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Posts from the ‘Child Protection Sector Development’ Category

No Closed Doors

Inquiry Opened with a Promise of No Closed Doors

Yesterday, Commissioner Tim Carmody opened the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry.  His recommendations for the ‘road map’ for Queensland’s child protection system for the next decade, are due in 10 months.

In his introductory remarks, the Commissioner stressed that this is an Inquiry that would generally not be held “behind closed doors”.   A commitment was made to conduct the Inquiry in an open, inclusive and accessible manner so that the community can be kept informed and able to debate the issues.

The Commissioner explained that because it is a Commission of Inquiry, he was able to exercise discretion in choosing the best methods and tools for gathering information.  He invited everyone with a genuine interest in the matters being examined by the Inquiry to participate by, for example, lodging formal or informal submissions, describing their experiences and telling the Inquiry about their complaints and grievances as well as “giving credit where credit is due”.

Other methods to be used in gathering information that were outlined by the Commissioner included conducting public hearings as well as in camera hearings where confidentiality was required, examining departmental records, releasing discussion papers and holding on-line forums, listening to peak bodies and other stakeholder groups throughout Queensland, and consulting experts.

The Commissioner explained that the best source of information about the Inquiry will be their website www.childprotectioninquiry.qld.gov.au.  It will contain details of public hearings, written submissions and transcripts of proceedings.  Hearings will also be streamed live through the website.

PeakCare is very pleased that the Inquiry will offer a range of ways for stakeholders – peak bodies, service providers, parents, children, carers and researchers – to make their views and experiences known.  This means that the ‘road map’ is more likely to deliver well-informed ‘solutions’ to some seemingly intractable and entrenched problems.

Tonight, PeakCare is holding our first Roundtable Meeting about the inquiry with members and key partners invited to join with us in collaborating about key issues we wish to bring to the attention of the Inquiry and the best means for developing well-informed and useful submissions.

We are delighted that over 70 people have registered to attend and are committed to ensuring that this will be just the start of our collaboration with member agencies across the State.  Other on-line opportunities will be created for member agencies to participate in the development of our submissions as well as obtain information that may assist the development of their own submissions. Very importantly, we are looking forward to our face-to-face discussions at our “Meet the Protectors” Expos  that will be rolled-out over the rest of 2012.

Watch out for next week’s e-News to read about what happened at our initial Roundtable Meeting and the ways in which you can collaborate with us in preparing our submissions and contributing to the important work of the Child Protection Inquiry.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

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Child Protection Expos – Coming Your Way Soon

Planning for five Child Protection Expos to be held in different locations across the State is now well and truly underway.  We have selected a much more exciting title than Child Protection Expo, but you will need to wait before that is revealed in a future edition of eNews.

Our aim is to make the Child Protection Expos events that are about the people, for the people, by the people. 

About the people

Child protection is a “people-business”.  Our key asset is the people who design and deliver the services provided to thousands of Queensland children, young people and families every day of the week, every week of the year.  Our Child Protection Expos will be about show-casing your work so that others can meet and hear from you about the challenges you face as well as the success you experience every day in making a difference in the lives of children, young people and families.

To this end, a broad range of organisations – remembering that child protection is everyone’s business – will be invited to set up displays and presentations.  In addition, a series of facilitated “roundtable discussions” will be held during the course of each Expo to hear your views and exchange opinions about topical issues concerning child protection.

For the people

The Expos will be held in five locations – we would hold them in even more locations if we possibly could!   This is to maximise the capacity of people to attend an Expo and to keep the costs of their attendance low.

At this stage, we are planning to hold an Expo:

1)      within the corridor extending from southern Brisbane through Logan City and Beenleigh to the Gold Coast

2)      within the corridor extending from northern Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast

3)      at Toowomba

4)      at Rockhampton, and

5)      at Townsville.

By the people

We need your participation and support to make the Expos a success – so that we can truly say that they are events about the people, for the people, by the people!

To this end, we are inviting expressions of interest from people who would like to be our “sounding boards” and “fonts of local knowledge”.  Your major role would be to serve as contact people with whom PeakCare staff can consult about:

  • local venues that might be suitable for an Expo and their preferred dates
  • local organisations that can be invited to set up displays and deliver presentations
  • ways in which news about each Expo can be distributed amongst local networks and attendance encouraged
  • local people who may be invited to participate as panel members during roundtable discussions, and
  • the topics that should be addressed during the roundtable discussions to ensure that there is a mix of State-wide and local issues covered.

