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Posts from the ‘Child Protection: Stories We’re Following’ Category

Re-shaping the System. But into What?

Widespread media commentary has noted that, whilst most inquiries into the abuse and neglect of children are ‘crisis-driven’ and prompted by scandalous treatment of an individual child or family, no such impetus has underpinned the establishment of Queensland’s current Child Protection Inquiry.  Rather, its stated rationale is to deliver a ‘road map’ for child protection over the next decade.

Jurisdictions across Australia and internationally are struggling with re-shaping or reforming their child protection systems.  Queensland is similarly struggling and, despite the absence of a high-profile scandal relating to ways in which an individual child or family has been dealt with by the system, it may be easily argued that Queensland’s child protection system is nevertheless in crisis.

The Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Foster Care completed by the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) in 2004 led to significant increases in funding to and for government and non-government services.  Despite this, or even because of it, ‘demand’ for statutory and non-statutory services has increased, while ‘supply’ is outstripped.  For example, notifications of abuse or neglect that have been assessed as a ‘high priority’ are not being promptly investigated and less-than-suitable placements in out-of-home care are often occurring.

Queensland’s situation has characteristics and elements that are the same as those that exist in other jurisdictions within Australia as well as some that are significantly different.  Queensland is the ‘same’ in so far as the ‘child protection system’ as it exists within all States and Territories is complex, it encompasses multiple government and non-government service providers and child and family needs are becoming increasingly complex.  ‘Differences’ in Queensland which must also be accounted for stem from, for example, the spread of population across a vast and diverse geographic area, the comparatively more recent provision of government-funded services by community-based organisations and rapid expansion of out-of-home care placements.  Despite knowledge about the economic and human benefits of investing in prevention and early intervention, resource allocation as it is managed by all States and Territories, remains skewed towards tertiary interventions to a greater or lesser extent.

At the commencement of this inquiry, the most recent publicly available data (2010/11) indicates that while there has been movement up and down in the number of children entering and exiting out-of-home care each year, the actual rate/1000 children entering care in Queensland decreased from 2.5/1000 in 2009/11 to 2.2/1000 children in 2010/11. Children are however staying longer in out-of-home care, and a contributing factor to the overall situation is that children who entered around the time of the CMC Inquiry have remained in the system.

Despite the examination of components of the system by previous inquiries, demand increasing and resources tripling, the pathway provided to children and families through Queensland’s ‘child protection system’ remains fundamentally the same as it exists in other jurisdictions, with more or less attention given to the pathways into or those that sit alongside the system.

Inquiries typically fail to conceptualise the child protection system in a different way and therefore focus on doing the same things ‘better’ or doing ‘more of the same’, rather than advocating for different and new approaches.  Usual recommendations have included standardising or automating procedures, introducing structural changes for administering the system and underlining ‘reforms’ requiring legislative changes.  Examples from the CMC inquiry include the recommendation to regulate kinship care in the same way as foster care which has become problematic to the recruitment of potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship carers, whilst more fundamental issues such as the need for a devolution of responsibility for protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to community-controlled and led organisations were not addressed.

This inquiry has an advantage over previous inquiries in that the Commissioner has been charged with making a “full and careful inquiry in an open and independent manner of Queensland’s child protection system”.   In taking advantage of this opportunity, It is imperative that the inquiry works back from the desired outcomes being sought for children, families and communities, informed by what is known about ‘what works and doesn’t work’, rather than simply recommending ‘more of the same’ in terms of existing solutions (eg. more resources, training and early intervention) or approaches (eg. adopting a public health model).  Whilst recommendations of this kind may, at least in part, carry some benefits, they are unlikely to significantly re-shape the child protection system or pave the way towards the adoption of a new paradigm.

To really make a difference for children and families whose circumstances lead them to being at risk of entering the child protection system or those already in contact or entrenched in the system, this inquiry must question the drivers that are immobilising the child protection system and making it resistant to change.  These are the drivers that are apparent not only in Queensland, but elsewhere as well.  They are the drivers that lead to the under-inclusion of some children and families and the over-inclusion of others, the ongoing insufficient capacity to properly service children and families arising from mismatches between the interventions individual families need and what they are offered, and the inequitable spread and access to services.

