Welcome progress on Out-of-Home Care transition but effort needed on Aboriginal services and early intervention

The release of an Auditor-General’s report on the transfer of out-of-home care services to the non-government sector is welcome but some key areas of concern must be addressed by the NSW Government, says Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham.

“The transition of out-of-home care from Community Services to non-government organisations (NGOs) was a key recommendation of the 2008 Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection, and the overall indication is that this process remains on track,” Ms Barham said.

“More than half of care placements are now managed by NGOs and the sector’s capacity has continued to develop. It’s essential that all vulnerable children who are unable to live with their family receive quality care that is as stable, enriching and culturally appropriate as possible.”

But Ms Barham noted that the Auditor-General had highlighted several key areas that must be addressed to ensure the wellbeing of children in out-of-home care.

“The declining trend in children being returned to their families is a troubling sign, and one that requires more focus from Government. As the number of children in out-of-home care continues to grow, it highlights that a significant boost to services for early intervention, prevention and family restoration is vital to keeping families together in the first place, reducing risk of harm and breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect.

“The Auditor-General’s warning about the need for a clear strategy to develop Aboriginal NGOs to provide services for Aboriginal children and young people must be addressed urgently. Given the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in care, we have to do everything we can to ensure Aboriginal communities are supported by Aboriginal services,” Ms Barham said.

“In 2011-12 the Government had committed to supporting the development of new Aboriginal services, but this new report makes clear that there is a lack of strategy and a shortage of appropriate service providers. This puts at risk the capacity to ensure Aboriginal children in care grow up with a connection to their family, community and culture, and there are questions to be asked about why that Government commitment hasn’t been followed through.

“The Government must also act on the Auditor-General’s recommendation to develop wellbeing outcomes for children in care. Without a clear set of outcomes that reflect the quality of children’s lives, we remain uncertain about what is working and what isn’t in terms of ensuring services and care placements are helping children to have the best opportunities and quality of life possible.

Ms Barham also warned against using financial incentives for adoption within the out-of-home care system.

“Adoption is never going to be an appropriate or effective solution for the vast majority of children placed in care. The focus must be on ensuring the wellbeing and safety of all children by preventing the need for children to come into care in the first place, and by ensuring the out-of-home care system delivers quality care for all of those children who need it,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

BACKGROUND: Auditor-General’s report on Transferring out-of-home care to non-government organisations