SA still spends more on out-of-home care

Each year, the Productivity Commission releases its Report on Government Services (ROGS), which includes data that allows us to examine and compare the state’s delivery of child protection services in a national context.

The ROGS 2019 identifies four program areas within child protection services—protective intervention services, family support services, intensive family support services and out of home care.

The Office of the Guardian’s analysis of the report finds South Australia continues to show a heavy commitment to spending on out-of-home care.

In 2017-18, 77 per cent of all child protection services spending was in out-of-home care. Of this expenditure, 64 per cent was committed to residential care, including very costly emergency care accommodation. This is despite the proportion of young people living in residential care in South Australia decreasing from 15.7 per cent in 2016-17 to 13.5 per cent in 2017-18.  This proportion is still high when compared to the national average, which is just 5.5 per cent.

Expenditure on family support services is also relatively high when compared to other jurisdictions. The national average spending per child on family support services was just 68 per cent of the South Australian average, with the state increasing its total expenditure by 351 per cent since 2013-14.

South Australian expenditure on intensive family support services has moved in a similar direction, having more than doubled since 2013-14. In 2017-18 it was 9.5 per cent higher per child than the national average.

Spending on protective intervention services has reduced from $142 per child in 2013-14 to $120 in 2017-18. This is just below half of the national average and represents the lowest expenditure in protective intervention services across the country.

For further analysis, South Australian child protection expenditure from the Report on Government Services 2019 is available for download below.


Training centre report reveals residents’ concerns

The Training Centre Visitor (TCV) is an independent statutory officer set up to promote and protect the rights of children and young people on remand or sentenced to detention in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC). The Training Centre Visitor Unit (TCVU) reviews the suitability and quality of the environment and facilities via visits, inspections and review of records. The TCVU is legislated in the Youth Justice Administration Act 2016 and reports to the Minister for Human Services.

Its report on the 10-week pilot visiting program and subsequent review of records was tabled in Parliament on 4 April. The TCVU visited both of the AYTC campuses—Jonal and Goldsborough—five times each over the course of the pilot. The report identifies issues affecting residents of the Centre including unclothed searches, facilities, privacy and access to cultural programs.

Unclothed searches

For any young person, but particularly one with a history of trauma and abuse, an unclothed search can be distressing.

Residents raised concerns with the visitors about the frequency of unclothed searches. At Goldsborough campus, 65 per cent of searches happened after personal visits from family and others. A number of young people reported that they were less welcoming of personal visits due to anxiety about being unclothed searched.

The TCVU is advocating to ensure the correct method of search is used. According to the Youth Justice Administration Act (2016), the Centre is obliged to conduct partial unclothed searches in a way that ensures that young people are not completely naked at any time during the search. The TCVU is advocating for the consistent use of an ion scanner to avoid excessive unclothed searches after personal visits. It is also continuing to review all search logs to ensure they are meeting legislative requirements.

Cultural programs

The Youth Justice Regulations (2016) reinforce that the individual cultural identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people be recognised and their beliefs and practices be supported, respected and valued.

Current and past residents of AYTC have expressed concern about the lack of Aboriginal staff and Aboriginal cultural programming. This is a particular concern at the Jonal Campus where, although numbers are low, the population can be 60 to 100 per cent Aboriginal young people.

 

Information gathered during the pilot period has influenced the development of the program moving forward. From 2019, the TCVU will run based on quarterly visiting rounds, linked to school terms. There will be five fortnightly visits to each campus per term, with less formal visits between terms. The information gained through these visits, along with quarterly reviews of records, will inform the first formal inspection of the Centre later in 2019.

Download the Training Centre Visitor’s Report.


Programs for young people should be evaluated – by them

a group of young people at the Royal Commission consultation
An interview with Isabella Daziani from the Department for Child Protection Evaluation Unit

‘In evaluating programs for young people, we think it is fundamental to start with the young people themselves’, says Isabella.
‘If we really want to improve services for young people we must recognise they are the foremost experts in their lives – they know what is working for them and what isn’t.
‘And it must be done genuinely, more than a quick tick and flick to check off the “young people consulted” box.
‘But achieving a genuine, respectful and useful dialogue with young people is not always easy and can be made difficult by the circumstances of the young people. They have a lot of adults coming in and out of their lives and some are understandably reluctant and distrustful of yet another nosey adult. Others may have psychological, intellectual or physical disabilities that we need to acknowledge, and provide them with opportunity to contribute.
‘Some young people may be suspicious of the motives of adults or jaded by consultations that take up their time but produce no follow-up and no change.
‘To talk to young people, you may also need to navigate the attitudes of the adults who care for them. Some adults genuinely believe that young people should be protected from discussing challenging issues. Some believe that only adults can understand and legitimately speak on issues for young people.
‘We have found that many young people are very aware of their circumstances and capable of expressing their insights to a degree that would surprise many adults. They are the experts in their own lives. The young people we have spoken to always surprise and delight us with their insights and their directness.

