Publication Date



A major challenge for governments providing health and welfare services is to find a balance between their protective, statutory functions while at the same time strengthening the focus on prevention, early intervention and family support. This balance is essential if a reduction of child abuse and neglect is to be achieved, but achieving it has proven highly problematic for many countries, including Australia. Health systems have a significant role in addressing this imbalance. A health system’s capacity in working to keep children and young people safe is reduced when a child protection system is predominantly oriented to the ‘tertiary’ or ‘after the fact’ response. Coordination and collaboration in practice across sectors are not enough. An explicit policy is required that is committed to a continuum of care, incorporating prevention and early intervention approaches across the health and child protection systems. With a focus on early childhood, and on the role of established maternal and child health nursing services, this paper takes a critical retrospective view of aspects of a health system’s strategy to address Health’s role in child protection and presents a conceptual framework with which to better understand and promote cross sectoral policy development beyond the often rhetorical subject of improving service integration.


Institute of Child Protection Studies

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.