From the start of the inquiry, the Commissioner should be thinking about how to focus the recommendations on ‘outcomes’, rather than confining his examination to a review of ‘outputs’ or ‘processes’. The Commissioner should also be mindful of the ways in which the development and implementation of responses to his recommendations will be independently monitored to ascertain that the outcomes being achieved for children and families actually improve, in preference to simply reporting on the progress of implementing responses to recommendations.

In addition, a major challenge that exists concerns the context of fiscal restraint in which the inquiry is being conducted.  In accordance with the terms of reference established for the inquiry, the recommendations made by the Commissioner must be “affordable, deliverable and provide effective and efficient outcomes”.

This imperative sits within an environment where a major scaling back of the Queensland public service is taking place that has included the shedding of employees (albeit those who are purportedly not in ‘front-line’ positions) who have exercised roles and functions within a number of government departments that are related to the administration or delivery of child protection services as well as the discontinuation of grants to a number of non-government organisations.

The concern that must be considered by both the Commissioner and the government is whether the reduction in numbers of personnel across both the government and non-government sectors will deplete capacity to properly and adequately implement the recommendations which may arise from the inquiry.  Reductions in ‘policy’ and ‘program development’ personnel and system administrators within both the government and non-governments sectors may not be an effective cost saving measure in the longer term if there is insufficient capacity left to undertake the detailed policy analysis, program development, change management and monitoring functions that will be needed to implement major reforms.

Forewarning of what may be required to re-shape the child protection system comes from the United Kingdom.  With more than a year having transpired since the conclusion of the review of the United Kingdom’s child protection system that was led by Professor Eileen Munro, those charged with the responsibility of shifting the system away from being overly bureaucratised and procedurally driven have warned that the past ‘scaffolding’ of the system must be removed incrementally and with care.

In anticipation that this inquiry will make recommendations intended to reduce the over-reliance on tertiary interventions, it may also be expected that there will be challenges posed in not prematurely shifting resources away from the tertiary end towards prevention and early intervention without giving sufficient time for the demand for tertiary services to be effectively and genuinely reduced, thereby exposing some children and families to even higher levels  of risk than those that currently exist.

The Commissioner has been assigned the responsibility of charting a ‘road map’ for the next decade.  This is viewed as a realistic time frame for re-shaping the child protection system and it may be expected that every year of those ten years will be required to implement the extent of changes that are needed.

A key question that the Commissioner will need to wrestle with concerns what the new paradigm that we are seeking looks like.  Will the new paradigm constitute a re-vamping of the child protection system as we currently understand it or is it better to seek the establishment of a system focused much more broadly on ‘child and family well-being’ – a system that integrates the full range of programs and services required to support and respond to the needs of children and families that relegates the overall approaches to child protection as they are undertaken today to the pages of history?

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

If you have a view about the matters raised in this post, make sure that you read all of PeakCare’s Child Protection Inquiry Issues Papers that can be accessed in the Members Only section of our website and enter your feedback into the accompanying questionnaires.

You may also wish to enter some comments below.  What do you think are the drivers that immobilise child protection systems and make them resistant to change?  If we are seeking a re-shaped child protection system, what should the system look like?  If a new paradigm was to be created, how would you describe it?

Finding the Missing Link between Missing Persons and Child Protection

Julie Clark is a Lecturer at Griffith University and has conducted research into missing persons and their families.  Julies research inspired The Disappearances Project.

Julie is this weeks Child Protection Warrior.  Here is a guest post by Julie, about Julie.

While it may seem a stretch for some, establishing a better response for missing people, their families and friends is strongly related to supporting families and child protection. The largest group of the 35,000 missing people each year are children and young people, mostly 13-17 year old young people, some of whom are or were in care. While most are located and missing only short periods the numbers suggest there is more we need to do to understand and prevent the need for young people to cope negotiating adolescence and difficult childhoods by going missing. Young women are the largest group under 18 years. For others the transition to adulthood is a struggle and more young men become long-term missing people in the years after adolescence. My research has been about siblings of missing people and they spoke about their troubled brothers and sisters, sometimes troubled by experiences of abuse, neglect or difficult family relationships. All those who went missing had struggled with mental health issues. These are the complex issues family support workers, across all professional backgrounds struggle with on a daily basis.

