Inquiries into Australian child protection systems over the last two decades have consistently highlighted issues of inadequate workforce capacity and poor quality of practice and decision making (see: McDougall et al., 2016). One of the key reforms used by systems to address these issues includes the implementation of an overarching practice framework. However, despite reforms, there has been a concerning increase in the rate of children with substantiation decisions, on care and protection orders and in out-of-home care. Furthermore, more recent inquiries suggest that despite the implementation of practice frameworks, concerns about practice issues have, at best, continued unabated (Child Protection Systems Royal Commission, 2016).
In addition, research conducted worldwide has identified several limitations of the practice models and frameworks that have been designed to increase practitioner competence. With little academic literature to guide the development of practice frameworks, or to help policymakers, practitioners and oversight bodies in identifying whether specific approaches are fit for purpose and consistent with the best evidence, the problem of inadequate workforce capacity and poor quality of practice and decision making seems destined to continue.
Responding to these concerns, and commissioned by the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians Group, the Assessing the Quality and Comprehensiveness of Child Protection Practice Frameworks project and report was conducted by the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) in consulation with an Expert Panel. The report provides an analysis and evaluation of a range of child protection practice frameworks in terms of the way they respond to the values and principles and approach to working with children and families applicable to the continuum of child protection practice. The project objective was the development of a benchmarking tool identifying the the quality and comprehensiveness of child protection practice frameworks.