Child protection on our doorstep

A special project with homeless children in Adelaide, supported by Flinders academic Dr Yvonne Parry, was given an award during this month’s National Child Protection Week.

Dr Yvonne Parry, a Senior Lecturer in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, received a National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN)  Play Your Part Award for her research and work with homeless children and Inner Southern Homelessness Service (ISHS). The community collaborators at ISHS (UnitingCare Wesley) were also acknowledged in the award ceremony on 6 September.

The award incorporates Dr Parry’s research translation into a community-based program for child development and child-centred practice for homelessness service staff.

Under the two-step program, vulnerable children under 12 are being given specialised support over and above services normally offered by the homeless sector.

“The project includes placement of nursing and rehabilitation counselling students in homelessness services and for fundraising for homeless children that helps to keep these children connected to health and education,” Dr Parry says.

Up to 17% of the homeless population in Australia on any night are under the age of 12 years. These children are at much higher risk of abuse and neglect than any other children.

“Children living with housing displacement is a growing issue in Australia and globally, with economic downturns and parents losing jobs leading to an increase housing insecurity,” she says.

Presented during Child Protection Week  (3-9 September), the NAPCAN Play Your Part Awards recognise initiatives that promote the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. Across Australia there are many organisations and individuals who are working towards creating a safer, healthier and happier environment for children.

Dr Parry and her team do most of the work outside of their paid employment organising fundraisers to provide displaced children with the basics of childhood such as clothes, school uniforms, toys and connections to community services to promote ‘more eyes’ on the children and an awareness of the impacts of homelessness on children and childhood.

Their parents meanwhile are given access to community organisations offering developmental opportunities and additional support.

The team has conducted research to ensure these interventions lead to a decreased risk of abuse and neglect together with positive educational, health, welfare and social outcomes.

Dr Parry says the innovative program highlights the need to provide children with connections to developmentally appropriate activities and needs, such as playgroup, kindy and school which then provides their parents with a break and the child with a safe environment surrounded by trusted adults. She has applied for a grant to extend the work and supporting research to become a national project in 2018.

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