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What is prevention and early intervention?

The abuse and neglect of children has far reaching consequences for society. Investing in prevention and early intervention is a well recognised evidence based approach that offers the best long term outcomes for children and families. Key prevention and early intervention policy and evidence frameworks emphasise the need to disrupt the social conditions most likely to foster child abuse and neglect and the importance of early brain development, healthy parent child relationships, and strengths based, trauma informed approaches.

As a sector we are committed to helping children and communities thrive. This means providing programs and services that address the root causes of child abuse and neglect, and supporting children and families early to prevent harm.

There is extensive research on the long term health and social outcomes of child abuse and neglect for individuals, including increased risk of chronic disease, poorer mental health and wellbeing, homelessness or involvement in the criminal justice system. There are substantial economic and social costs to families, communities and society that can be prevented through effective prevention and early intervention approaches.


Prevention refers to programs and services designed to build protective factors, and prevent risk factors for child abuse and neglect from emerging in the first place. Prevention programs are usually universal or primary interventions in that they are offered to entire communities or community groups. Examples include social wellbeing programs offered to school students, antenatal services available to all families, or public awareness campaigns that target whole communities.

Early intervention

Early intervention refers to activities, programs and services designed to support families who show signs of needing support or vulnerabilities that may escalate into child abuse or neglect. Early interventions provide families with resources and skills designed to interrupt the growth of emerging problems, and encourage positive child development.

Examples of issues targeted by early intervention services include parenting stress, caring for a child with disability, social isolation, poverty, parents living with disability, mental health or alcohol and other drug issues. Without support, issues like these can become overwhelming and less manageable for families over time, and impact on parenting. Each family will have a unique mix of risk and protective factors, including strengths they have already developed to deal with problems.

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Last updated: 03 May 2021