Applying community capacity-building approaches to child welfare practice and policy

Children Australia

Can insights from the field of community capacity-building improve child welfare practice and policy in Australia? This paper explores this question by outlining the concept of community capacity, and uses real-life examples to illustrate the ways in which service providers might apply community capacity-building approaches in their work with children and families.

Key findings:

  • It is increasingly recognised that the welfare of children and families cannot be separated from the health of the community in which they live.
  • However, much child welfare practice focuses on individual children and families, with limited resources or capacity devoted to influencing the structural, community-level factors that impact on children's welfare.
  • Community capacity-building is an approach that attempts to increase a given community's capacity to solve collective problems. It aims for "grassroots", "bottom-up", and sustainable solutions to problems.
  • The National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020 and the Communities for Children initiative incorporate some of the principles of community capacity-building approaches.
  • There are many examples of individual service providers who have strengthened community capacity through their work with children and families. This paper provides examples of such practices, in the hope of inspiring innovative approaches to child and family welfare practice and policy in Australia.
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