.

Lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20: Final report

Safety and wellbeing, Children, Bushfire Season, Report

The Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee has released its final report investigating lessons relating to the preparation and planning for, response to and recovery efforts following the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season. It contains a number of findings in relation to children and recommends the implementation of nationally consistent Child Friendly Spaces in evacuation, relief and recovery centres. The report makes 16 recommendations.

Locked out: Vaccination discrimination for children and young people with disability

Disability, Young People, Report, Children, COVID-19, Case Study, Vaccination, Report, Case Study

This report from the Public Service Research Group at the University of New South Wales and Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) used survey data to investigate the COVID-19 vaccination experiences of children and young people with disability. The study found that 62 per cent of respondents were parents or carers who experienced difficulties and barriers in vaccinating their child or children with disability. The report concludes that support to make sure that children with disability can access an appropriate vaccination experience is crucial to prevent high levels of severe disease.

Measuring what matters: Drawing on a participatory wellbeing framework and existing data to assess child wellbeing outcomes over time

Poverty, Young People, Children, low income, Health and Wellbeing

This article from the Centre for Social Research and Methods illustrates the effect of applying a wellbeing participatory framework – focused on key areas that children indicate as having value to themselves – to an existing dataset on child wellbeing. Results showed some areas of concern for children and young people in Australia and details how policies should be changed as a result.

Mind the gap: Parental awareness of children’s exposure to risks online

Report, Children, Online Safety, Parenting, Report

This report from the eSafety Commissioner investigates children’s online lives and explores what parents do and don’t know about their experiences. The report outlines a range of negative online content and behaviours encountered by children, including a high proportion of young people aged 14-17 being exposed to sexual content. Almost half of children surveyed were treated ‘in a hurtful or nasty way’ online in the past year while a quarter of children surveyed had engaged in this negative behaviour themselves. Encouragingly, it found that almost all children did something in response to negative online behaviour such as telling their parents.

More than ‘just convenient care’: What the research tells us about equitable access to outside school hours care

Children, School, Report, Literature Review

Griffith University has released this report exploring the benefits, image and workforce of outside school hours care (OSHC) and the partnership between OSHC and schools. The literature review identified that OSHC has a low status in Australian society despite its important role in supporting the development and wellbeing of children. The report makes 13 recommendations.

New ways for our families: Designing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practice framework and system responses to address the impacts of domestic and family violence on children and young people

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Family Violence, Young People, Children, Child Protection, Domestic Violence, Report

This report from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) is the first of two reports that will explore how services and systems can better respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people experiencing domestic and family violence (DFV) who come to the attention of child protection systems. The evidence review found that the voices of Aboriginal children are largely silent in the literature despite the extensive impacts of DFV on their lives and that this concerning outcome is driven by a service system focused on adults.

Design

OPEN Rapid Case Study-Tarrengower Prison Family Video Visits Pilot Program-VACRO

Families and parenting, Safety and wellbeing, Client Engagement, Children, OPEN Resource, Case Study

This rapid case study talks about a Family Video Visit Program by VACRO which facilitated a virtual connection between children and their incarcerated mothers. The program relieved children from the stress of visiting a prison and helped maintain the parent-child bond. This supported mothers in their reintegration journey after leaving the prison.

Out of sight: Systemic inquiry into children and young people who are absent or missing from residential care

Out of Home Care (OOHC), Young People, Report, Children, Report

The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) has released this systemic inquiry report into children and young people who are absent or missing from residential care in Victoria. The report investigates prevalence, patterns and characteristics of young people, the factors that contribute to their absence, and the harms experienced while absent from care. The report found that deficiencies in the current model of residential care are key factors driving absence from care, with young people feeling unsafe and/or seeking needed connection elsewhere. The report makes 18 recommendations.

Parenting programs that support children’s mental health through family separation: A common elements analysis

Families and parenting, Mental Health, Children, Program Analysis, Report

This paper from Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) identifies the common elements of evidence-based parenting programs that support children’s (aged 0–12 years) mental health through parental separation to inform the decisions practitioners make in their practice. The analysis identified 15 common elements. Four elements were related to content provided to parents by programs and included the topics of emotional management in separation, parenting in separation, co-parenting in separation, and the impact of separation on children. The remaining 11 were techniques used in programs and included psychoeducation, group participation, skills practice, personalising content, problem solving, assigning and reviewing homework, encouraging, normalising difficulties, video content, attending to group process, and providing materials.

Permanence and stability: The missing ingredients for Victoria’s most vulnerable children

Report, Children, Carers, Permanent care, Legislation, Report

Permanent Care and Adoptive Families (PCAF) has released this report reviewing the current state of permanent care in Victoria. The study finds that permanency legislation has not gained the traction that was expected, with a key barrier being limited support for children and carers. The report makes eight recommendations to address key challenges and barriers to permanency and improved long-term outcomes for children.

Policies are needed to increase the reach and impact of evidence‑based parenting supports: A call for a population‑based approach to supporting parents, children, and families

Families and parenting, Journal article, Evidence-Based Program, Children, Adolescents, Carers, Journal article

While not a research study, this article authored by members of the Parenting and Families Research Alliance and published by Child Psychiatry & Human Development, provides a useful overview of the evidence for effective parenting interventions. The authors found that for parents and carers, the benefits of evidence-based parenting supports include improved wellbeing and mental health, positive relationships with their child, and enhanced skills, knowledge and confidence. For children and adolescents, the benefits of these programs include improved wellbeing and mental health, skills and competencies, and better academic attainment. The authors call for wider availability of evidence-based supports at a population level.

