Taking away too many children? Or not doing a good enough job of it?

johnboy 7 August 2013 2

The ANU is making an unusual entry to the child protection debate savaging both the numbers of children in care in the ACT and the shoddy care provided.

In the ACT alone, up to 600 children live in out-of-home care arrangements. Many lead unsettled lives – some move up to 30 times before they turn 18.

For ANU honours student Sharynne Hamilton the numbers of children in care is disproportionate to the size of the territory.

“It’s an appalling number of children, really, given the Territory’s population,” she says.

The 2013 Neville Bonner Memorial Scholarship recipient is reviewing what procedures are in place when children are taken from those deemed unable to look after them.

Once that happens, the state becomes responsible for their wellbeing, Hamilton, who obtained her scholarship through a program administered by the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific points out.

However when that responsibility is in turn outsourced to non-government organisations (NGOs), unintended consequences can occur.

But is it always better to leave children in diabolical family situations?

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2 Responses to Taking away too many children? Or not doing a good enough job of it?
sharynne sharynne 12:45 pm 08 Aug 13

I would request that Riot ACT publish this clarification to all readers in respect of an ANU article referenced yesterday, titled by Riot ACT ‘Taking away too many children? Or not doing a good enough job of it?’
I wish to clarify that this article implies that the ANU intended on weighing into the “child protection debate”. This is not correct. The purpose of this article was to provide an overview of an Honours project, for which I was successfully awarded the Neville Bonner Scholarship.
It is important to acknowledge that the data published in the most recent Report on Government Services indicates that the Territory has the 3rd lowest national rate of children in care. I would like to clarify the meaning behind the statement “the number of children in care is disproportionate to the size of the Territory”. By this I mean that we have a large number of services and a small population. We are in an ideal place to look at how we best work in partnership with government to utilise both these factors in order to reduce the numbers of children who come into care.
The Honours project, for which the Neville Bonner Scholarship will examine the reports over the 15 years since outsourcing began in the Territory and do a comparative analysis of the situation in the ACT with experiences outsourcing social services both in the national and international literature. It will not involve any kind of “review into the processes when children come into out of home care in the ACT”. The Directorate has provided support to this project and has been involved in the research process. I would like to clarify that FINACT has never been asked to undertake any review of policy or procedure by Care and Protection Services.
I would like to clarify that I would never suggest that children should stay “in diabolical family situations” or with an abusive parent. Merely that when they are removed all parties deserve to be cared for by systems which have robust, transparent and accountable mechanisms which support decision making and information sharing. In this way risk is minimised of further trauma when children are in care because of multiple placements or abuse in care, for example.
I am concerned that this article has failed to properly acknowledge the positive working relationship between FINACT and the Community Services Directorate or the value of the collaboration which has occurred over the last 12 months to produce a comprehensive information booklet for parents. I am very proud that this collaboration has achieved a unique publication which will be of great assistance to parents and families who are seeking to navigate the child protection system and Children’s Court in relation to their children.
Finally, I certainly acknowledge and appreciate the current attempts by the Directorate to work in partnership and collaboration with services, and the Directorate’s efforts to redesign the service and ‘refresh the service culture’. This can only result in positive outcomes for children, families and communities who come into contact with ACT Child Protection Services.

YeahBuddy YeahBuddy 3:12 pm 07 Aug 13

This is an argument that I have often with a family member (I am the parent, they are the social worker).

Parent: I would be happy if the number of children placed in out of home care was double the figures reported if it meant all of those children were safe from abuse and neglect. No birth parent has the right to ruin an innocent life. There are people that would gladly take these kids in, love them as their own, and provide safe and happy home lives. I literally cry every time i read about a child that has been killed or injured by their parent/step parent/whoever due to abuse and neglect. It should never happen in a country like Australia and more needs to be done to protect those poor little souls.

Social worker: blah, blah, good point, understand what you’re saying, blah. Is it really better for children to be removed from their biological families when out of home care is so fragmented and unsettling? And other arguments that go along that line.

So, having said that, I think Child Protective Services/DOCs/whoever need to step up their game and ensure that children are safe, and families supported to stay together when possible. I would much rather my tax dollars go to sorting these issues out than subsidising childcare (which I use, so step back down off your pedestal now).

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