Children in care in regional SA

24 November, 2016

Themes from Nyland  #13

map of South AustraliaThe team from the Guardian’s office have analysed the 850 pages and 260 recommendations from The life they deserve: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Report1.  We have extracted some themes and priorities to allow us to critique the government’s response, judge the improvements over time and to shape our own work.  Following is a description of the issues and a short list of things to watch for in the reform process.  The first 12 in the series are available.2 We will post the rest over the next few weeks. 3 

Meeting the needs of children in care in regional areas presents additional and different challenges to those faced in metropolitan Adelaide. 

In many regional areas, the limited number of foster care placements is compounded by there being no, or very few, residential care facilities.

Children removed from the care of their families are sometimes placed many kilometres away, interrupting their education, their stability and their ability to maintain contact with their family and friends.

The use of unsuitable rotational (emergency) placements, she noted, was particularly prevalent in some regional locations.

Commissioner Nyland found that services, particularly psychological assistance, were not able to be accessed easily.

Specialist therapeutic services necessary to respond to children who have experienced abuse and neglect are also limited in most regions.

The quality of justice for children also suffers in regional areas. It is undermined by the poor quality of the conferencing technology used and the need for families and witnesses to travel long distances to attend trials held in Adelaide.

It is unacceptable that child protection proceedings have less access to court facilities than many summary criminal matters.

Commissioner Nyland recommended the use of properly staffed videoconferencing facilities for pre-trial hearings and that ‘care and protection trials should be held at the court location most convenient to the parties.’

She highlighted the success of examples of regional co-operation in the provision of services and that the ‘child and family assessment and referral networks’ she recommended elsewhere in her report would be instrumental in identifying, planning for and coordinating responses in regional centres.

The Commissioner acknowledged that working in human services and statutory roles in regional areas could be especially difficult and confronting and that recruiting and retaining suitable staff is a chronic problem.  She advocated a suite of incentives, supports, professional development opportunities and rostering arrangements to assist in filling staff vacancies and improving staff continuity in regions.

The Commissioner noted that Aboriginal children and young people additionally ‘faced the combined challenges of remoteness and high need’.

As reform progresses we look forward to seeing:

  • increased focussed on the recruiting of foster carers and the establishment of appropriate residential care facilities in regional areas
  • the development of a specialist psychological service for children in regional areas.
  • improvements to the videoconferencing facilities for hearings for families and children in regional areas
  • attraction and retention strategies and improved opportunities for training and development for Department for Child Protection workers in regional areas
  • the development of regional needs planning and cooperative models of delivery in regional areas
  • consultation with each remote Aboriginal community about the implementation of the recommendations arising from the Nyland report. 

Please join the discussion on child protection reform via the reply box below.

1 Unless otherwise noted all quotes are from The life they deserve: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Report,

2 See also posts on Coordination and Collaboration, The voice of the child , Emergency care , Residential care Home-based care, Therapeutic care, Aboriginal children, Education , Stability and certainty in care, Responding to abused or neglected children, Children in care with disabilities and Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. ***

3 This is not intended to be a précis of Commissioner Nyland’s report which provides a very clear and readable summary.  Because of the Guardian’s mandate, this analysis will tend to focus on issues for children in out-of-home-care.

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