Why people should come to the Missing People: Issues and Implications Conference and TRAMP

The conference is a rare opportunity to come together as a community of people interested in people who have a troubled start to life and the issues around going missing as well as the support of those people left behind. They impact across the lifespan. The issues are complex and different for each group affected. It may be young people, mothers who have relinquished a child for adoption, people fleeing violence, a child abducted, an older person with dementia. Many families will have experienced the loss of someone going missing. This area of practice is under developed, there is so much we do not know and need to better understand to provide more informed and useful responses. We need to intervene early and effectively to avoid young people developing patterns of behaviour that will not be useful to them over the longer term. The police are expected to respond to episodes of going missing but there is little or no sense of a ‘continuum of care’ once the person is located. Rather than a raft of new services we need existing services to include an understanding of going missing in the work they are already doing. The conference will be a place for like minded people to discuss issues of importance to them with a view to influencing the agenda for the next 10 years.

The Disappearances Project was inspired by my research (I read this in a press release so it must be true!). It tells the story from the perspective of people who live with the experience of having a family member who is a long term missing person. It is 50 minutes of powerful theatre. It helps us to understand the cost of going missing from the lived experience of people who live with ‘missingness’ every day. TRAMP (Theatre Raising Awareness of Missing People) is the project title for the theatre production funded by Arts Qld and associated activities (it must be excellent because we were successful with funding even in these difficult times!). As part of TRAMP we invite people to make connections with other local community members interested in this issue and develop their understanding about the impact of someone going missing. People can come together when they attend the theatre productions in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Ayr and Cairns. There is a Q and A after each performance with both the actors and myself. Young people interested in using theatre to express themselves may really be interested in the opportunity to talk with two accomplished writers and performers. Bringing social issues to light through theatre is the mission of Version 1.0.

Agency and professional staff and community members are also invited to be part of a workshop in their local community ($30 for a 2 hour workshop. You can register online through Eventbrite) on one of the days the theatre is presenting in their location. See http://www.griffith.edu.au/health/school-human-services-social-work/partnerships-collaboration/tramp for more details or our facebook site www.facebook.com.au/theatreraisingawarenessofmissingpeople.

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

TRAMP Update

Drumroll please!

Julie and Miff here at TRAMP HQ are excited to announce that tickets to The Disappearance Project at the Judith Wright Centre are on sale now!

The Helpmann Award-winning ensemble (This Kind of Ruckus) version 1.0 comes to the Judith Wright Centre this July with their extraordinary production The Disappearances Project.  Exploring the effects of long-term missing persons cases on family members and communities drawn from years of police investigations and research, The Disappearances Project looks at what happens to the “left-behind.’

Do they hope or do they grieve?  How do they navigate their everyday existence?  Version 1.0 quietly traces the edges of this void, shedding light on the emotional journeys of those left behind.

As many of you will know, Julie’s research was utilised in the crafting of this script and the production promises to be a unique and moving experience.

Here’s what the critics are saying:

“The Disappearances Project is a compelling piece of theatre, unorthodox enough to generate unwavering interest yet believable enough to be deeply relatable. In the final blackout, the fraction of a second’s hesitation before applause signified the audience’s lingering entrenchment before surfacing for breath. There’s no substitute for witnessing genuinely original live theatre; what a privilege!”

Courtney J Pascoe, aussietheatre.com

“This is far from a bleak production, despite its painful subject. I can’t recall an hour in the theatre going by more quickly, driven by the poetry of the text, the quality of the performances and the sounds and images in which they are framed”.

David Zampatti, The West Australian

Click here to purchase tickets from the Judith Wright Centre

Tickets range in price from $25 (student) to $35 (full price), for evening performances on 3rd, 5th and 6th July with a matinee performance on the 4th July.

Alternatively, our event coordinators at e-Kiddna are offering the purchase of tickets via their website.

We would love it if you’d join us for our VIP event which coincides with the official opening night of The Disappearances Project on Thursday 5th July.  Even if you’re not attending the Missing People Conference, you can still purchase a $55 VIP ticket to the conference social event which includes:

  • your ticket to The Disappearances Project
  • entry into the exclusive VIP event at the Judith Wright Centre Shopfront
  • drinks and light canapés, and
  • optional bus transfers to and from the Logan Campus, Griffith University and the Judith Wright Centre.

