All children need heroes

Child abuse and neglect reporting is challenging. No doubt about it.  Challenging. The factors that make it challenging are very complex.  

Photo by Lizo Sonkwala on Unsplash

Factors that influence professionals’ reporting practice can be personal and professional. These include things like thresholds for reporting (what child protection systems need for a report to be accepted), work experiences (including prior experiences with reporting), and confidence to report (both individually, and collectively with our colleagues) (Falkiner et al., 2017; Karadag et al., 2015; Regehr et al., 2010; Toros & Tiirik, 2014; Walsh et al., 2012). 

National Child Protection Week is held every year, during the first week in September. This year’s National Child Protection Week theme ‘Every child in every community needs a fair go’ serves as an important reminder that equity is central to children’s safety and protection. It also reminds us of our responsibility as educators, anchored in the National Quality Standard (Quality Area 2), to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of the children in our care.  Child safety is fundamental to our work as early childhood educators’, and we are ‘first-responders’ by virtue of our unique proximity to young children. One key mechanism for keeping our children safe is mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect 

The early childhood workforce in Australia is undeniably dynamic. And, as early childhood professionals, we are constantly adapting to changes in our immediate environment and the overarching policies and frameworks that govern our practice and pedagogy.  In fact, we have proven time and time again, that we are nothing if not adaptive as a workforce.

Communication and collaboration are central to our achievements, and we have much to celebrate in terms of our progress.  We have built strong relationships in our teams as we have worked together in active pursuit of quality standards (Bell & Singh, 2016; Irvine & Price, 2014).  

When deciding to report child abuse or neglect, we inevitably undergo a very challenging process of figuring out how and where to apply our knowledge and skills to make decisions about what to do next (Crowell & Levi, 2012).  Many factors influence our detecting and reporting of child abuse and neglect.  At an individual level, these might include our perceptions of how severe the abuse is, our own lived experiences, our work experiences, and our knowledge, attitudes, and values (Walsh et al., 2005; Walsh et al., 2008; Walsh et al., 2012; O’Toole et al., 1999).  There are also factors that exist in our workspaces that influence our decision making, for example, centre policies and procedures, support of centre leaders, workplace cultures, and collegial support (Ayling, 2020). Then there are system factors that impact decision making, either positively or negatively, such as what types of abuse and neglect should be reported, if there are adequate support services available, and the level of detail needed for reports to be accepted. 

One factor that interests us, is how educators support each other to make decisions about reporting. It is hard for individual educators to be heroes for children alone. Over the years, we have learned from educators about the importance of relationships with colleagues in this process. It seems that we are stronger together. We are conducting a study to learn more about this. If you are currently working in the early childhood education and care sector in Australia, are over the age of 18 years, and would like to participate, we would love to hear your perspectives.

Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology are seeking participants for a study investigating educators’ collective efficacy (confidence) in reporting child abuse and neglect in early childhood education and care.  If you are currently working in the early childhood education and care sector in Australia, are over the age of 18 years, and would like to participate in the current study, visit the QUT website where you will find our study participant information sheet, and online survey.

In 2022 National Child Protection Week, we celebrate educators and their important roles in child protection.  


Ayling, N., Walsh, K., & Williams, K. (2020). Factors influencing early childhood education and care educators’ reporting of child abuse and neglect. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 45(1), 95–108.  

Bell, M. M., & Singh, M. I. (2016).  Implementing a collaborative support model for educators’ reporting of child maltreatment.  Children and Schools, 39(1), 7-14. doi: 10.1093/cs/cdw041. 

Crowell, K., & Levi, B. H. (2012). Mandated reporting thresholds for community professionals. Child Welfare, 91(1), 35-53.  

Falkiner, M., Thomson, D., & Day, A. (2017). Teachers’ understanding and practice of mandatory reporting of child maltreatment.  Children Australia, 42(1), 38-48.  doi: 10.1017/cha.2016.53. 

Irvine, S. & Price, J. (2014). Professional conversations: A collaborative approach to support policy implementation, professional learning and practice change.   Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 39(3), 85-93.   

Karadag, S. C., Sonmez, S., & Dereobali, N. (2015).  An investigation of preschool teachers’ recognition of possible child abuse and neglect in Izmir, Turkey.  Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(5), 873-891.  doi: 10.1177/0886260514536274 

O’Toole, R., Webster, S. W., O’Toole, A. W., & Lucal, B. (1999). Teachers’ recognition and reporting of child abuse: A factorial survey. Child abuse & neglect, 23(11), 1083-1101 

Regehr, C., Bogo, M., Shlonsky, A., & Le Blanc, V. (2010). Confidence and professional judgement in assessing children’s risk of abuse.  Research on Social Work Practice, 20(6), 621-628. doi: 10.1177/1049731510368050 

Toros, K., & Tiirik, R. (2016).  Preschool teachers’ perceptions about and experience with child abuse and neglect.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(1), 21-30.  doi: 10.1007/s10643-014-0675-0 

Walsh, Kerryann, Schweitzer, Robert, & Farrell, Ann (2005) Critical factors in teachers’ detecting and reporting child abuse and neglect: Implications for practice. Abused Child Trust, Brisbane, Australia 

Walsh, K., & Farrell, A. (2008).  Identifying and evaluating teachers’ knowledge in relation to child abuse and neglect:  A qualitative study with Australian early childhood teachers.   

Walsh, K., Rassafiani, M., Mathews, B., Farrell, A., & Butler, D. (2012).  Exploratory factor analysis and psychometric evaluation of the teacher reporting attitude scale for child sexual abuse.  Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 21(5), 489-506.  doi: 10.1080/10538712.2012.689423 

ECA Recommends: ABC of Body Safety and Consent

The 26 ‘key’ letters and accompanying words will help children to learn and consolidate age-appropriate, crucial and life-changing body safety and consent skills. Designed as a ‘dip in and dip out’ book, the text, the child-centred questions and the stunning illustrations will reinforce key skills such as consent, respect, body boundaries, safe and unsafe touch, Early Warning Signs, Safety Network, private parts, and the difference between secrets and surprises. Also included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators.


Natasha Ayling

Natasha Ayling is an educator with experience in long day care, kindergarten, and the early years of school. She began her career with a Cert III before doing a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood), then a Masters, and now a PhD. She is passionate about children’s safety and has found a niche investigating child abuse and neglect reporting practices to understand how educators can be better supported in their role. She was motivated to study this topic after hearing the story of toddler Mason Lee, who died from injuries inflicted by child abuse. Mason desperately needed educators to step up and be heroes.

One thought on “All children need heroes”

    PeterAyling says:

    I couldn’t be prouder of my brilliant daughter for tackling head on such an important and necessary issue . Please help her in her endeavour to make this issue centre stage and to instigate necessary protection of all our children. From a proud dad

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