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Communities for Children place based research project increases knowledge of the social networks and service use of vulnerable parents with children under five whom formal services find ‘hard to reach’.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 reflects the nation’s growing investment in early intervention and prevention programs to prevent harm to children through child abuse and neglect. Despite this investment there is concern about the targeting of resources and the possibility that parents and children who could most benefit are not being reached. Studies have shown across the world that there are challenges in reaching parents most in need even where services appear to be in reasonably high supply.

The understanding of why some parents do not access services is mostly informed by studies which analyse the programs themselves especially the views of service providers and less often those who use services. There is a lack of research which directly engages with those who do not use services and so the label ‘hard to reach’ continues to be used as an umbrella term to describe the broad population of all who may be eligible for funded services but do not use them.

Working in the Grey aims to increase the safety and life chances of very young children in Canberra’s inner North by informing local service systems about the issues confronting parents who do not use formal services. In this Communities for Children project the Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS) contributes to a greater understanding of what isolated parents say about their lives and what they think about the services that are designed to assist them. The study demonstrates how small, place based research, directly undertaken with people who are the intended recipients of services, can assist service providers to rethink new ways of working together so that they can more effectively reach out to parents and link them with increased social support.

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