Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Human Services personnel work to protect children and they engage in a range of systems to achieve social justice outcomes. These areas of practice require a sound knowledge of risk and protective factors and a critical approach to analysing historical and contemporary policy and practice approaches is essential. This unit will provide students with the opportunity to critically examine child welfare history, policies and institutions. It will provide students with a critical socio-historical context for understanding the development of child welfare and child protection policies in Australia and internationally, and the key issues that surround policy development and implementation. Students will examine a history of ideas in child welfare, and concepts such as social control with a particular focus on Australian Indigenous child welfare. The unit will cover specific policy and practice developments in child abuse prevention and early intervention, and the 'out of home' care system: fostering, residential care, shared care, adoption.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and understand key concepts the history and philosophy of child protection services (GA9, GA10)

LO2 - Critically assess the discourses of child abuse and neglect in contemporary human services (GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9; SCYP 1.1, 2.1)

LO3 - Analyse the concept of risk and protective factors in understanding child abuse and the organisational response to child abuse (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9; SCYP 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2)

LO4 - Critically analyse the connection between policy and practice and apply to organisational contexts (GA5, GA8, GA9; SCYP 3.1, 3.2)

LO5 - Identify and critically analyse and evaluate key child and family welfare policies and policy processes in relation to theory, values and law (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)(SCYP 2.5).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Alongside the learning outcomes for this unit, on successful completion, students should have developed the ability to:

ACU SCYP 1:   Understand the nature of sexual abuse and other types of abuse experienced by children and young people and factors that influence the risk of abuse occurring 

1.1     Knows the nature and causes of sexual abuse and other types of abuse that are experienced by children and young people within institutions/organisations

1.2     Knows the risk and protective factors associated with children and young people 

ACUSCYP 2:      Foster child-safe organisational cultures and environments through leadership, governance, and practice

2.1     Knows what enables and encourages child-safe institutional/organisational cultures and environments and approaches that promote them 

2.2     Knows what child-safe practices are effective in their institutional/ organisational context to prevent and respond to sexual abuse and other types of abuse

2.5     Applies legal, ethical and professional responsibilities relating to children’s safety

ACUSCYP 3:      Develop and implement effective strategies that address risks, based on the situational prevention model, and take appropriate action when concerns and issues arise

3.1     Knows what strategies are effective and how to apply policies and strategies in their institutional/organisational context

3.2     Develops, implements and reviews appropriate child-safe policies, procedures and practices 


Topics will include:

  • The history of ideas in child welfare and child protection including concepts such as the notion of social control and the ‘risk society’
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on child welfare 
  • The legal context for child protection work
  • Institutions and social agencies providing child and family welfare services
  • Child abuse prevention and the substitute care system
  • Trends in child welfare and child protection in a socio-historical context 
  • The development of policies in both local and international settings.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode and uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of the essential knowledge associated with both historical and contemporary child protection practice. Students are able to explore the essential knowledge underpinning child protection practice in a series of online asynchronous interactive lessons. Students also have the opportunity to attend synchronous online webinars to participate in the construction and synthesis of this knowledge. This online approach allows flexibility for students who are largely engaged in full time work. Where required by cohorts, part or all of the unit could be delivered face to face.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This is an academic unit that provides a theoretical overview of the policy and legal context for child protection workThe emphasis is on developing critical reasoning skills in this complex area. Assessment will focus on critical analysis of policy, and on the application of policy within the practice context.

The assessment tasks and their weightings are mapped to demonstrate progressive achievement of the course learning outcomes. The assessment strategy for the unit is designed to provide students opportunities to demonstrate achievement of the unit learning outcomes that combine formative and summative assessment practices in relation to the course learning outcomes and related Safeguarding Children and Young People capabilities. The assessment focuses on the student demonstrating capabilities in their professional context and practice and the three different assessment tasks support the theoretical and practice learning outcomes with the third item providing the opportunity to demonstrate the synthesis of key concepts and skills.. 

A range of assessment procedures are used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes and criteria consistent with University assessment requirements.(

The assessment will relate directly to the achievement of the outcomes above. Some flexibility may be exercised in the assessment tasks to align with the needs of the student cohort and their professional situation.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1 Essay 

Requires students to demonstrate ability to critically analyse an aspect of social policy in the area of child safety/protection.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 2 Review of case study 

Requires students to evaluate  a case study with a focus on linking policy and practice


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 3 Oral presentation

Requires students to demonstrate synthesis of policy and practice in a relevant area of child protection of special interest to the student. Supports the development of effective communication skills.  


LO1, LO2, LO5

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5

Representative texts and references

Arney, F., & Scott, D. (Eds). (2013). Working with vulnerable families: A partnership approach (2nd ed.). Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014). Child protection in Australia 2012-13. Canberra: Australian Government.

Bennett, B., Green, S., Gilbert, S., & Bessarab, D (Eds.) (2013). Our voices: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work. South Yarra, Vic: Palgrave Macmillan.

Briskman, L. (2014). Social work with Indigenous communities (2nd ed.). Leichhardt, NSW: Federation Press.

Carson, E., & Kerr, L. (2014). Australian social policy and the human services. Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press. 

Collins, D., Jordan, C., & Coleman, H. (2013), An introduction to family social work (4th ed.)Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

Davies, L., & Duckett, N. (2016). Proactive child protection and social work (2nd ed.). London: Learning Matters, an imprint of SAGE Publications Ltd.

Featherstone, B., White, S., & Morris,K. (2014), Re-imagining child protection: Towards humane social work with families. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Kilpatrick, A., & Holland, T. (2009) Working with Families: An integrative model by level of need (5th ed), Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

Lonne, B., Parton, N., Thomson, J., & Harries, M. (2009). Reforming child protection. Abingdon, England: Routledge.

Mainstone, F. (2014). Mastering whole family assessment in social work: Balancing the needs of children, adults and their families.London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Munro, E. (2012). Effective child protection (2nd ed). London: Sage.

Tait, A., & Wosu, H. (2012). Direct work with vulnerable children: Playful activities and strategies for communication. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Welbourne, P., & Dixon, J. (Eds.). (2013). Child protection and child welfare: A global appraisal of cultures, policy and practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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