This is part of a longer interview which includes the views of young people, Isabella’s top tips for consulting and some further reading.

Download the full version of Programs for young people should be evaluated – by them

Aboriginal children and young people in care and juvenile detention 2016-17

The proportion of Aboriginal children not placed according to the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle has continued to rise.

South Australia’s Aboriginal1 children and young people are vastly over-represented in in state care and in detention centres, according to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2018 (ROGS 2018) and the trends are not positive.

The ROGS 2018 data on child protection showed that at 30 June 2017, Aboriginal children and young people comprised 33 per cent of all of those on care and protection orders and were 7.3 times as likely to be in out-of-home care as non-Aboriginal young people. In 2010-11 Aboriginal children and young people were 6.1 times as likely to be in care.

The proportion of Aboriginal young people placed according to the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (i.e. with kin, within their community or with Aboriginal families), has been declining in recent years from 76.4 per cent in 2009 to 62.5 per cent in 2017, below the national average of 67.6 per cent. (See the chart at the head of this story.)

Though comprising 33 per cent of children and young people in care, Aboriginal children and young people comprised 38 percent of the population in residential care.

The ROGS 2018 data on youth justice services showed that in 2015-16, 58 per cent of the population of 10-17 year olds in youth detention were Aboriginal and that proportion has been growing in recent years. South Australia had significantly higher rates of detention of Aboriginal children and young people than the Australian average.

We present more data and charts about this subject from ROGS 2017 in the Guardian’s Snapshot of South Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People in Care and/or Youth Detention from the Report on Government Services 2016-17.

Download the Snapshot of South Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People in Care and/or Youth Detention from the Report on Government Services 2016-17 now.

1 Aboriginal community preference in South Australia is that the term Aboriginal is inclusive of Torres Strait Islander people, a usage we generally adopt in our reports

SA spends more on child protection and gets less – 2016-17 ROGS

diagram showing child protection services

The Productivity Commission’s 2016-17 Report on Government Services (ROGS) helps understanding of how the South Australian Government’s expenditure on child protection has changed and how it compares with other states.

Child protection services expenditure in SA per child* has increased significantly from $749 to $1,396 in the period 2013-14 to 2016-17 but the real interest is how this translates into the different services that comprise child protection:

  • in protective intervention services we spend $90 per child, which is just 41 percent of the national average
  • in family support services we spend $131 per child, 49 percent more than the national average – an increase of over 300 percent in the the period 2013-14 to 2016-17
  • in intensive family support services we spend $83 per child, roughly on par with the national average
  • in out-of-home care (foster, kinship and residential care), we spend $1,092 per child which is 91 percent more than the national average.

Out-of-home care consumed 78 percent of the SA child protection budget in 2016-17.

Why does SA spend 79 percent more than the national average on out-of-home care?

One of the reasons is that SA relies much more on relatively expensive residential care (properties staffed with paid workers) rather than home-based care (foster and kinship care). In 2016-17 in South Australia it cost, on average, $670,142 per child in residential care compared to $48,005 per child in home-based care.  Another reason is that SA has relied more than other states on so-called ’emergency’ care which makes use of private agency staff to provide care in rented accommodation – more costly but far less suitable to the needs of children.

*refers to a resident child 0-17 in the SA population as a whole.

There is much more detail in our paper South Australian child protection expenditure from the Report on Government Services 2018, available for download now.

 

The Adelaide Youth Training Centre – snapshot 2016-17

3 October, 2017

The Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) is housed on two campuses in Cavan, north of the Grand Junction road.  One campus caters for female residents, younger male residents and young people in overnight remand and the other houses older male residents.

In 2016-17 there were 887 total admissions accounting for 388 individual young people1 of whom half or more were in remand awaiting trial.

Of the 388 young people admitted, at the time of first admission:

  • 23.2 % were young women
  • 21.9% were under guardianship orders
  • 48.5% were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent2

The age distribution of the young people at the time of admission was:

ages in AYTC 2016-17

On an average day in 2016-17 there were 49.07 young people housed in the Centre.  This compares with highest daily occupancy since the Magill and Cavan Centres were amalgamated of 61.06 in 2012-13 and the lowest of 47.89 in 2014-15.

