This report provides recommendations based on findings from a study that investigated Uniting Country SA (formerly UnitingCare Wesley Country SA) practitioner and client understandings and experiences of the Uniting Country SA Child Aware Approach. With the support of an Australian Government grant, Uniting Country SA (UCSA) established a universal Child Aware Approach (CAA) in 2012 and has been implementing a range of initiatives to ensure that a CAA continues to be central to the daily work of their staff. UCSA introduced their Child Safe Organisation Policy in 2010 and their Child Aware Approach policy in 2013.

This study was undertaken using multiple methods. An electronic survey was distributed to all UCSA staff, volunteers and foster carers to ascertain respondents’ understanding of the Child Aware Approach, as well as their perspectives on their own implementation of the Child Aware Approach across UCSA sites and programs. A focus group with Child Aware Approach Champions was held to gain insights in to their experiences of extending and maintaining an organisation-wide understanding and implementation of the Child Aware Approach. Two focus groups were held with UCSA clients who have participated in, or are participating in, UCSA parenting programs that included elements of the Child Aware Approach, to elicit their perspectives on outcomes of UCSA becoming (or being) a Child Aware Organisation. Finally, interviews were undertaken with key staff involved in the development and implementation of the UCSA Child Aware Approach to obtain their insights into the program, and their perspectives on preliminary study findings. The findings provide insights and recommendations for enhancing future Uniting Country SA Child Aware activities.

Key findings

The strongest message from the study findings is that, overwhelmingly, staff support the implementation of the UCSA Child Aware Approach. The universal approach that the organisation has undertaken has been highly successful in ensuring that staff understand, support and implement the UCSA Child Aware Approach. Client outcomes suggest that the program has had positive effects beyond the policy goals. The parent clients involved in this study reported finding Child Aware Approach-influenced parenting programs helpful, not only in their parenting practices, but also in developing skills to advocate for their children’s wellbeing in other settings, such as schools. The findings suggest that there are steps that can be taken to strengthen the existing program. 

Download the research report here