Australia is seeing an unprecedented increase in the rate of child protection notifications and children being taken into care. The burden of such high levels of notifications and removals impact not only the children and families but also the system which is trying to resource them. The concern is that these increases are unsustainable and overloaded child protection systems can be dangerous for the vulnerable families and children they are trying to protect and support.
This paper hopes to raise some alternative thinking as to the overall approaches to child abuse and neglect with a greater focus on prevention. Is it time to consider a public health approach, using population-based measures of child abuse and neglect to accurately describe the epidemiology of population risk and protective factors? Should we investigate the potential of universal health, welfare and education services as platforms for prevention? And should we investigate whether the provision of secondary prevention for vulnerable families which address major contributing factors, such as parental substance dependence and mental health issues are effective in reducing abuse of children in these families?