 

 

 

1 Some young people are remanded on several occasions or serve several custodial sentences in one 12 month period.

2 The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait young people in the average daily population in of the AYTC in 2016-17 was 62.42% suggesting that their average stay was longer than non-Indigenous residents.

Australian Children’s Commissioners And Guardians’ May 2017 Meeting

13 June 2017

The Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) met on 23 and 24 May in Hobart. The ACCG comprises national, state and territory children and young people commissioners, guardians and advocates.

The ACCG is currently focussing on:

  • Promoting children and young people’s engagement and participation
  • Achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
  • Upholding the rights of children and young people in youth justice detention
  • Improving the safety of children and young people in organisations
  • Ending violence against children and young people
  • Promoting children and young people’s safety and well-being

For more details, please download the Meeting Communique.

How well do children in state care do in the state education system 2015-16?

30 May 2017

In South Australia in 2016, 61.6 per cent of all students in care were enrolled in DECD schools.

The Guardian’s latest report Children and Young People in State Care in South Australian Government Schools 2008-2016, is due for release tomorrow.  The report explores how well the state school system is providing for children and young people in care in these and other areas:

disability

  • A greater proportion have learning disabilities, notably in speech and language skills.
  • The proportion with an intellectual disability is nearly seven times the overall DECD student population.
  • The proportion with a speech and language related disability is over three times the overall DECD student population.

absence

  • The absence rate is only slightly higher than that for the overall DECD school population.
  • Aboriginal children in care have lower rates of absence than the overall DECD student population in significant categories.
  • Children and young people in care from non-English speaking backgrounds have over double the absence rate of all DECD enrolled students.

suspension

  • Students in care have higher rates of suspension but only in their primary school years.

NAPLAN

  • Many students in care in DECD schools do not sit the NAPLAN test, categorised as absent, exempt or withdrawn.  For example, for almost half of all Year 9 DECD enrolled students in care there is no information about them in critical areas such as numeracy and reading which may cast doubt on the validity of the reported figures.

You can read the full report on the Guardian’s website now.

Education

25 October, 2016

Themes from Nyland  #8

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 seven in the series are available.[2] We will post the rest over the next few weeks. 3 

Engagement with schools can offer children in care opportunities for socialisation, a chance to achieve and the basis for success in further study and employment.  However,  the child’s experience at school can be blighted by developmental delays and disability, broken school attendance and challenging behaviour caused by trauma which may not be addressed or appropriately treated by conventional discipline practices.

It is critical that Education regards itself as a partner of the Agency in delivering appropriate services to children in care … remediation of psychological damage sustained when a child is abused or neglected is achieved through cohesive and consistent care across a child’s environments. A child’s education should be approached as a part of the therapeutic solution.

Commissioner Nyland observed that the responses by schools to children with these needs were mixed, with some schools embracing the opportunity and others regarding them as an imposition. She concedes that providing for the needs of children in care is not always simple.

School principals are obliged to provide a safe learning environment for school staff and students. Imposing special conditions on enrolment and providing additional support may be needed in some circumstances to mitigate risk. However, conditions must not be imposed that are so onerous as to effectively exclude high needs students from participation.

She noted that, ‘It is helpful to some students experiencing challenges in the school environment to have their hours of attendance varied for a limited period of time.’ but that the guidelines around suspension and exemption were inconsistently applied and the process not always documented.  She observed that excessive use of suspension and exclusion could place home-based care placements at risk by placing extra stress on the carers.

Resourcing to meet the extra needs of children in care was sometimes an issue, with wrangling over who was to fund support services delaying a student’s commencement, as did the availability of suitably trained school services officers. This exacerbates the disadvantage that the children already face. The Commissioner suggested that responsibility for resourcing children with high needs should reside with Education.

Skills and attitudes among educators were seen as critical.

The Commission considers [Strategies for Managing Abuse Related Trauma (SMART) training] an important step towards changing the attitude of teachers to children facing educational challenges of this type. However, unless the training changes teaching practice, it is a hollow endeavour. The Department has held a contract to deliver this training since 2005, but evidence indicated that there remained a high level of misunderstanding of the needs of children in care.

Professional development as well as practical supports are necessary. The level of understanding of students with significant trauma backgrounds needs to be improved within all schools. All schools need to be ‘trauma friendly’. To this end, Education should continue to encourage staff to undertake SMART training, and should ensure that these skills have a high profile in professional development programs.