Click here to purchase your VIP ticket, or if you’d like to simply purchase a theatre ticket for the reduced group rate of $30

Julie and I would be thrilled to see you there.

More news to follow . . . . . . . . . . .

Miff Trevor

Theatre Raising Awareness of Missing People (T.R.A.M.P.)
Masters of Social Work (Q) student on field placement
Ph: 07 3382 1124 | Email: miff.trevor@griffithuni.edu.au
 www.facebook.com/TheatreRaisingAwarenessofMissingPeople
www.griffith.edu.au/health/school-human-services-social-work/partnerships-collaboration/tramp

We Joined in a Journey

A few short weeks ago (seems much longer ago than that), PeakCare in association with other peak bodies involved with the Combined Voices Campaign – the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak, Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Services Coalition, the CREATE Foundation and Queensland Council of Social Services – came up with an idea to commemorate National Sorry Day.

This idea involved placing a full-page open letter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland in the Courier Mail.

I am not about to tell you the words that will feature within our open-letter – they will be there for you to read in this Saturday’s Courier Mail.  What I do want to talk with you about now is the journey we took in bringing our idea to fruition.

Some of the thinking underpinning our idea to publish an open-letter in the Courier Mail was as follows:

  • In preference to writing about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, we wanted to write a letter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland – a letter containing a personalised and heartfelt message to them.
  • Whilst addressed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland, we wanted to make a public statement – one that would be accessible to, and potentially read by, all Queenslanders – Indigenous and non-Indigenous
  • We wanted this public statement to be read not only by our Member Agencies and people involved in the delivery of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families – we wanted it to be accessible to, and read by, Queenslanders from all walks of life so that they could also be informed about the significance of National Sorry Day
  • We are also hoping and confident that our open-letter will attract other mainstream and social media attention so that further attention can be brought to the findings of the Bringing Them Home Report.
  • As most signatories to the open-letter will be non-Indigenous organisations, we wanted the letter to clearly state that we do not presume to speak on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, nor do we pretend to fully comprehend the pain caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by forced child removal policies of the past or to understand the best paths for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to take in their healing and recovery.  That is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves to determine.
  • As leaders of Queensland society however, we do claim the right and moral responsibility to speak out about the kinds of values, beliefs and attitudes we bring to our relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to denounce racism in all its forms.
  • We have an obligation to stand by, and to be seen as standing by, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, colleagues and clients in addressing injustices of the past and the ongoing impact of these injustices on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities today.
  • That is what our letter is seeking to achieve.

A little over 3 weeks ago, we sent out our request to you, our Member Agencies and Supporters, to help us raise the funds needed to pay for the full-page open letter.  The letter itself is costing $19,500 but we decided to set a target of $30,000.

It is testament to your generosity and commitment that in such a short period of time, we have raised around $24,000 – a little short of our $30,000 goal but more than sufficient to pay for the full-page letter and leave us enough left over to invest in other future projects and activities of the Combined Voices Campaign.  As we are continuing to receive pledges, it may well be that we eventually end up reaching the $30,000 target.

We appreciate that for some organisations, the tight time frame was insufficient for you to obtain the necessary approvals from your Boards or Management Committees to make a pledge.  We apologise for this and will attempt to give you more notice in the future.  We were aware that the time frame was short, but thought it was nevertheless worth a shot at not letting the opportunity pass us by.

We also appreciate that for some organisations, more time was needed for them to internally discuss and debate whether or not they agreed with the notion of the open-letter and what the letter represents.  If the open-letter has prompted your organisation to enter into these kinds of discussions and debates, then we think that this is a good thing.  They are discussions that all organisations need to have and we wish you well as you pursue them further.

In formulating the wording of our open-letter, we consulted with the National Sorry Day Committee and the National Healing Foundation.

In drawing this post to a close, I would like to draw your attention to the following extract of an email received from the National Healing Foundation:

The Healing Foundation would like to express our thanks to the organisations of Queensland that have elevated this issue and have meaningfully made a contribution to our national debate, keeping the apology alive as we all strive to address the many issues that past government policies have resulted in for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have a long way to go in healing the many hurts inflicted, but this letter will let many people know that they are not alone in that journey and this is not to be underestimated in its impact.

