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A child’s perspective: Hearing the views of children who have experienced reunification

The aims of the research project were to capture children’s feedback on the child-friendly practices used in Wanslea’s reunification practice in order to:

1. Inform and progress reunification practice at Wanslea and in the sector

2. Expand the evidence-base of reunification practice

3. Expand the evidence-base for child-aware approaches to practice

4. Expand the evidence base and experience of child participation in research

5. Develop child-friendly tools that can be used to inform children of the meaning of participating in a reunification program

However, this was not where the key learning came! Following approval from the Department for Children Protection and Family Support (CPFS), recruitment efforts commenced. The research population was determined to be children who had participated in the Reunification program since its inception in 2009, and who were aged over 5 at the time of intervention. The sample population comprised of 53 children in 26 families. There were multiple layers of consent required.

The key findings and outcomes of this project relate to learning about the gap between a commitment to child participation in research and the implementation of that commitment in practice. Barriers to implementation included multiple gatekeepers, issues of timing, the limits of written communication, engaging families with statutory involvement as research participants, and accessing children’s consent through layers of adult consents. Strategies to address these barriers were identified, including multiple communication strategies, engaging research champions, recruiting at close of intervention, and being clear about why particular children were to be included. These strategies will be implemented in a different iteration of this project. The process of applying for this grant prompted Wanslea to form its own Research Ethics Consultation group, given the volume and nature of the research work in which we engage.

Jenny Terry, Sarah Mitchell and Katrina Stratton
Wanslea Family Services, WA


AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers