Cost of child protection in SA continues to climb higher than national average

South Australia continues to be the second highest spender on overall child protection services per child although it spends considerably less on preventative and family support services than any other jurisdiction across the nation, according to the latest data from Australia’s Report on Government Services.

At the Office of the Guardian, we have just released our annual analysis of SA’s child protection expenditure and we found that in 2019-20, while SA spent 23.8% higher than the national average on child protection services overall, nearly 80% of that expenditure was on ‘care services’ (i.e. the cost of caring for children once they have been removed from their families, such as residential care).

Our report found that only 20% of the state’s child protection budget was spent on protective intervention services, family support services, and intensive family support services, which are all aimed at supporting families so children can stay safely with them at home.

“The latest data from South Australia’s child protection spending shows we need to change how the state invests in vulnerable children and young people,” Guardian for Children and Young People, Penny Wright, said.

“Many young people in care come from families who face significant personal difficulties as a result of domestic violence, mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, and these difficulties are often intergenerational. COVID-19 has only increased these pressures, with people becoming more isolated, losing their jobs and struggling to find housing in a tight rental market. Unfortunately the number of young people being removed from their families is likely to get worse.”

“The best place for kids is at home, if they can be looked after and safe. We need to better invest in intervention services to support families who are at risk of having their children removed from them, with a goal of reducing expenditure at the care end when the numbers begin to decrease.”

“I am glad the state government has recently made the decision to invest more money towards providing tailored support to parents who are experiencing these hardships. I hope that in time we will see noticeable changes as a result of this reform and there will be better outcomes for these young people and their families,” Penny said.

Our report also highlighted that:

– On 30 June 2020, there were 4,136 children and young people in out of home care in South Australia. Of those, 601 were living in residential care, which is 14.5% of the care population. South Australia continues to have the highest reliance on residential care in Australia, with the national average being 6.5%.

– This reliance is especially apparent when examining South Australian expenditure on care services, which accounted for $458,764,000 (or 79.9%) of child protection services spending. Of expenditure on care services, 58.2% (or $267,458,000) was spent on residential care services.

– Real expenditure on care services per placement night in South Australia is 35.1% higher than the national average.

– South Australia ranks second after outlier NT for total child protection services real expenditure per child aged 0-17 in the population in 2019-20, with national average expenditure being 23.8% lower than in South Australia.

– South Australian real expenditure on care services per child aged 0-17 in the population has increased by 39.6% from $888.8 per child in 2015-16, to $1,241.2 per child in 2019-20.

Read the Guardian’s South Australian Child Protection Expenditure Report 2021.

Poverty cycle puts pressure on parents

In a recent opinion piece by Ross Womersley, Chief Executive Officer of SACOSS, Ross looks at some of the underlying reasons why vulnerable children fall into the child protection system. It’s an excellent perspective looking at the factors that cause children to be removed from their home, and calls for more preventative measures so children don’t need to come into care in the first place.

This is a longer version of the opinion piece published by The Advertiser on 31 December 2020 and can also be found on SACOSS’s website

The 2020 annual reports from the SA Department for Child Protection and the SA Guardian for Children and Young People highlight concerning statistics on the number of children in state care in South Australia. Taken together with news reports in recent weeks that highlight just how vulnerable children in state care can be, they provide a compelling case for action.

We call it ‘state care’ because that is exactly what it is meant to be – care by the state for children and young people who, the state judges, cannot live at home with their families.

The role of the state is to care for these children as a ‘good parent’ would.

The reasons children and young people end up in care – temporary or long-term – vary. It may be due to the illness or death of a parent, abuse or neglect, or their families simply being unable to safely care for them, at that point in time.

The statistics in the recent annual reports from the SA Department for Child Protection, and the SA Guardian for Children and Young People, are both shocking and distressing.

So too is the picture revealed by recent news reports that have thrown a spotlight on just how vulnerable children in our state’s care, can be.

Clearly, despite the hard work of many caring, compassionate, and dedicated people who work in the system, state care can fail, and fail critically, in its ‘good parent’ duties.

These failures, when they occur, make it all the more disturbing that the number of children and young people in the state’s care just keeps going up.

At the end of October this year, there were 3,757 South Australian children under Guardianship: 351 more than mid-last year. The total number of children in care (4,456) has increased by 468 since 30 June 2019.

Concerningly, based on SA data on the stability and permanency of placements, children are in care in SA for longer than in any other state or territory. The worry is that the longer children are away from their family and home community, the harder it can be to return.

And while the financial costs of providing care are high, if the state then fails its ‘good parent’ responsibilities, the personal costs to those children and young people can be lifelong.

Over the past five years, the number of children and young people in out-of-home care has risen by a huge 50%, and the number of notifications made to the Department have been steadily increasing.

In fact, post-COVID, these figures are only likely to increase further.

