Why early intervention is critical
A system in crisis
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?
The child protection system in Victoria is not working and is causing harm. For too many children and families, their experience of child protection is one of trauma, despair and family separation.
The system needs to be one of hope, where children and families get support that recognises their strengths and allows them to thrive.
The number of children in care has doubled in the last 5 years — and it’s on track to double again in the next 5 years. That is a shocking potential scenario, and we have to change it.
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.
This is why 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.
Investment needed now
Berry Street, along with partners across the sector, is calling on the Victorian Government to reform the child protection system and invest in targeted early intervention now.
Shifting the system towards early intervention will allow families to:
- stay safely together
- address challenges before they spiral out of control.
- family violence
- 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.
What the research says
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.
And COVID-19 is only making things worse.
COVID-19 impacts on vulnerable families
Children and families who are already experiencing challenges are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
If we don’t act now, and we see continued severe impacts from COVID-19, it’s projected that an additional 4,500 children and young people will be in out-of-home care by 2026. This is on top of the 23,000 children and young people already predicted to be in care based on current growth rates.
That’s 27,500 children and young people separated from their families.
This is a crisis.