Child protection — what question are you asking?
Many children are falling through the gaps in the system that is supposed to protect them. Every country, state, and culture has its own systemic gaps when it comes to child protection.
I recently attended a talk on this subject that was delivered to professionals in the family violence and justice fields. As a community member of the Family Violence Protection Network in my region of Victoria, Australia, I am notified about these kinds of talks and trainings.
Here are the notes I made of what the speaker said. Bear in mind that these notes pertain to where I live, but the situation may be different where you live.
When it comes to child protection, each government authority asks a different set of questions.
What question is each authority asking?
Understanding the different questions each authority is asking, helps us understand what systemic problems there are in the way our societies protect or fail to protect children.
Child Protection asks “Are you a protective parent? Are the kids safe now. Does the situation reach our threshold for statutory intervention?”
The Childrens’ Court asks “Are you an adequate parent? What action may we take now or in the future to assist you to become an adequate parent?”
Police ask “Is there sufficient evidence for a conviction of a crime to be likely?”
The Criminal Court asks “Can it be proved beyond reasonable doubt?”
The Family Court asks “What patterns of time spent with each parent is in the child’s best interests?”
The speaker also observed that in Australia, State child protection law looks backward (have these kids been abused in the past?) while Federal law looks forward (how can we protect these kids in the future?).
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With some analytical imagination, you can pretty easily see how children can fall through the gaps between these different kinds of questions.