The Commissioner pointed out that the commitments made by various agencies under Rapid Response, including the commitment to Individual Education Plans for all students in care, had been allowed to lapse and should be revisited and renewed in this as in other areas.

The Commissioner also drew attention to the need for improvements in the provision of education to Aboriginal children in isolated locations.

As reform progresses we look forward to seeing:

  • The application of SMART training for educators, requiring it to be part of training and professional development .
  • A renewal of the DECD Rapid Response commitment to ensure that all avenues for preschool, school and post-compulsory education-based supports were explored before suspension or exclusion are considered.
  • A review, and dissemination to educators, of DECD policies regarding school suspension, exclusion and expulsion.
  • Regular audits of students in care who are on reduced hours of attendance at school and review of progress on plans to re-engage them in mainstream education.
  • Recruiting and training of a panel of school services officers to support children with trauma-related behavioural challenges.
  • Evidence that children’s views about education options are solicited, discussed with them and accurately recorded in case files.
  • Clarification of DECD’s responsibility for resourcing support services provided for students in care in state schools.

Please join the discussion via the reply box leaving a name and an email address in the spaces provided.  We will remove them from the published post if you request in your reply.

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 and Aboriginal 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.

Therapeutic care – everywhere

10 October, 2016

Themes from Nyland  #6

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 Report[1].  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 five in the series are available.[2] We will post the rest over the next few weeks. [3] 

Commissioner Nyland’s description of the need for a therapeutic approach to child protection rests on three understandings.

  1. Most, if not all, children taken into care will be experiencing trauma. It will have been  caused, if not by prior abuse and neglect, by the dislocation of their lives caused by the experience of coming into care.
  2. Treatment of developmental trauma is not rapid and cannot be delivered by professional intervention alone. Therapy requires consistent long-term work, with consideration of the child’s care environments, home and school, specialist therapy and support from others in the child’s life.
  3. Supporting a child affected by trauma, especially one with high and complex needs, requires adults to collaborate closely and share an understanding of what causes behaviours and how to respond appropriately.

In residential care and emergency care, all staff need to be trained in the effects of developmental trauma, how to support a trauma–affected child and how to respond appropriately to challenging behaviour.  Commissioner Nyland recommends a ‘streamed’ model of residential care where the specific needs of each child can be met in an appropriate setting.[4] 

Home-based care, which will continue to provide the bulk of out-of-home-care, presents some particular issues.

Home-based carers are not experts in trauma. They rely on the professionals to support them by identifying and addressing issues which emerge as the child grows. Two principal barriers to therapeutic support for placements were identified: one, that foster parents fail to communicate with support workers about the nature and severity of the problems with which they are grappling; and two, that professionals charged with supporting the placement do not refer the foster parents to appropriate support at an early stage. 

There also remain serious barriers for children requiring specialist therapeutic services.

… the therapeutic needs of many children in care are still being neglected. While there are some examples of very good service from the Agency, not all children with a demonstrated need are receiving assessment and support.

… [therapeutic] services for children in care are scattered across a number of agencies, each of which apply their own criteria for eligibility.

… greater investment in therapeutic services is needed for children entering and living in care. The assessment of their needs, and the processes for referring them to the appropriate service, should be better coordinated. 

As reform progresses we look forward to seeing:

  • The application of a therapeutic framework across all residential care environments giving a theoretical basis for care decisions.
  • Training, ongoing professional development and support for residential care workers in working with children affected by developmental trauma.
  • The initial and ongoing training for all foster carers to include the effects of and suitable responses to developmental trauma and the availability of therapeutic assistance.
  • Improved systems for the timely assessment and provision of therapeutic services to children who need them, especially in rural and remote areas.
  • The provision of therapeutic support to home-based placements that are identified as being at risk of breakdown.
  • The inclusion of Strategies for Managing Abuse Related Trauma (SMART) training in the professional development of all educators who work with children in care. 

Please join the discussion via the reply box leaving a name and an email address in the spaces provided.  We will remove them from the published post if you request in your reply.


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

2 See also previous ‘Themes from Nyland’ posts on Coordination and Collaboration, The voice of the child , Emergency care, Residential care and Home-based care.

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.

4 Commissioner Nyland also recommended the establishment of secure therapeutic care facilities where young people in care can be detained for a period of time during which they will receive therapy.  Although the Commissioner sets out a number of safeguards and conditions, the Guardian believes that this model will not produce significant long-term benefit for the young people so detained and that the detention of young people who have committed no offence raises important human rights concerns.