The ACCP’s work on the Early Intervention Research Directorate (EIRD) has influenced child protection policies and service systems with the potential to greatly improve the many lives of the children and families impacted by the epidemic of child abuse and neglect. One flowthrough from the EIRD work has been the Young People’s Aspirations and Expectation of Relationships and Parenting Study (the Aspirations Study).

International research suggests that young care leavers and young people who have experienced abuse, neglect, or childhood adversity can thrive as parents. Still, because of past trauma they have experienced, they and their own children can also experience challenges. Unfortunately, many children born of younger parents who have been through the child protection system are themselves removed. 

In 2020, the SA Department of Human Services contracted the ACCP to complete a study with young people who have experienced adverse childhoods to explore their aspirations and expectations of parenting and relationships. This project sought to challenge assumptions about young parents while shaping policy and practice that can better support them. 

ACCP researchers spoke with a total of fifteen young people (8 male and 7 female) recruited from a variety of services working with young people with experiences of abuse, neglect, or early adversity. Young people took part in an interview, exploring their attitudes and aspirations for relationships, pregnancy, and parenthood. The Aspirations study was guided by a youth advisory group.  

While all the young people discussed wanting to be a parent at some point or being open to the possibility, they did not aspire to be younger parents. The aspirations of the young people who participated in this study were often shaped by their childhood experiences and current circumstances.  

Many of the study participants prioritised other aspirations over their desire to become parents. These other aspirations included enjoying their youth and addressing personal difficulties. Young people described the aspirations that they would want to achieve before they became parents. This included education, employment and financial stability. These goals were identified as important to achieve to be the type of parent they wanted to be.   

The first phase of the Aspirations Study is now complete, with phase 2 about to commence. Phase 1 has given great insights into the aspirations of young people who are not yet parents. Phase 2 will seek to understand the pathways of young people who are pregnant or already parents. This will allow the study to consider when and how young people might be supported to delay parenting if there are concerns for them and their children.