If you are interested in being a local contact person, please send an email to groberts@peakcare.org.au. Your email should briefly state the name of the organisation you work for, the position you hold within this organisation and your contact details.  You may also like to add any particular ways in which you may be able to provide assistance such as your membership of a local interagency group.

Over oncoming weeks, you will hear more about a range of promotional activities that we will be conducting to make sure that the Expos are events to remember.  Please feel free to enter comments to this post or email groberts@peakcare.org.au about any ideas you have or features that you would like us to incorporate within the Expos – remember that the Expos are to be about the people, for the people, by the people so your comments and feedback will be very much appreciated!

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

Intensive Foster Care Program Description Now Available

You may recall that in late 2011, PeakCare hosted the “What’s Special about Specialist Foster Care?”  workshop that brought together non-government organisations and representatives from the (then) Department of Communities.

This workshop was used to consider findings of a literature review undertaken by the Department about this form of out-of-home care and inform the development of a new program description by the Department.   PeakCare also initiated the collection of feedback from providers of these services to further inform our discussions with the Department about the new program description.

Now known as “intensive foster care” in preference to “specialist foster care”, the “intensive foster care program description” was approved earlier this year, and is now available on the Department’s website

Also available on the same page are the literature review and consultation report that informed the development of the program description.

The program description provides a definition of intensive foster care and sets out the requirements for the delivery of this program.  In summary, intensive foster care is described as a program offering placements and intensive support for children and young people in out-of-home care who require therapeutic support for complex and extreme levels of needs.  Children or young people are placed in the home of an approved foster or kinship carer (or provisionally approved carer), with intensive support provided to the placement by a non-government intensive foster care service.

The core components of the program detailed within the program description include:

  • a therapeutic focus for service provision
  • the conduct of intensive case management for each child or young person
  • a clearly articulated teamwork approach to caring for the child or young person
  • additional training requirements for carers of intensive foster care placements, and
  • a clear process for determining whether a carer is suited to providing intensive foster care placements

Click here to read more

Insurance Myths and Mysteries

PeakCare dares you to join us in a frightening journey into the unknown.  Our journey’s mission is to unravel the mysteries of insurance and clarify how it affects you, your organisation and clients.

Together and with the help of some expert advice, we will debunk the myths and discover the facts.  No stone will be left unturned nor small print defeat us, as we courageously tackle the beast named INSURANCE.

Can you be sure that your understandings about insurance are correct?  How confident are you that your organisation, your staff or clients are not being disadvantaged by having succumbed to a mis-placed belief in some of the myths?  Are you brave enough to join us in this quest and find out the facts?

As a first step in our journey, you are invited to submit any questions you have about insurance that you have never felt quite brave enough to ask before.  Alternatively, you may like to send us stories or scenarios that describe some of your own encounters or difficulties that you have experienced with insurance.

These questions and stories can be entered as comments to this post – anonymously if you prefer – or alternatively you can email your questions and stories to groberts@peakcare.org.au.  These questions and stories will then be added to the post by us.  If you prefer to not be identified as the author of a question or story, please let us know this within your email.

Your questions or stories may relate to insurance issues that are of concern to your organisation or to members of your staff, contractors or carers.

We are expecting that as questions and stories are entered into the post, they will generate more queries, questions and online conversation.

Periodically, we will obtain expert industry advice in formulating responses to your questions and stories.  Eventually, these will be compiled in a “Question and Answer” format and be made available online to all PeakCare Member Agencies and Supporters.

Debunking the myths

As previously noted, the aims of this exercise are to de-bunk the myths that often seem to feature in the understandings held by organisations and/ or individuals about insurance.  These myths can sometimes significantly disadvantage organisations, their staff, carers or clients.

As an example, what’s your opinion of the accuracy or otherwise of this statement:

“Any damage to property by a young person living in a residential service- either accidental or deliberate- must be reported to the Police Service in order for the service to claim on their insurance.”

Is this a myth or fact?  What are the possible implications of the understandings held by your organisation and staff about this issue in relation to their practice?  Perhaps you may like to enter some comments below in response to these questions.

Another example:

“The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services has a policy that states that any property damage caused by a child or young person living in either a residential service or foster care must be reported to the Police Service.  The Department’s position is that this is the only way in which children and young people can learn about the consequences of their behaviour and the Department will not accept any claims for ex-gratia payments if the property damage has not been reported to the Police.”

Myth or fact?  Is this entirely true, only partly true or completely false?  Enter some comments below that indicate your understandings about whether or not such a policy exists.

