The Evidence Portal

Reducing Child Harm and Maltreatment: Core Components

Four core components are present in a number of programs that reduce harm amongst vulnerable children under 5 years of age.

In 2022, an evidence review was conducted to understand what works to reduce child harm and maltreatment among vulnerable children. 25 evidence-informed programs were identified. A content analysis identified four commonalities across these programs.

These four core components are the common activities across programs that have been shown to reduce harm among vulnerable children under 5 years of age. They make up standardised components of programs that support families where there is a need to reduce harm.

Who do they work for?

These core components are relevant to services working with families and carers of children to reduce harm amongst vulnerable children under 5 years of age.

Core Components


How services engage with families is crucial to ensuring parents/carers participate and continue with a program until they have achieved their goals.

Flexible activities include:

The most significant activities that engage families are sustained home visiting, and engaging and relevant delivery of learning material. Overcoming barriers to engagement or attendance in a program increases the positive impact of the program. This can be done through practical support to support engagement, and ensuring the program is flexible enough to be tailored to the needs of the family.

Building Supportive Relationships and Social Networks

Supportive relationships between parents/carers and their infants and children are fundamental to reducing harm to children aged 0 to 5 years of age. The relationship with the service provider and the family is important to achieve this aim. Supportive relationships also enable parents/carers to seek advice and respite from others when needed. 

Flexible activities include:

The curriculum material of the program includes activities to support parents to build supportive relationships with their children, and interaction between parent and child is often a focus of the delivery sessions. The relationship with the service provider is often built through regular delivery sessions over a long-time frame.

Building Parental Capacity

Parents/carers can be supported via parenting education, coaching and modelling sessions, focusing on topics such as child development and needs, child behaviour management strategies, and practical advice about routines. Sessions are also intended to develop parents’ general living skills to increase their parental capacity and ability to manage other aspects of their lives..

Flexible activities include:

Activities to improve parenting capacity are often delivered using service providers trained in a specific curriculum or programs. Delivery is mainly via home visiting and parenting classes.

Case Management

Understanding and addressing the material, emotional and practical support needs of families is crucial to improving outcomes. Programs that aim to reduce harm for children specifically target at-risk families. Universal programs are often not appropriate given the complex needs that families have. Further referrals are often required..

Flexible activities include:

Activities include recruitment processes that are targeted, and pre-screen families to ensure the program is appropriate for their needs, integration of the program with other services, and the ability to make onward referrals to other services and agencies. These activities can be delivered with different levels of intensity and for short or long periods of time. 


To learn more about core components see: How do core components work?

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal communities?

Culturally safe services are critical when supporting the wellbeing of Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities. You should look for guidance from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities on how to provide the service or activity so that they feel respected and safe.

There is great diversity in the cultures of Aboriginal people across NSW and Australia, which is not yet reflected in the limited evidence base available, however it is clear that cultural safety needs to be relevant to the specific communities in which the service is operating.

Cultural safety has been defined as:

An environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning together (Williams 1999, cited in Bin-Sallik, 2003).

Cultural safety needs to be considered holistically, at all levels of service provision, from the individual practitioner, to organisational approaches, as well as systemically.

Cultural safety becomes embedded through an ongoing process of self-reflection and improvement; cultural safety cannot be embedded by adopting a ‘tick-a-box’ approach.

Aboriginal workers’ expertise includes understanding Aboriginal ways of communication, the history of personal and intergenerational trauma, and community dynamics. It is critical that Aboriginal workers do not feel powerless or over-burdened in carrying out their work and are supported effectively (Zon et al, 2004).

It is the right of the Aboriginal client receiving services to determine if they were culturally safe or not, and it is the responsibility of the service provider to seek this feedback from Aboriginal clients to assess whether their services are experienced as culturally safe.

​​The research describes service access as a vital element of cultural safety. Service co-design with Aboriginal community members is a good way of achieving this. Inflexible delivery of externally developed programs that do not respond to local service needs is identified in the literature as culturally unsafe (Freeman et al, 2014).

A Cultural Safety and Wellbeing evidence review conducted in 2021 identified the following six critical elements as common across the evidence:

  • Recognising the importance of culture;
  • Self-determination;
  • Workforce development;
  • Whole of organisation approach;
  • Leadership and partnership;
  • Research, monitoring and evaluation.

These critical elements should be embedded in organisations’ way of working in order to deliver culturally safe services which contribute to improving outcomes for Aboriginal people. See the Cultural Safety and Wellbeing Evidence Review for further information on these critical elements and examples of the ways in which they can be implemented.

What else should I consider?

The core components and flexible activities above can be used to design or implement a program, but should always be tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of the target group/s.

Last updated:

20 Feb 2023

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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