3 September 2021
Keeping Children Safe is Everybody’s Responsibility
By Marilyn Kraner and Cassandra Barrett
5 – 11 September marks National Child Protection Week.
Child protection can be a hard topic to talk about. We all want to believe that we live in a world where children are safe. Where the innocence of childhood is sacred and complete, and children and young people are free to focus on the important business of exploring the world and becoming themselves.
However, we know that this is not the case for far too many children: around the world; across Australia; and in our community.
Locally, the number of children receiving child protective services continues to rise. In 2019-20, 174,700 Australian children received child protection services - an increase of almost 4% on the previous year.
This equates to 1 in 32 children – almost one child in every classroom.
Children come into contact with the child protection system for a range of reasons – most commonly emotional abuse, followed by neglect, physical harm, and sexual abuse – and each child’s experience is unique.
But what is common for every child who is engaged with child protection is that someone in their community noticed that something was happening, and took action.
Children can never be responsible for their own wellbeing. They rely on the adults in their world to keep them safe – and that extends beyond parents and primary caregivers. Extended family; friends; teachers and educators; doctors and nurses; faith leaders; community organisations; volunteers – we all have a role to play in ensuring that children are free from harm, and have access to the conditions that they need in order to thrive.
To thrive, children need safe homes and safe communities. It is from this stable base that children are able to grow, play, learn and connect. When home isn’t safe, children bear the cost – in physical and emotional trauma; in their development and learning; in their relationships; and in their trust in the world around them.
Too often children are ‘hidden’ victims, largely absent from discourses around family violence and homelessness. Keeping children safe has been particularly challenging during COVID given the inevitable impacts of lockdowns - where children are absent not only from school and childcare, but from other community spaces as well, from shuls to libraries to community health settings. The loss of these touchpoints means we lose our ability to keep children in view, when they need to be seen now more than ever.
As a ChildFIRST provider working with vulnerable families, at Jewish Care we see first-hand the vital role that supportive communities place in keeping children safe, and connecting families to the support they need. It can be particularly challenging to speak up in small and close-knit communities like ours – but we must.
Every child deserves to be safe. It’s everybody’s responsibility.
If you have concerns for a child, please speak up.
To make a report regarding a child in need of protection, contact Child Protection (South Division) on 1300 655 795. If you are worried about a child’s wellbeing but do not believe they are in need of protection, you can make a referral to ChildFIRST or the Orange Door – contact the Orange Door (Bayside Peninsula) on 1800 319 353.
If you’re concerned about a child or family but unsure of the next steps, contact the Jewish Care Front Door on 8517 5999 and ask to speak to a social worker – we can assist you through the process.
To read Jewish Care’s position statement on safeguarding children, visit https://www.jewishcare.org.au/page/about/position-statements