Child protection — what question are you asking?

Many children are falling through the gaps in the system that is supposed to protect them. Every country, state, and culture has its own systemic gaps when it comes to child protection.

I recently attended a talk on this subject that was delivered to professionals in the family violence and justice fields. As a community member of the Family Violence Protection Network in my region of Victoria, Australia, I am notified about these kinds of talks and trainings.

Here are the notes I made of what the speaker said. Bear in mind that these notes pertain to where I live, but the situation may be different where you live.

When it comes to child protection, each government authority asks a different set of questions.
What question is each authority asking?

Understanding the different questions each authority is asking, helps us understand what systemic problems there are in the way our societies protect or fail to protect children.

Child Protection asks “Are you a protective parent? Are the kids safe now. Does the situation reach our threshold for statutory intervention?”

The Childrens’ Court asks “Are you an adequate parent? What action may we take now or in the future to assist you to become an adequate parent?”

Police ask “Is there sufficient evidence for a conviction of a crime to be likely?”

The Criminal Court asks “Can it be proved beyond reasonable doubt?”

The Family Court asks “What patterns of time spent with each parent is in the child’s best interests?”

The speaker also observed that in Australia, State child protection law looks backward (have these kids been abused in the past?) while Federal law looks forward (how can we protect these kids in the future?).


With some analytical imagination, you can pretty easily see how children can fall through the gaps between these different kinds of questions.

12 thoughts on “Child protection — what question are you asking?”

  1. Barbara – This is interesting and it leads me to ask, “What questions is the church supposed to be asking?” I can think of a lot of wrong ones they ask now: “How can we make this situation go away?” “Did he actually physically strike you?” “How can we avoid reporting this to the police?” Maybe our readers could suggest some of the right questions the church should be asking when a victim comes to them.

    1. “How can we help.” Each time it is asked I drew a blank. I couldn’t help myself, I had no idea how anyone else was going to.

      1. Not a good question, is it Brenda R? That’s like me going to the doctor and telling him all my ailments and he says, “Wow! So how can I help?” I don’t know! YOU are the doctor!! You are supposed to know.

  2. The government questions are not as complete as we would like them to be, but does the evangelical church ask any questions about the children’s welfare at all? When I asked my church for help because my child was being indoctrinated into the abuse, they turned it into a marriage, specifically submission, issue. For many churches, It is as if the fact that there are children involved in the abuse conveniently disappears so that they may pursue their main agenda, which is forcing an abuser back into the home. I have yet to read or hear that any of the ‘no divorce’ or ‘woman submit’ teachers ever show any concern for the well-being of children living in the abuse. So much for caring for Christ’s lambs by these ‘shepherds’.

    1. PW – Main question asked in a church setting is, “how can we make this situation go away.” Pilate’s hand-washing.

      1. Perhaps that is why the most common comment and ‘prayer’
        I hear from church people is for RECONCILIATION.
        If that happens no one has to face the fact of women being abused or care for them and they don’t have to figure out how to deal with men who are unrepentant abusers sitting in the pews
        Praying for Reconciliation is a nice way to hide the real motive … That this issue will just go away
        Never saw it that way but it might explain why my body reacts like it does when people say that they are praying for reconciliation of my marriage

      2. If someone wants to pray for X, feel free. Do what you think you should. But I’m not joining in on the prayer for reconciliation. That’s like praying that I go to prison.

      3. The one thing that I repeatedly get angry and react..instant trigger for flames of anger; is someone saying they will pray for the ex-idiot. They just don’t get it. I have taken to begging on prayer lists when I share concerns to NOT mention AT ALL praying for him. Salt in a wound.

  3. Protecting the children is the most difficult aspect of escaping from an abuser. I got away with the children, but I know I won’t truly rest until my youngest is 18 and they can all decide for themselves if they want a relationship with him or not.

    A few days ago he called to speak to the children and he was so drunk that none of us even recognized his voice. It took several minutes for me to be convinced it was him. My son cried with grief and fear, and they all are afraid to go to their next scheduled visitation because his drunken phone call frightened them so much. But my experience with family court has taught me to shut up and don’t dare complain because my children’s rights and safety doesn’t matter as much as “father’s rights” do.

    I’ve instructed my children to call me immediately if he begins to drink or appears to be drunk when they are over there and that I will come immediately to get them, but beyond that, there’s nothing I can do.

    1. Fiftyand free, I’m so sorry you and your kids have to go through that. Just horrible. I think father’s rights apply to a lot less men than these attorneys stick up for. Makes me sick to think of someone getting paid well to defend an abuser. My oldest asked me why my husband wants custody of our youngest so bad since he doesn’t even want to take care of her. If they could only snap out of it or leave us alone! Praying for your situation and your children’s safety

    2. I do not comprehend an abusive father having rights to see his children trumps children being allowed to be safe. The way people think baffles me.

  4. I can totally see how all children may not be protected with questions such as those. I secretly consulted with an attorney awhile back, one of my failed attempts to leave, and was told my spouse and I would most likely have shared custody. Didn’t matter that I had police reports and other key statements. It was a rude awakening for me. My oldest child’s school counselor agreed that the situation is not good and gave me a stern talking to letting me know how damaging this is to my children. Yet no real solutions were offered, just basically try to save some money and leave, or go to a shelter. I suppose that’s all there is sometimes, but I was offended to be judged as if I hadn’t given any thought to the situation or that I was staying out of love for my spouse. She like me probably thought the legal system would solve my problems. My children and I actually did stay in a shelter for two days and I had to get them out of there. I’m thankful for the DV shelters, this one probably just wasn’t ran very well. The first night this poor woman had taken too much medication (or maybe illegal drug) and passed out in the hallway. The one person on staff didnt even call an ambulance just let her lay there until we lifted her onto a couch. Second night, was a horrible fight in the common room. Plus the sheets smelled and looked like they hadnt been washed. Anyway, Brenda’s comment on “How can we help” and Jeff’s great doctor analogy really hit home for me.
    Ps-this was just my experience with custody. Different states and circumstances will make different outcomes so hopfully nobody gets discouraged by my venting. I had a friend who did get sole custody so it’s possible. Im going to try again in the future

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