Wednesday 7 December 2016
Child Protection and the broader service system need to improve their response to child victims of family violence and focus on their needs, according to a report from the Commission for Children and Young People tabled in Parliament today.
The Commission’s report, Neither seen nor heard, details systemic failures in child death cases where children had experienced family violence. The inquiry found that services commonly overlooked risks and underestimated the impact of family violence on children. Child victims were not engaged and given the support they needed to address their trauma.
‘This report reminds us that children have too often been the invisible victims of family violence,’ Principal Commissioner Liana Buchanan said. ‘The children in all of the cases we reviewed were seriously affected by violence, but were not effectively engaged or given adequate support.’
The report’s findings echo those of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which found children were often considered an extension of their caregiver rather than victims in their own right. The inquiry also found that Child Protection too often held adult victims of violence responsible for protecting children, without connecting them to support services.
‘It is vital that the family violence reforms underway in Victoria improve responses to children,’ Ms Buchanan said. ‘The broader child protection system needs to coordinate its support to at-risk families with other services as part of the government’s integrated response to family violence.’
The Commission’s report expanded on specific problems, including inadequate responses to child sexual abuse in the context of family violence, failures to mitigate cumulative harm and shortcomings in providing culturally appropriate responses to Aboriginal children.
‘Almost 90 per cent of the Aboriginal children in out-of-home care are victims of family violence,’ Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos said. ‘The service system needs to provide support that recognises the importance of Aboriginal children maintaining a strong connection to their culture and communities.’
Half the cases examined by the Commission contained allegations or suspicions of child sexual abuse, which were rarely pursued or investigated.
The report makes 13 recommendations to ensure that vulnerable children are at the centre of Victoria’s family violence response. These recommendations require:
Luis Gonzalez, CCYP Communications and Media Adviser
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