Cross-agency responses to the investigation of severe child abuse: A national comparison

Child protection systems
Friday 27 July, 1030 – 1050


Dr James Herbert
Australian Centre for Child Protection, University of South Australia

This presentation will cover the findings of a national review of the characteristics of cross-agency responses (including police, child protection, health, and supportive and therapeutic services) to severe child abuse. The review sets out to better understand policies in place to support the different agencies involved in responses to work together effectively to achieve their intended outcomes for children and families.
The review examined the presence of factors associated with effective cross-agency responses identified from a review of the literature. This was done using a two-stage process: drawing on available documents to draft a summary of each Australian jurisdiction’s response and obtaining feedback on the accuracy of the summaries from police and child protection agencies in each jurisdiction.

The findings highlighted that:

  • Every jurisdiction has some level of joint investigations by specialist child abuse police and child protection workers;
  • A few jurisdictions have examples of co-located fully integrated cross-agency teams, with police, child protection and built-in support services alongside the investigation, and co-located therapeutic services;
  • Some of the more populous jurisdictions have state-wide plans to foster effective cross-agency practice, while the smaller states rely on centralised responses based out of the capital cities; and
  • Jurisdictions have a variety of approaches to developing effective cross-agency responses.

There is a need for ongoing research and evaluation of these rapidly changing arrangements considering the complex and interconnected outcomes associated with protecting children from future harm, the prosecution of offenders, and the amelioration of harm to children post-disclosure.