Promoting safe and respectful relationships for children and young people in care

Children and young people in out-of-home care are at significantly increased risk of living with domestic and family violence, as well as being victimised through harmful sexual behaviour and sexual exploitation. Many children and young people are living in care because they have experienced domestic and family violence in their families of origin, and when children and young people live with domestic and family violence they are more susceptible to developing abusive behaviours or to being victimised in the future. These abusive behaviours are sometimes sexually harmful and at other times involve intimate partner violence. Further, domestic and family violence is the key risk factor for harmful sexual behaviour carried out by children and young people.

In Breaking the cycle: Promoting safe and respectful relationships for children & young people in care, MacKillop Family Services will work in partnership with the University of Melbourne to co-design and implement prevention measures that respond to problems of domestic & family violence, harmful sexual behaviour and child sexual exploitation. The prevention measures will focus on children and young people in residential care settings but will be applicable through a process of tailoring to other out-of-home care settings. The action research will fill a critical gap in services for children and young people in out-of-home care.  

There is considerable potential to harness the expertise and experience of youth services, out-of-home care and other community agencies working with children and young to build their capacity to develop and implement prevention initiatives.

Evidence will be drawn from the scholarly literature, practitioners in the field, policy-makers and young people in care or who have left care. The project will have a strong focus on collaboration with staff in residential care, experts in the field and evidence about program content tailored for residential care settings.

The aim of the action research is to develop a differentially-responsive, whole-of-organisation approach to preventing domestic & family violence, harmful sexual behaviour and child sexual exploitation for children and young people living in care.

To read more about the project, please read the following project brief.