All questions great and small

No questions that you submit will be regarded as too big or too small.  All will be viewed as important and deserving of a response.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

PeakCare’s Election Video Series: Video Three

In this video, Minister Phil Reeves and Shadow Minister Tracy Davis discuss the range and mix of out-of-home care options needed for children and young people.

Have you got a view about the matters they discussed?

If so, please feel free to enter your comments below or email your thoughts to PeakCare via election2012@peakcare.org.au

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director

PeakCare Queensland  

LNP Announces Youth Justice Initiatives

In a bid to “break the cycle of youth crime and detention”, the LNP has announced that they will:

  • deliver extra school and community-based police, and
  • allocate $2 million over two years to trial a Youth Boot Camp Diversion Program.

The LNP states that boosting the numbers of police in schools will “help prevent crime through the development of positive partnerships between police, students and the broader school community”.

Within three years, 50 schools will have school and community-based police.  An ‘Adopt a School’ program that connects local police and local schools will be established where there is no permanent school-based police officer.

The trial Youth Boot Camp Diversion Program will be introduced for young people convicted of offences who would otherwise be sentenced to detention.  The trial program will deliver structured training, mentoring and support for 80 young people.

If you have a view or opinion about the LNP’s youth justice initiatives, please enter a comment below or email us at election2012@peakcare.org.au.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director

PeakCare Queensland

Labor announces more Early Years Centres

The Labor Party has announced that, if elected to government, they will:

  • continue to support existing Early Years Centres at Caboolture, North Gold Coast, Browns Plains and Cairns, and
  • allocate $27.54 million to establish and operate new centres in Townsville, Toowoomba, Whitsunday/Bowen and Cairns.

The Labor Party states that, in doubling the number of Early Years Centres from four to eight, this will enable “even more Queensland families to access childcare, education, health and parenting support in a single location”.

If you have a view or opinion about the Labor Party’s announcement of more Early Years Centres, please enter a comment below or email us at election2012@peakcare.org.au.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director

PeakCare Queensland

Do We Care?

“Here’s what I want to explore: Can we teach people to care? I know that we can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring?

– Seth Godin

I had the opportunity last week to dedicate three days to attending a training course, The Art of Hosting, How do we design, host and harvest conversations that matter.  This topic is of significant interest to me, and of course to PeakCare. A substantial part of our work is to connect, to seek engagement, to have meaningful conversations and to use those conversations to leverage excellence in Child Protection policy, procedure and practice.

You may have noticed the many efforts that PeakCare makes to create opportunities for meaningful conversations. Certainly our work across the sector to participate (engage) and to create opportunities for our sector to participate (engage) speaks to our commitment as an organization toward “meaningful conversation”. Staff members here, like so many of you in the sector, commit their time to attend existing meetings, sit on a wide range of forums and involve ourselves in a staggering array of projects. We also expend enormous energy to create opportunities for our government and industry partners, our member organizations and the broader child protection sector to come together to have these critical conversations.

Along with more traditional forms of engagement (meetings, conferences, training sessions, focus groups, forums, panels, a lunch date or a coffee catch up) PeakCare has also developed a social media strategy that offers a number of alternative ways for people to become involved, to contribute their thoughts, their ideas and their passion. No longer are people in our sector limited by their physical availability to attend a meeting, involve themselves in an issue, or contribute their voice.  You can get our e-news delivered weekly to your email inbox, receive relevant sector news via email, or through facebook. You can check out our website, access our professional practice blog, fill out an on-line survey, leave a comment on facebook or even send us a tweet. The possibilities for engagement are plentiful and we hope, inspiring!

So many opportunities to engage … yet, some people don’t engage. Some people don’t show up. What is engagement exactly? Is engagement more than just “showing up”.  Does engagement actually mean “stepping up”? If we don’t show up, or step up – does it mean we don’t care?

Some people do show up. But is showing up, enough? Engagement for the sake of engagement, conversations for the sake of having conversations …. is that really engagement? Do we sometimes mistake showing up for caring?

Do we care? This is a worthy question to ponder the next time you are deciding whether you will read that email or report, attend that meeting, leave that comment, or show up for that coffee date.

What would it look like if we were a sector engaged in the act of caring, rather than the activity of engaging?

Fiona McColl

PeakCare – Training and Sector Development Manager

Queensland Election 2012 Update:

Since PeakCare asked member agencies and other interested parties to send their commentaries on the Queensland child protection system, the areas of domestic violence and child sexual abuse have received significant attention.  The need to remain mindful of confidentiality in circumstances of domestic violence and child abuse reporting has also received comment.

