15 November, 2016
Themes from Nyland #11
The 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 10 in the series are available.2 We will post the rest over the next few weeks. 3
Children with disabilities are a higher proportion of the in-care population than in the population at large. Some children enter care with disabilities caused by the abuse or neglect that brought them into care. Some children who already have disabilities are relinquished into state care by parents who lack the resources to manage the parenting challenges they present.
Commissioner Nyland is particularly concerned that children in state care do not miss out on the services and opportunities on offer from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Children in out-of-home care rely on attentive case managers to recognise their potential eligibility [for NSID funding] and negotiate on their behalf.
To do this entails a more rigorous identification of children’s disabilities and their recording on the child’s electronic case management file so that every child potentially eligible can have an application made prior to the March 2017 deadline. The respective role of foster and kinship carers and the Department for Child Protection (DCP) in relationship to NDIS will need to be clarified to avoid confusion and dislocation. Commissioner Nyland recommended the ’employment of disability specialists and additional training…to develop expertise in the Agency’ about the NDIS.
The ‘child and family assessment and referral networks’ recommended by Commissioner Nyland (see our post Responding to abused and neglected children) will also need to have the skills and knowledge to support families who are caring for children with disabilities.
Foster families caring for children with disabilities sometimes face the simultaneous challenge of catering for a disability and dealing with trauma-related behavioural issues. Commissioner Nyland stresses the maintenance of the existing Alternative Care Therapeutics Team (ACTT) program though its integration with the NDIS. She also recommends determining the need for specialist disability foster care placements and funding those placements accordingly as well as funding the support and respite services needed to ensure those placements remain viable for foster parents and children.
Commissioner Nyland discusses the situation of children with disabilities whose care is voluntarily relinquished to the state by their birth parents. She forms the opinion that this group of children might not be best served by placing them in the care of the DCP but has insufficient information to make a formal recommendation.
As reform progresses we look forward to seeing:
- every child who is potentially eligible has applied to the NDIS by the 31 March 2017 deadline.
- the electronic case management system modified to require a child’s eligibility for NDIS entered and caseworkers trained accordingly.
- analysis of the unmet need for specialist disability foster placements and provision of it expanded to meet that need.
- DCP caseworkers trained to meet the needs of children with disabilities and in the workings of NDIS and the employment of specialist disability workers to support them.
- maintenance of the ACTT program and its expansion through and beyond the introduction of the NDIS.
- the recommended ‘child and family assessment and referral networks’ given the skills and responsibility to help families engage with the NDIS.
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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 and Responding to abused or neglected children.
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.