Berry Street, founded in 1877 and now Victoria’s largest independent child and family services organisation, has established a strong reputation for delivery of high quality services in support of disadvantaged children, young people and families. In recent times Berry Street has become known for its expertise in helping children and young people recover from the trauma of abuse, neglect or family violence through a range of out of home care, family support, family violence, education, community development, therapeutic and youth services.
Berry Street’s Vision is for all children to have a good childhood, growing up feeling safe, nurtured and with hope for the future.
However it is evident that many children are not enjoying a good childhood in Australia. Berry Street’s direct practice experience tells us that those with a personal experience of abuse, neglect or family violence have certainly not had a good childhood. Despite successive reviews and inquiries resulting in legislative, policy and practice changes, more than a decade into the 21st century reports of neglect, abuse and harm to children are increasing, not declining.
In 2010 Berry Street’s Board and Executive explicitly challenged the organisation to determine what would need to occur to achieve our Vision. What could Berry Street do to ensure Australian children do have a good childhood? In the face of limited public discourse about the importance of childhood and a shortage of serious advocates for vulnerable children, we identified the need for practice and thought leadership if outcomes for Australian children are to markedly improve.
Our determination to make a difference resulted in the development of Berry Street’s Strategic Directions 2027, an ambitious long term plan which committed Berry Street to broadening and deepening the impact and effectiveness of its work for children. This included launching a new Institute aimed at both promoting the importance of giving children a good childhood and improving childhood through knowledge development.
The Berry Street Childhood Institute (BSCI) was launched in July 2012. BSCI is embedded in Berry Street’s organisational structure and is closely aligned with Berry Street’s services, practice and public policy. However, whereas Berry Street has decided to deliver services only in the state of Victoria, the BSCI has a national and international focus. We are committed to working in partnership wherever possible, including collaborations with other service providers, universities, subject matter experts and advocacy groups. Importantly we seek to join with children and young people, recognising their capacity to be a powerful voice for change.