ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Child Trafficking(Barnardos, 2008) BarnardosThe recent decision by the Government to introduce a free pre-school place for all children in the year prior to starting primary school is, in Barnardos’ view, a most significant and welcome policy development which will benefit children now and into the future. Research has shown that quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) delivers long-term dividends to children, families and society. 1 Studies have also shown that quality pre-school education leads to immediate and measurable gains in education and social development. For children living in poverty, quality education and care can lead to better school achievement, higher school retention rates and improved mental health. Barnardos questions the rationale for limiting the provision to 2 hours and 15 minutes. This level of intervention is too short to make a significant impact on a child’s educational and social development. The importance of ‘quality’ cannot be overstated and again it is positive to note the Government’s recent announcements in regard to Síolta, the National Quality Framework. Early years providers will need comprehensive supports to ensure that they can engage with the Síolta process of quality improvement. Mentoring, training, information and resources will need to be available to ensure the highest standards of quality is provided in the pre-school year. The details of the free pre-school year have yet to be made public. It is to be hoped that the implementation of the measure will be rolled out in partnership with the ECCE sector. This is a land-mark decision, all the more extraordinary given that it was part of a cost cutting budget. It is proof that good policy made on the basis of strong policy research can impact on Government policy-making. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Outcomes Focused Children's Services(Barnardos, 2008) BarnardosWelcome to the latest edition of ChildLinks on the theme of ‘Outcomes-Focused Children’s Services’. Thinking about children’s services from an outcomes perspective rather than an outputs perspective has radical implications for what kind of services are provided to children and families. All of us working in this area are familiar with reporting requirements and counting how many service users, how many services, how many meetings and so on. These refer to outputs and are the measurement of services or activities. However they don’t actually tell us anything about how effective the service has been in meeting children’s needs. As the first article from Barnardos Service Design Team explains, rather than fitting a child into services, our goal is to provide services that best meet the presenting needs of a child and his or her family. The priority is needs-led and outcomes focused children’s services. Within this issue of ChildLinks, there are contributions from Irish and International practitioners and academics who are forging ahead with this approach. Professor Pat Dolan and his colleagues from NUI Galway make a case for promoting family support as a means of achieving successful child protection outcomes. Young Ballymun demonstrate how they are taking an outcomes focused approach to improving the learning and well-being outcomes for children and young people in Ballymun. The experience of Children’s Trusts in the UK and developments in regard to early years is contained in the article from Christine Davies of the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services. Finally, the use of cost-benefit analysis and evidence-based policy-making is captured in the article about the Washington experience. Research carried out by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found an 8–10% return on investment in Early Childhood Care and Education. President Obama has announced a 10 billion dollar plan for pre-school education in the US. Outcomes-focused children’s services have the capacity not just to achieve better results for children and families, but to achieve value for money from public expenditure. In these days of financial rectitude, outcomes-focused children’s services make sound policy and economic sense. ItemChildlinks Issue 1: Children and the Internet(Barnardos, 2008) BarnardosWelcome to Barnardos’ first issue of ChildLinks for 2008, which explores the topic ‘Children & the Internet’. In many ways the Internet and the associated technologies such as mobile phones, social networking sites, instant messaging, games consoles etc. have been enmeshed in children’s lives. For the most part this is positive in terms of information, play, learning, communications and more. However, the Internet also has serious downsides for children. The range of articles presented in this issue of ChildLinks illustrate both the benefits and the dangers in relation to children and the Internet. The first article from Barnardos focuses on the use of the Internet and related technologies as a creative and therapeutic tool in working with children. Another article from the NCH in the UK presents insights gained from their research into the use of technologies with children with special needs. The common learning from both Barnardos and the NCH is that, while childcare workers and social workers may not be the most proficient in their use of computers/new technologies, where staff have been trained and have the necessary supports in place, children’s quality of life and their development can be enhanced through the use of the Internet and related technologies. The issue of children and harmful content on the Internet is explored in an article from Hotline.ie. Another insight into harmful use of the Internet is included in ‘Child Abusive Images on the Internet & Operation Ore’, which presents a very revealing and disturbing account of child pornography from the perspective of a child protection investigator in the UK. Cyberbullying is another downside of the Internet. It is a term often misunderstood, feared by parents and about which there is little research in Ireland. Dr. Stephen Minton’s article explores the forms of cyberbullying and presents international research findings as well as strategies for dealing with it. The final article from the NCTE focuses on Internet Safety skills. It is a truism to say that our children are way ahead of their parents in this area of life and education for both parents and children in Internet safety skills has a vital role to play. Finally, the recent establishment of the Office for Internet Safety by the Minister for Justice Brian Lenehan is to be welcomed. However, the decision to set up the accompanying Internet Safety Advisory Council as an advisory body on a non-statutory basis is disappointing. It is imperative that all of the necessary legislative back-up is in place to ensure that, as far as possible, children are protected in this fast changing Internet world.