Make sure the Government gets child protection right

MEDIA RELEASE – 21 DECEMBER 2012

The NSW Greens spokesperson for Family and Community Services, Jan Barham, has welcomed discussion about how to improve the child protection system, and calls on young people, carers and other stakeholders to speak up for a system that supports their needs.

“The Government’s proposed reforms have enormous implications for how children, parents, carers and service providers engage within the child protection system,” Ms Barham said. “Although the stated aims of the reforms – early intervention to address parenting capacity concerns, promoting stability and permanence in care arrangements, and making the system more child-focused – are positive goals, we need to carefully consider how to address the best interests of every child who comes into contact with the child protection system.”

Ms Barham noted that although an emphasis on early prevention and helping parents who were having difficulties was important, the discussion paper focused on how the system would set expectations and enforce breaches by parents, while saying little about how the necessary support would be delivered. The discussion paper proposes introducing a new type of court order that would require parents to attend parenting capacity programs, as well as proposing expansion of Parent Responsibility Contracts to early interventions and unborn children. Breaching these contracts can result in a presumption that a child is in need of care and protection.

“Putting parenting orders and contracts in place, which leave parents at greater risk of losing their children if something goes wrong, does no good unless there is a clear guarantee that appropriate, adequately funded support services will be available to those who need help,” Ms Barham said. “Research tells us that early intervention services make a vital difference to the health and well-being of children and parents, and that’s why the Government needs to be clearly explaining how it will deliver assistance to families at risk.”

“The discussion paper’s emphasis on having fixed timeframes to make permanent decisions about children’s care also deserves scrutiny,” said Ms Barham. “Although it is obviously crucial to ensure children have safe and stable care arrangements, it is also important to maintain children’s connection with their birth family whenever possible, and to make the best possible effort to restore families. The proposals that emphasise moving toward adoption on short timeframes, and in some cases reducing the barriers for birth parents’ consent and involvement, need to be looked at very carefully.”

Submissions on the Child Protection Discussion Paper close on 8 March 2013. The paper can be downloaded from the Have Your Say website. There are upcoming stakeholder briefing sessions with Community Services:

  • Dubbo RSL, 8 February 2013, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
  • The Shellharbour Club, 12 February 2013, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
  • Sydney Masonic Centre, 13 February 2013, 1.30pm – 4.30pm
  • Ballina RSL, 22 February 2013, 12.30pm – 3.30pm

RSVP to geetha.nair@facs.nsw.gov.au by 31 January 2013

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061