The issues of domestic violence and child sexual abuse are amongst the most complex when navigating the child protection arena.  They are also the issues most likely to hit the ‘hot buttons’ across our communities.  For some members of our society accepting that people they love and trust can harm their partners and/or their children and then to stand up to such perpetrators who may be family members, close friends, colleagues or respected community members proves to be immensely difficult time and time again. As such, denial and victim blaming are common experiences for women and children facing these issues.

To holistically address the issues of violence and sexual abuse in Queensland, governments, organisations, communities and family members need to be cognisant of the prevalence of abuse and stand united against the silence perpetrators aim for.  All groups then need to come together to look at the most effective means of addressing these harmful issues in our society.

In calling on our members and key stakeholders to make comment on child protection in preparation for Queensland’s 2012 election, some key points raised and solutions offered are as follows:

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

It has been suggested that the silos regarding information sharing need to be broken down and more integrated communication systems such as evidenced by the Singapore model where each stakeholder has access to information be adopted.

School based programs on early intervention as prevention need to be adopted as core curricula and resourced adequately.  The earlier the intervention, the better the short and long term outcomes.  However, some evidence suggests that school aged teaching on abuse in intimate relationships needs to be followed up with workplace education as it can be difficult for school aged children to integrate the learning around intimate partners and children prior to having such lived experiences.  Therefore some prevention and early intervention models that denote success talk of engaging employers in their educative processes.

Queensland needs improved justice responses to men who use violence.  International literature and models trialled around the world point significantly to the need to hold perpetrators accountable both for their abuse and then for taking their rehabilitation seriously.  The criminalisation of domestic violence is also considered a significant step forward in having perpetrators understand the seriousness of their abusive conduct.  Queensland needs to consider this option.  Furthermore, integrated courts that respond to domestic violence and other coexisting factors such as child protection matters are an important step in a holistic systemic response.

An adequate number of accommodation responses for women and children escaping domestic violence are needed.  Various models of service need to be identified including refuges.

The confidentiality of these safe places needs to be upheld at all times by all parties involved in supporting women and children to live in safety.  Feedback thus far has commented on breaches of confidentiality by departmental officers that have led perpetrators to know the location of refuges and therefore victims.  Such breaches have led to women and children being relocated yet again and further upheaval for children in attending yet another new school.   Extreme caution needs to be exercised.  The capacity of perpetrators to ‘charm’ and ‘con’ is well documented.  Staff members in Department of Communities, Department of Housing and other government and Non-Government Organisations need to be given clear instruction to ensure women and children escaping domestic violence are able to relocate without fear of the workers supporting them being ‘tricked into’ disclosing their whereabouts by perpetrators endeavouring to locate them.

Similar feedback has been received about family violence and processes of disclosure.  Children who inform trusted adults about their abuse need to know the consequences of their disclosures and the likelihood that if the perpetrator is a parent they will be informed of the notification.  Even though notifications are confidential, concerns have been raised as to how easily some parents can track the disclosures back to a child.  Even in cases where the child withdraws the statement upon interview by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) they still remain vulnerable as, regardless of the child’s stated intent to proceed no further with the matter, parents are still notified by the QPS that a complaint has been received.  This has led to concerns that child abuse will go further ‘underground’ whilst children and their advocates elect to remain silent instead of speaking out due to fears for the short term safety ramifications for children when doing so.

Making notifications and managing a child’s risk post disclosures is an on-going minefield for professionals across education, health and human services settings.  This is an area that requires further attention and wide reaching discussion to establish safe protocols for children and young people as well as parties acting on their behalf.

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE:

The Queensland government must remain committed to the implementation of the National Child Protection Framework signed by COAG in 2009.

Organisations with a specific role in advocating for the interests of children who have been sexually abused are keen to ensure that the Queensland government implements strategies to achieve Outcome 6:

Child sexual abuse and exploitation is prevented and survivors receive adequate support.  Children are protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse through targeted prevention strategies, and survivors are supported by the community and through specific therapeutic and legal responses.

In upholding the principles of Outcome 6, the Queensland government in partnership with Non-Government Organisations needs to also ensure the requirements of the supporting outcomes pertaining to child sexual abuse in the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children are met:

  1. Raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and abuse, including online exploitation
  2. Enhance prevention strategies for child sexual assault
  3. Strengthen law enforcement and judicial processes in response to child sexual assault and exploitation
  4. Ensure survivors of child sexual assault have access to effective treatment and appropriate support

Again, the solutions offered include raising awareness of child sexual abuse and investing in wide reaching community education campaigns for all children and families.  Preventative strategies that have a strong evidence base of success need to be adequately funded to ensure sound outcomes.

