Child Development

A review of the literature identifies four themes, which are relevant to child centred practice. These themes, or messages from the literature, emphasise the importance of:
??? recognising critical time frames in childhood and adolescence including assisting children and young people as early as possible ??“ early in the life of the child and early in the life of the problem;
??? taking into account the developmental needs of children and young people in all interventions;
??? providing children and young people with appropriate opportunities to participate in all aspects of child protection interventions which affect them; and
??? promoting a collaborative approach to the care and protection of children, including the strengthening of networks that are critical to their wellbeing.

Probably the most important research to inform what may be called a ???child centred??™ approach are the major research programs funded by the UK Department of Health, which began in the 1980s after a series of high profile child death inquiries. Four distinct phases of research commencing in 1987 culminated in the development of the Looking
After Children Program, which was legislated for in the UK and operates in over 90% of local authorities in England and Wales International licenses to adapt and reproduce the original materials have been taken out in Australia, Canada, Belgium, Germany, New
Zealand, Russia, Sweden and Hungary. In Australia the LAC system operates in Tasmania, NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

One of the very important contributions of LAC is its identification of the experiences, concerns and expectations of children at different ages and stages. The research team which developed the system consulted with representatives of welfare authorities, academic colleagues and experts from child health, education and the legal profession.
Their views and the feedback from children, young people and their families have contributed to the development, piloting and revision of the materials. These materials are helpful for this discussion because they identify seven key life dimensions, referred to later in this paper, which are of critical importance to children and young people regardless of whether or not they are involved with statutory child protection services.