We are proud to be associated with this project.

Perhaps the most meaningful feedback that we received came to us from a member of the Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Reference Group.  This feedback was magnificent in its simplicity.  It stated:

Just say to them – THANK YOU!

I am now passing on that thanks to you.  Thank you for your pledges and of your generous support of this project.  I am hoping that when you read the letter in Saturday’s edition of the Courier Mail that you will feel pleased with, and justifiably proud of the part that you have played, in delivering the very important messages contained within our open-letter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

Artwork by Nyree Reynolds, sourced from Aboriginal Art Directory Online

May Day… All May long

“To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years.  To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”  Winston Churchill

Here we are again in May – Domestic Violence Month – 2012.  Here we are again with a whole month dedicated to domestic violence.  Why a whole month?  Do we really need to focus attention on this issue for that long?  I’d love to say that it is not necessary given that many other significant issues only require a day or a week to highlight the concerns.  However, given the realities of domestic abuse, we need this issue on our radar the whole year through.

Why?

Domestic violence is still one of the most pervasive issues in our society.  Abuse against women is rampant.  The impacts on women and children in our society cost us sociologically.  It also costs us to the tune of billions annually economically in paying individually and collectively for the short and long term impacts of such abuse against women and children.

Most significantly domestic violence kills. It is our silent epidemic.   Each year at least a quarter of murders in Queensland result from domestic violence.  This is a fairly consistent statistic throughout recent years.

Whilst we have all the research about patriarchy, complacency, victim blame and the like, it is still hard to make sense of why any human being would be either accepting of or complacent with regard to those who exert power over their partners. Particularly when the statistics so clearly demonstrate the likelihood of horrific outcomes such as long term trauma impacts for the victim, children and other family members or death.

Last May I wrote the blog post Permission to Perpetrate, which outlined the need for our society to pay attention to the acts of perpetrators and address biases by recognising that women do not invite abuse, but rather that perpetrators plan it, defend themselves against any backlash and gather pawns in their game to support their perpetration.  This year not much has changed.  Thus we again highlight that domestic violence is the choice and responsibility of the perpetrator.  Their actions not only hurt women who are their current or former intimate partners, wives and mothers of their children, it also harms their children and their families as a whole.

So why are we still so focused on the women who are abused?  Why are there so many myths about women who experience domestic violence such as: they don’t tell the truth, they nag and invite it?  We know through on-going research that women are more likely to stay silent about domestic violence than to speak out against their perpetrator so such myths act only as excuses for perpetrators.  Click here for some of the common myths and fact responses to these myths.

Some advances however have been made in Australia since PeakCare’s 2011 May blog post:

In Queensland the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 was reviewed and federally the Family Violence (and Other Measures) Bill 2011 was passed in December 2011.  This bill contains a number of amendments designed to strengthen the Act in relation to the protection of children in environments where family violence has been present.

PeakCare responded to the call for submissions for these legislative changes. When I placed these proposed legislative changes on my ‘google alerts’ to keep myself abreast of the issues, I was dumbfounded by the on-going commentaries that spoke of such proposed legislative amendments as sexist, feminist and an affront to men.  Most significantly the feedback suggested such legislation designed to address domestic violence and child abuse was undermining fathers in Australian society.

So, I started to read more closely in an endeavour to make sense of such relentless diatribes espousing this legislation as the work of ‘man haters’.  Men or fathers aren’t the target of the legislation, perpetrators of abuse are.   Little recognition was given to the fact this legislation was designed to protect children and adult victims of domestic violence regardless of gender.

Even if we were to see this legislation as protection for women and children, which it largely is due to the fact that they are the most common victims of domestic violence, why is protecting women and children from violence and abuse a process of undermining fatherhood or maleness in any way? In what way were the rights of loving fathers being undermined as major contributors to their children’s lives?

Why is there a sense that by affording equal rights and mutual respect to women and children, most notably the right to safety and well-being, men are somehow being vilified?  Their rights are somehow being trampled.  How?  As the White Ribbon Campaign, a campaign led by men internationally against violence towards women states:  The majority of men are not abusers but all men need to speak up and be united against violence perpetrated on women.

