3 kids on a grassy hillIn partnership with the SA Government, the ACCP developed a ground-breaking new public health approach towards addressing child abuse, through the Early Intervention Research Directorate (EIRD), which recognised child abuse and neglect as a health pandemic. Two new innovative research approaches were devised and conducted by the ACCP as part of this SA Government led program of work.

The first study undertaken by the research team at ACCP Case File Review Public Health Approach to Understanding Target Population Needs© undertook world-first research into the accuracy of child abuse estimates, utilising a first principles approach to study the incidence of child protection concerns through case file reviews. These incidence studies which examined information contained in over 10,000 child protection reports, highlighted prevention and early intervention windows and target groups for intervention at population level. In particular it examined the characteristic of three priority cohorts identified as critical to preventing further escalation of harm to children and supporting intergenerational abuse prevention initiatives.

The team also examined whether the State’s investment in child abuse prevention aligned to the needs of children and families reported to the system, utilising an approach based on implementation science. The Target Group to Outcomes Process and Evidence Matching System (TGO©) developed new tools and processed to examine whether response and prevention programs and services in the field deliver the right services and program to the right children and families. This program identified priority reform areas for current investments and made recommendations for the re-commissioning of services that are better aligned to the needs of the population they are serving.

Together, these breakthrough studies identified the priority reform areas for creating a system that better meets the needs of the country’s most vulnerable children and families. They have assisted in driving and supporting change and reforms for the child protection sector, including the developing of a Taskforce, developed to respond to the findings of the EIRD. In addition, the SA Government has continued to invest in further postdoctoral research and PhD programs based on the EIRD findings.

By spearheading the application of contemporary evidence, research and a public health approach, the ACCP’s work under the Early Intervention Research Directorate has led to major reforms in the child protection sector and made significant progress towards better addressing the epidemic of child abuse and neglect. The influence of these findings on child protection policies and service systems has the potential to greatly improve the many lives of the children and families impacted.