This week marks National Child Protection Week (NCPW), which has been running since 1990, starting on Father’s Day each year in September.
The week raises awareness of child abuse, to keep children and young people safe from harm, and to prevent them from entering the statutory child protection system.
At Northern Health, the Social Work Department, in partnership with the Strengthening Hospital’s Response to Family Violence (SHRFV) teams, raise awareness on the harmful effects of child abuse and advocate for the prevention of child maltreatment.
This year, the theme is ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go. To treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to make sure every family and community has what kids need to thrive and be healthy’ – calling on the community to play a part in improving child wellbeing and to keep children safe in Australia.
Sneza Filiposki, Project Support Officer, SHRFV and Senior Social Worker, said child abuse and neglect are under reported and undetected in our community as they occur within family homes and people still believe that it’s a private matter. Children also face the additional barrier in making disclosures due to fear they may not be believed. We know it’s prevalent in our society with current data showing that one in 32 children have received child protection services in 2019-2020 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). One child almost per fortnight is killed by a parent or step parent (Brown T et al, 2019).
“Families can experience a number of stressors such as poverty, housing crisis, mental health decline and family violence, all of which can significantly impact a family’s ability to cope,” Sneza said.
“We know children thrive when their parents have the support they need, so helping parents access services such as counselling, quality childcare and financial support can make the difference. If you become aware of child abuse, be the voice for that child or young person. You can help them and their families access the support they need.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on our community, Sneza said it was more important than ever to protect our children and offer support to families.
“The psychological and social impacts of COVID-19 on families is significant. With ongoing lockdowns and restrictions, more and more families are experiencing social isolation and financial pressures,” she said.
“Being cooped up within a stressful family environment turns homes into a pressure cooker and can lead to child abuse and family violence”.
The Social Work Department have noticed that the complexity of child protection cases have increased since the beginning of the pandemic. They ask that, during this time, staff are extra vigilant in recognising when a child may be at risk of harm, and refer to Social Work.
To mark the week, the Social Work Department and SHRFV team have organised various activities throughout Northern Health. The SHRFV team will be offering training for staff on Working in a Paediatric Setting on Tuesday, 7 September and Thursday, 9 September on MS Teams. Staff will need to register their interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Social Work Department has arranged posters to be display throughout Northern Health sites, to promote awareness. There are public display boards in main foyers, fact sheets are developed for staff and activity packs are compiled for patients on the Children’s Ward and in the Paediatric Outpatient Clinics.
Featured image: Northern Health Social Workers