In closing, a quote from an icon of our time, a man who has a real grasp of horror:

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with … an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth: “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”  Stephen King

The elephant is not just in living rooms.  These elephants are part of our society and indicative of our silence in accepting and remaining silent about domestic violence.

A society intent on equality and mutual respect is not an affront to men or masculinity.  It is a society that respects all citizens regardless of gender, creed or any other difference.  It is one that endorses respectful behaviour and freedom from abuse for all.

Click here to visit the Queensland Government’s Act as 1 campaign webpage

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

Community Control in Indigenous Communities – Does it Work?

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.” Thomas Jefferson

Recently at PeakCare we have been involved in research and discussion around the issue of community control.  The model of community control involves the devolution of child protection and family support services to local Indigenous community controlled organisations. These organisations take responsibility for the operation of these services.
A key example of this model is provided by the Canadian child protection system. Canada devolved responsibility for child protection and family support services for on-reserve children and families to local First Nation agencies in 1990.

Whilst the Canadian system has had some success, it has also raised a number of issues that we in Australia can consider.  A brief outline of the main issues can be seen below.

Here are some possible Pro’s for community control:

  • Two-tiered systems: The establishment of a complete separate sector for the provision of services to Indigenous children and their families could lead to a two-tiered system. They face societal challenges and barriers which are complex given an historical and contemporary context of racism, the intergenerational effects on parenting skills of forced removal practices, poverty and marginalisation. There is evidence of a two-tiered system at play in the Canadian experience with this model.
  • Greater Equality: Community control may reduce the extent of discriminatory processes within the child protection and family support sector. Community controlled organisations may also be less threatening and thus more accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples than mainstream organisations, given the legacy of coercion, control and discrimination.
  • Self-determination: It is through community controlled organisations that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been able to “express their collective will, advocate for their rights and needs, develop services and programs for their families and maintain their cultural traditions” according to the Secretariat of National Aboriginal Child Care .
  • Community control as factor in resilience: Muriel Bamblett, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, and former Chairperson of SNAICC argues “You only need to look overseas … to see that Indigenous peoples who have treaties and various self-determining rights have far better health and well-being outcomes”.

Here are some possible Con’s for community control:

  • Inter-group dynamics: Cultural diversity along with the potential interference by powerful people within small communities can be problematic. Given the power dynamics around child abuse and domestic violence, care must be taken to ensure that these power dynamics are nor replicated in community controlled organisations.
  • Jurisdiction issues: The Canadian system gives responsibility for providing child welfare services to First Nation agencies on reservations only. Given that in the 2006 census approximately 49% of Indigenous peoples in Queensland lived in major cities or inner regional areas, the applicability of this model to the Queensland context is problematic.

Some of the questions we need to consider when looking at community control are:

  • Would community control of child protection services lead to improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families?
  • What are the obstacles in the Queensland context for such a model?
  • What are the facilitating elements in the Queensland context?

Can you think of any issues we may have left out?

What are your thoughts on separate jurisdictions and delegated power to communities?

Do you think this model would work in Queensland?

 

Carolyn Ovens

Reconciliation Action Plan Project Worker – PeakCare Queensland

 

Do As I Say Not As I Do

As a social worker and longtime social justice advocate, I have been carefully watching the Occupy Wall Street movement and related events. I am torn as I write this, between wanting to discuss the implictions of social media for social justice and social advocacy and also looking at the response to the Occupy Wall Street protests, which is actually a response to freedom of speech, the right to gather, the right to dissent and peaceful protest – the right to advocate for social change.

Never being one to pick between two equally as compelling choices, I will write a little about both things.

I will begin by saying I feel immensely privileged by the ease which I can find out information from across the world, and bear witness to (and participate in) what has certainly become a global movement to not only encourage economic democracy, but also to champion a variety of inter-related social justice causes. Of the many, many social media stories that captured my attention in the past couple weeks, I include:

1)      The video footage available on Youtube, widely posted across citizen journalist and news blogs, FaceBook and Twitter showing the brutal police crackdown against peaceful student (faculty supported)  protesters at two American universities.