Potential indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children: A narrative review using a community child health lens

Journal article, Children, COVID-19, Research, Journal article

This narrative review by researchers from the Centre for Community Child Health and the University of Melbourne synthesises the existing research from previous pandemics and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic about their indirect impacts on children. The research identified 11 impact areas under three broad categories: child-level factors (poorer mental health, poorer child health and development, poorer academic achievement); family-level factors that affect children (poorer parent mental health, reduced family income and job losses, increased household stress, increased abuse and neglect, poorer maternal and newborn health); and service-level factors that affect children (school closures, reduced access to health care, increased use of technology for learning, connection and health care).

Racism, racial discrimination and child and youth health: A rapid evidence synthesis

Young People, Report, Children, Data, Racism, Report, Database

Australian National University and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have prepared this rapid evidence synthesis on racism and child and youth health. The report finds that children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of racism, including differential access to socioeconomic resources, increased exposure to risk factors for poor health, and by affecting behaviour and physiological and psychological wellbeing in ways that compromise health outcomes.

Identify

Rates of therapy use following a disclosure of child sexual abuse

Children, Literature Review, Therapy, Child Sexual Abuse, Literature Review

Child Family Community Australia has released this paper presenting findings from a systematic literature review on the rates of therapy referral, engagement and completion following a disclosure of child sexual abuse to police or child protection. The review found that many children are not receiving the benefits of therapy due to non-referral, not engaging when they are referred or non-completion. It also identified the need for data collection and increased research attention in this area.

RECOVER – Reconnecting mothers and children after family violence: The child-parent psychotherapy pilot

Families and parenting, Evidence-Based Program, Report, Children, Intimate partner violence, Report

This report from ANROWS explores the feasibility of implementing child-parent psychotherapy (CPP), an evidence-based dyadic intervention, in the Australian context for children and their mothers affected by IPV. The state of knowledge review completed for this report identified very few evidence-based preventive treatments for mothers and children affected by IPV, especially in Australia. An evaluation of a pilot of CPP in Australia found that the program could be implemented under certain conditions and was highly acceptable to participants despite a range of identified implementation barriers. While there was evidence of some early outcomes, larger sample sizes and fully trained therapists are needed to assess effectiveness.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released this web report providing baseline data from a new national data collection on the safety and abuse of children in care. The report found that 1,442 children were the subject of a substantiation of abuse in care, of whom 46 per cent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The AIHW will undertake ongoing monitoring and reporting of this issue, with improvements and expansion of data collection taking place over time.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released this paper examining how the wellbeing of children from disadvantaged backgrounds compares to their peers from more advantaged backgrounds, and relative to OECD countries. The study uses key comparative indicators to highlight how children from low SES backgrounds face poorer outcomes across many of the aspects of wellbeing. Outcomes are detailed in the report.

Strong carers, stronger children – Victorian Carer Strategy: Findings of the home-based carer census

Report, Children, Research, Data, Carers, Policy, Report

Ernst & Young Sweeney has released this report outlining the findings of a census of home-based carers that aimed to increase understanding of the profile of carers in Victoria and their experiences and needs. The study shows that more than nine in ten carers are confident in their ability to provide care and over four-fifths are confident to support children to maintain cultural connection. The insights gained from this research can assist with improvements to policy and practice to better support carers and children.

Supporting all children to thrive: The importance of equity in early childhood education

Education, Report, Children, Report

The Front Project has released this report analysing Australian Early Development Census data to examine the locations and circumstances of children assessed as developmentally vulnerable in 2021. The study found that access to developmental support in the form of high-quality early education and care is inequitable for children based on where they live and their cultural background. The report proposes a range of policy interventions to address this issue.

Supporting all children to thrive: The importance of equity in early childhood education

Education, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), Children, Child Development

The Front Project has released this report analysing Australian Early Development Census data to examine the locations and circumstances of children assessed as developmentally vulnerable in 2021. The study details many results as well as proposes a range of policy interventions to address issues found.

Identify, Design

Supporting the journey: issues in co-creating a sensitive narrative of the child’s identity and experience ‘in care’

Out of Home Care (OOHC), Young People, Client Engagement, Evidence Informed Practice, Children, Report

This 'Who Am I?' workshop report talks about the importance of capturing the perspectives of children and young people who are actively involved in the constructing their record while ‘in care’, and the process of collaboration between them and professionals. The idea was to understand the principles underpinning record-keeping and archival programs; and unpack the factors which enable or create barriers to effective practice for front line workers, managers and organisations providing out of home care.

Supporting women and children experiencing family and domestic violence: The Zonta House impact report

Family Violence, Report, Children, Research, Women, Report

Zonta House is an organisation offering holistic services across nine service arms, based in Perth. The Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia has released this report analysing the impact of Zonta House programs and services for women and children experiencing family violence. The report found that these services contributed to breaking the cycle of family violence for the majority of women, while also supporting improvements in wellbeing more broadly.