Towards a comprehensive model of child protection system change

Child protection systems
Friday 27 July, 0930 – 0950


Professor Ilan Katz
Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales

Child protection systems around the world are in a constant state of reform and development. In Australia every state and territory has had at least one comprehensive reform over the past five years, and many have been reformed several times. It is nevertheless questionable whether these reforms result in actual improvements in child safety or wellbeing. There is a large body of empirical and theoretical work on child protection systems, most of which is based on studies of systems in developed countries and focuses on the nature of the systems and their problems. There is very little theoretical understanding about the nature of system change and how this plays out in different systems.

This paper, based on our research in both developed and developing countries, proposes a new way of thinking about the nature of systems change in child protection contexts. Based on systems and complexity theories, it illustrates how different factors lead to different “orders” of change, and therefore why some types of system changes are more likely to lead to changes in outcomes. The paper will use case examples to illustrate how this model can be applied to systems of different types, in both developed and developing countries.