The importance of hearing children and paying attention to their disclosures was also highlighted.  In order to be a State that operates with the best interests of children at the core of our system and processes, children need to be considered in all decisions that affect them.  This isn’t always easy to achieve and as such significant resources need to be available to ensure children are heard and then supported through their healing.

Concern about the current forensic nature of our child safety system has been raised as a significant factor impeding the capacity to protect Queensland children from sexual abuse. Given the widely documented difficulty in holding perpetrators to account for child sexual abuse, the current leaning of the child safety system to the burden of proof as opposed to professional assessments ascertaining the likelihood of sexual abuse having occurred and on-going risk has been highlighted as a major concern in protecting Queensland children. Qualified and well trained professionals are required to employ their skills in identifying and assessing risk factors and key indicators whilst also identifying the ‘nuances’ associated with perpetration that are more difficult to detect and prove forensically.

The importance of skilful assessment is an area about which PeakCare receives on-going feedback.  Concerns are expressed that staff undertaking assessments are often the most inexperienced and under-skilled members of the Department, when what is required is the expertise of the most skilled and experienced staff to make such complex calls.   Assessment processes require significant attention and on-going evaluation.

The need for improved communication and understanding of procedures between family support and child protection agencies, Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) and the family law courts also been highlighted.   Organisations working in child protection and domestic violence note that these systems often work in isolation of each other and employ processes that are complex to understand. Hence, protecting children from on-going sexual abuse, particularly when the offender is a parent, is difficult given the cost of the family law system and the complexity of navigating it when clients are often self-represented.  Workers from the Non-Government sector at times find the advocacy required when supporting clients through such systemic demands is beyond their scope of expertise.

A substantial increase in resourcing for law enforcement agencies to investigate child sexual offences, including online and historical offences has also been called for.  So too has been the need to ensure children and young people receive specialist therapeutic intervention at the earliest point possible.

Funding and resourcing for services that offer therapeutic intervention for children who have been sexually abused as well as support services for their family members is of vital importance.  It is widely understood that child sexual abuse is the silent epidemic of all societies globally and yet in Queensland, it remains an underfunded and largely un-resourced area.  Whilst adding funding and resources to this area of child protection, it is also essential that we ensure that therapists receive appropriate training in childhood sexual abuse and effective interventions.

Lorraine Dupree

Policy and Research Manager – PeakCare Qld

We Need to Lift Our Game.

As Queensland gears up for a State Election, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled organisations are asking: “Can it get any worse for the safety and well-being of children and families?”

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care currently sits at 37% and is continually rising especially in that part of the system where neglect and poverty are the reasons behind out of home care placements.

Of particular concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations is the low level of compliance with the Child Placement Principle. As a result, many children are becoming disconnected from their families and their culture and risk losing their identity unique to being the latest generation in the oldest continuous known culture on the planet.

To make matters worse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are reporting that some contracts to purchase services of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled organisations by the Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) have been rescinded. Representatives of community controlled organisations involved in the regular PeakCare blogs have pointed out that the existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol has not been respected especially in the recent purchasing of services for the regional Hubs.

The government action plans aligned to Together keeping our children safe and well: Our Comprehensive Plan  are being undertaken while the non-government response to the report has yet to be rolled out across the regions. This is a major innovation which needs resources to build relationships in order to improve the system and strengthen services. No matter what innovative model the government decides to fund, it has the impact of increasing not decreasing the proportion of the child protection system that is focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

Currently some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are raising concerns that money has been removed from the budgets of their Foster and Kinship Care Programs. This is further eroding the capacity of the system to respond culturally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. It also further reduces Queensland’s capacity to fulfill its legislated obligation to comply with the Child Placement Principle.  Stringent compliance mechanisms and inflexible contracting arrangements serve to disadvantage these non government organisations working to provide quality services to Queensland’s most disadvantaged cohort of children and their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection services need security of funding.  Their expertise needs to be recognised and supported by government and non government colleagues.  Enhanced funding and resources are required to ensure that the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our care system can be genuinely addressed.  A combined approach is necessary to ensure appropriate resources, support and advocacy from the wider service system.

Together keeping our children safe and well: Our Comprehensive Plan is just a beginning and should be the focus for improved purchasing decisions by any incoming government. The Blueprint for implementation strategy should begin taking words from these plans and putting strong services on the ground.

We need to lift our game!

Carolyn Ovens

Reconciliation Action Plan Project Worker – PeakCare Queensland