The urgent need for early intervention

The child and family services system needs to be one of hope for children and families, where they get the support that recognises their strengths and allows them to thrive.

Unfortunately, for too many children and families in Victoria, their experience of child protection is one of trauma, despair and family separation.

WE MUST shift the child and family services system towards early intervention

BY investing in effective targeted early intervention services

WHICH WILL support families stay safely together and address challenges before they spiral out of control

AND recognise cultural connection as a protective factor for Aboriginal families.

The economic case

Berry Street, in collaboration with the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and leading agencies across the child and family services sector, commissioned an independent report by Social Ventures Australia. The report was generously funded by the Macquarie Group Foundation.

Why do we need to change the system?

  • In 2017-18, over 43,000 children were involved in the child protection and out-of-home care system in Victoria (3.1% of all Victorian children aged 0-17)

  • This costs the Victorian government $943 million. This is projected to grow to over $2 billion by 2026.

  • This includes nearly 11,000 children in out‑of‑home care, at a cost of $709 million per year.

  • The number of children in care has grown by an average of 11% every year, and by 24% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

  • At this rate of growth, almost 26,000 children will be in care by 2026.

The solution

Invest now and shift to early intervention

A comprehensive cost‑benefit analysis showed the savings that can be achieved, and the number of children who could be prevented from entering out‑of‑home care, by investing in evidence‑based early intervention programs at key points in Victoria’s child protection and out-of-home care system. It found:

  • 1,200 children would be prevented from entering out-of-home care, including residential care, every year.

  • Victoria would save $1.6 billion over 10 years.

  • We could also anticipate savings in downstream systems, including the justice, health and homelessness service systems.

  • Given the over‑representation of Aboriginal children in out‑of‑home care, there is a need for investment in effective early interventions that keep Aboriginal families safely together. Decisions on what early intervention looks like for Aboriginal families and children must be owned and directed by Aboriginal organisations and communities.

Read the report summary

Read the full report

About Social Ventures Australia

Social Ventures Australia (SVA) is a not-for-profit organisation that works with partners to alleviate disadvantage – towards an Australia where all people and communities thrive. SVA influences systems to deliver better social outcomes for people by learning what works in communities, helping organisations be more effective, sharing our perspectives and advocating for change.


Funded by the Macquarie Group Foundation

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Download the report