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Why early intervention services and supports are critical

A group of five children outside playing soccer

A system in crisis – why early intervention for children and families is important.

Did you know the number of Victorian children and families involved with child protection each year is the highest in Australia and growing much faster than the national average?

Despite increased investment and attention, the child protection system in Victoria is in crisis. The number of children in care has doubled in the last five years — and it’s on track to double again in the next five years. That is a shocking potential scenario, and we have to change it.

Michael Perusco Berry Street CEO

More children are being removed from their homes due to violence, abuse and neglect than ever before. The Child Protection system is stretched to its limits, struggling to meet the demand and support children and families.

Current cost of living increases, housing instability and mental health issues are impacting many Australians, and they are disproportionately impacting vulnerable families who have less resources to deal with these challenges. We are seeing more children removed from home as parents and caregivers are unable to cope.

We need to provide support for families when problems first appear through a broad range of settings, including the maternal child health system, kindergartens, schools and the public health system for women who are pregnant. This will keep families together safely and will reduce demand on the over-burdened Child Protection system.

The system needs to be one of hope, where children and families get support that recognises their strengths and allows them to thrive.

We have to do this better. And there a range of ways we can reimagine the service system, but at the moment, the key one for us is ensuring that the system points towards early intervention.

Michael Perusco Berry Street CEO

One of Berry Street's key goals is to reorientate the child and family system towards early intervention and prevention, as well as family violence services and the education system.

Benefits of early intervention:

  • Preventing crisis: Early intervention services provide specialised support for children and families, preventing crises by addressing issues before they escalate.
  • Family stability: These services support children and enable families to stay together, avoiding traumatic separations.
  • Addressing challenges: Early intervention supports children and families facing various challenges, including family violence, unemployment, poor education, financial stress, family conflicts, mental health issues, and basic needs.
  • Cultural inclusivity: Effective early intervention includes cultural reforms, ensuring that support for children and families from diverse backgrounds is tailored and inclusive.
  • Research-backed: Research emphasises that early intervention is specialised support with clear social and economic benefits, underlining the need for investment.

Investment in early intervention support is needed now

Berry Street is calling for:

  • greater investment in family services, so we can strengthen families when issues first appear
  • family support services to be more accessible, through maternal child-health, kindergartens and schools, so families and young people know where they can go to get help
  • increased access to evidence-based programs that support children to live safely in their families’ care.

Shifting the system towards early intervention will allow families to:

  • stay safely together
  • address challenges before they spiral out of control.

Challenges include:

  • family violence
  • unemployment
  • poor educational attainment
  • financial and housing stress
  • family conflict and separation
  • poorer mental health
  • inability to meet basic needs.

We also need to see significant cultural reforms. Given the over‑representation of Aboriginal children in out‑of‑home care, there is an urgent need for investment in effective early interventions that keep Aboriginal families safely together.

Research on early intervention

The social and economic case for targeted early intervention is clear. Research by Social Ventures Australia, commissioned by Berry Street and the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, shows why investment now is critical.

Read the research

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Join us on our journey to reimagine the system and courageously change lives. You can:

Together we can reimagine the future.

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