The Research Centre for Children and Families aims to contribute policy and practice-relevant research to inform cross-government reforms currently underway across the human services sector in NSW and Australia.
Taking a rights-based approach, we seek to have an impact on practitioners, the judiciary, and policymakers to promote the best interests of children and their families.
The centre aims to foster research excellence through global and local affiliations. We foster multidisciplinary collaborations across disciplines such as social work, education, economics, sociology, law, public health, and psychology, with the goal of translating research findings to inform policy and practice.
Our team builds industry partnerships through undertaking research commissioned by government and non-government organisations and pursuing competitive research grants that have a direct impact on sector reforms.
The centre is leading efforts to generate an extensive national and international network that will provide the foundation for collaborative multidisciplinary research projects, and affiliation with academics with complementary areas of expertise. Central to these efforts is engagement with Aboriginal academics and community organisations.
Fostering cultural competence in research involving vulnerable families and communities and contributing to opportunities for Aboriginal community led research is a priority for our research agenda.
The Institute of Open Adoption Studies was established in 2016 with a grant from the NSW Government. In 2019, to enable a broader focus on research about vulnerable children and families, the University approved the creation of a new Research Centre for Children and Families. The Centre is led by Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright, and incorporates the Institute within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
The Research Centre for Children and Families aims to address the significant need for locally generated evidence on the impact of policy and service responses in addressing child and family vulnerabilities.
The ongoing redesign of the child protection and out-of-home care system within NSW and Australia is placing greater emphasis on children’s stability and security, with their families or other permanent carers. Major reforms are underway to deliver family and child services through a social investment model, with the aim of addressing markers of vulnerability through prevention and early intervention. While it is well known that a range of individual, familial and societal factors contribute to children's vulnerability, Australia has relied on international research based on very different legislative and service systems. There is a significant need for locally generated evidence to inform policy and practice.
The centre comprises a research team and governance board.
Professor Amy Conley Wright leads research on children's best interests in out-of-home care, family support and disability services, within Australia and internationally. Expertise in curricula development, including in social work, family studies and child and adolescent development. Experienced in consulting on service development and providing policy advice.
Associate Professor Susan Heward-Belle, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Sydney, has over 30 years' experience in the child protection and domestic violence fields as a practitioner, educator, advocate and researcher.
She has served as Chief Investigator on a range of domestic and family violence focused projects for ANROWS, including The PATRICIA Project and Invisible Practices: Engaging men who use violence, as well two other large scale multi-state projects, Whole of Family approaches to working with families where there is domestic violence and the STACY Project (Safe and Together Addressing Complexity). She has a particular interest in advancing gender equitable and socially just approaches to practice that counter mother blaming.
Suzanne Pope has extensive program and policy experience at a senior level spanning research administration in the government and non-government sectors including child protection and mental health.
The work of the centre is overseen by a Governance Board that provides strategic advice and direction for the centre’s research, policy and industry collaborations. The Governance Board comprises multidisciplinary subject experts from across the University and key peak bodies in areas relevant to vulnerable children, young people, and families. The Governance Board provides strategic oversight for consideration of opportunities to build a collaborative and innovation program of research relevant to the Australian cultural and political environment.
Scholars affiliated with the Research Centre for Children and Families perform essential roles as partners on our research projects and expert panel members to review research findings.