2)      The call on University Heads To Declare Their Campuses Safe Protest Zones that arrived via my RSS feed to the Feminist Philosopher’s blog – and their sharing of the Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi written by Assistant Professor  Nathan Brown, University of California at Davis calling for her immediate resignation for, not only failing to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis, but for also being the primary threat to the safety of those same students.

3)      Last but not least, the MOXNews’ Olbermann interview (via YouTube) of Dorli Rainey, an 84 year old social activist who was pepper sprayed by Seattle police this week.

Occupy Wall Street, whether we approve of it or not, has certainly mobilized public attention in a way that more planned and organized attempts have been unable to do. The discourse has changed. We are talking about and thinking about economic disparity – we are talking about fairness and equity, marginalization and oppression; we are talking about freedom of speech, the right to gather or assemble peacefully, the right to political and social dissent, the right and obligation to seek social justice. We’re talking about control over the media, the disappointment of mainstream media coverage and the rise of citizen journalism. It’s been awhile since we have had these social justice discussions, especially on such a massive, global scale. As far as I am concerned, no matter what happens from here, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been for these reasons, if no others, a success.

Apart from the obvious links to the global movement to put social justice issues front and center and the amazing ease through which we are able to educate ourselves about issues and the things that are happening across the world – there’s something  else I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been thinking about the importance of social justice and advocacy in our work as child protection practitioners. I know I am singing to the choir when I say that many MANY of the children, young people and families we work with, will be actively struggling with issues of marginalization, oppression and social inequity. We need to know how to encourage and support social change, in our world, in our practice and with the families we work with.

But how do we learn activism and advocacy?

Surely our schools should be places where students can gather together, question, challenge, even yes, demonstrate or protest peacefully. They should be places where such processes are actively modeled, supported and encouraged by the faculty. They should be places where we are raising strong minds and brave hearts. So, what does it mean when we see the police crackdowns against University staff and students for peacefully protesting? What does it mean when students tell us that there is no room to challenge what they are being taught or to think outside of the boxes we put them in?

We want practitioners to be strong advocates, we want them to champion and fight for social justice. The question is, where do they learn this? Who do they learn it from?

Recent events such as those I have raised above, would suggest that we have a long way to go when we think about what sort of education and experience makes for creating a good advocate. Recent events would suggest that there is plenty of room for discussions about freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, freedom to dissent; especially when we do not even actually have those rights.

Fiona McColl

Training and Sector Development Manager – PeakCare Queensland

Foster Carers Speak Out About Transition From Care

Very pleasingly, Transition From Care Month 2011 was met with considerable media attention.  Through several radio interviews and newspaper articles, public attention was drawn to the issues faced by around 400 Queensland young people who leave care each year.

Even more pleasingly, foster carers elected to add their voice to our media campaign.  In response to a column entitled “Care can’t end when kids hit 18”  that was recently published in the Courier Mail, former foster carers responded by sending letters to the editor:  “Foster kids need support as adults” and “Kids set up to fail”.

My sincere thanks and appreciation are extended to the authors of these letters – Lenore Blaine and Shae Bell.  Your letters presented the relevant arguments in an incredibly clear and compelling manner.

My best wishes are also extended to the foster carer who rang me seeking advice about her own situation concerning a young woman in her care.  I hope that this situation is resolved satisfactorily for both of you.

Special mention must also be made of an email I received in response to the Courier Mail column that raised issues about the very special needs of teenage refugees as they transition to independence and adulthood.   The issues faced by these young people and the support that they require are certainly worthy of more focussed attention.

Transition from Care Month is ending, but the key issues of concern in relation to the adequacy of support being provided to young people as they transition from care remain.   It’s not too late for you to add your voice to those of Lenore Blain and Shae Bell and play your part in advocating for these young people.

Join them in sending letters to the editor of the Courier Mail, enter comments to this post and make sure that you have entered your responses into the Transition From Care Survey.

Click here to access the survey.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland

 

IMPORTANT UPDATE

Thank you to Rod and Lynette Chataway for their letter to the editor published in the Courier Mail:  “No cut-off age to parental input”.

Also thank you to Jacqui Reed from CREATE for her support of this important issue.