Anglicare recently hosted the Communities for Children – Every Child Succeeds conference, bringing together 350 people each day to learn and collaborate.
The event was held in Launceston, where collective work is underway to support children to reach their full potential.
“It is a powerful thing when a community grasps that inequality and poverty need not have the final say in the lives of local young people,” said Anglicare CEO Chris Jones. “It is by putting the needs of children front and centre that a determined community finds ways forward, including overhauling systems or structures that threatened to impede progress”.
International guest speaker, Brian Bumbarger, an expert in prevention science, told the conference that in order to achieve lasting change for children, it was vital to go beyond collecting data about “how many bad things happen”. “Don’t just count the problems,” he said. Dr Bumbarger said it was vital to identify risk factors and the types of protective factors that helped to mitigate or eliminate them. He recommended that the community identify and work on 3-5 priorities.
“Success means population level improvement,” he said. Dr Bumbarger has been involved in effective work in Pennsylvania to prevent youth violence and substance abuse.
He said that without adopting an evidence-based approach, effort and investment could have “absolutely no impact and some of it will even be harmful”.
“Good intentions are not enough. Don’t mistake action for progress,” he said. “We need to ask, what does the research say works? And what do we already have in our community that could target these priorities?”
Dr Bumbarger said early intervention was vital, as the longer the delay in implementing protective factors, the “more barriers pile up” in the life of a child. “The best way is to shut the front door early,” he said.
“We need to build the capacity of communities to diagnose problems and match them with proven course of actions,” he said. “This is a public health approach”.