Tens of thousands of individuals have lost work and thus income. And while many got some relief with the federal government’s coronavirus supplement – that is now being wound back to an un-liveable level, despite continuing record levels of unemployment and underemployment. Bank loan and debt deferrals, together with the ‘moratorium’ on rental evictions, will have their end too.

As South Australians, can we truly say that we find it acceptable for this flood of new children into state care to continue?

Poverty itself doesn’t send children into child protection, but it certainly increases the pressures that can lead parents to struggle. Poverty undermines parents’ and caregivers’ capacity to raise children in safety and security, to leave unsafe relationships and places, to break away from things that are negative and harmful.

Children become vulnerable when their parents and households are under stress, and stress often results in relationship breakdown, family violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, poor judgement and neglect.

Helping children to be and stay safe starts with supporting all families to give it their best shot, and crucially, helping people when they are struggling. Sometimes out-of-home care is needed, but if that’s the case, it needs to really be ‘care’ – not more damage, not state neglect.

So, why are we collectively unable to keep children safe in South Australia?

A knee-jerk response is to blame the Department for Child Protection when things go wrong, but it is effectively the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

We need to develop and invest in many more safe pathways to prevent people getting to that cliff: a systemic overhaul of the social security safety net, decent housing, more mental health services, more help for people who struggle with addictions, or people who struggle to control their violence – more helping hands.

And if the state does take that huge step of removing a child from their home, their family or community, we need to be damned sure it is offering something better. The state needs to be everything and more of the ‘good parent’ that it is meant to embody.

Children’s Week – a safe place where children can thrive

picture of Penny Wright

By Guardian Penny Wright

As I reflect on this year’s theme for Children’s Week, that all children have the right to be healthy and safe, I wonder what this really means for the vulnerable young people who fall within my mandate as Guardian for children and young people in care.

Although there are many South Australian children and young people who have continuous access to nutritious food, quality health care and a safe home, there are many others who don’t. And for those who don’t, the consequences are far reaching, not only to their health but to the very core of their identity, family connections and faith that the world can be a good place.

The just-released Family Matters Report, which describes the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care, notes that a family’s access to safe and healthy housing has a profound impact on their ability to provide safe and supportive care for their children. When families cannot provide this kind of environment, it is often seen as ‘neglect’ and children are removed so they can be ‘safe’.  The paradox, as we know from my office’s own data, is that too many children and young people continue to feel, and remain, unsafe while in care.

According to the report, nearly one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are living below the poverty line, noting that poverty and homelessness are significant factors in decisions to remove children from their homes.

This alarming statistic reflects the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care; nearly 35% of children currently in care in SA are Aboriginal, with the nationwide rate being similar to that in SA.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children who are removed from their homes suffer greatly from disconnection from their culture, destabilising their sense of identity and undermining relationships with their family and wider community. They are also more likely to be in care for the long-term and are less likely to be reunified with their family than non-Indigenous children.

Children don’t necessarily care for the fancy house and toys.  In fact, as highlighted in the SA Commissioner for Children and Young People’s latest report Leave No One Behind children weren’t so much concerned about the home in which they live and its contents as the emotional toll that ‘poverty stress’ creates in their families not being able to afford the basic necessities to run a household and provide safe care.

This presents us all with a wider, more systemic issue: how to ensure that families can afford to live sustainably and with dignity? There is now a chorus of voices across the social and political spectrum calling for an increase in Newstart, for instance, which has not been raised in real terms for 23 years.  From the OECD to local councils, from KPMG, former Prime Minister John Howard, the Business Council of Australia and the South Australian parliament (with unanimous multi-party support) to ACOSS and many organisations devoted to helping families in need, they all recognise that no-one can live adequately on Newstart. At a time when we have the highest number of children ever living away from their families under care and protection orders in South Australia, this is not an issue we can afford to look away from.

One of the recommendations from the Family Matters Report is to focus on preventative action and early intervention by ensuring families can obtain the resources and supports they need to provide safe care to their kids.

We all know that children can thrive when their parents are supported, and that prevention and timely intervention can be the key to children’s health and wellbeing. Rather than a future that sees more and more children taken away from their families, culture and community because of ’unsafe’ environments, it is crucial to invest in the resources families need for the healthy and safe environment in which their children can thrive. Not only will this benefit every child or young person who can ultimately stay at home with their family – but SA as a whole, as thriving kids and families contribute to a stronger, safer community.

 

A new focus on family

By Guardian Penny Wright and Malcolm Downes

The State Government’s newly announced strategy An Intensive Support System for South Australia’s children and families promises a more sustained and holistic response to child protection by shifting the focus to families.  Under the strategy the Child and Family Assessment and Referral Networks (CFARNs), the Child Wellbeing Practitioner and Strong Start programs will be brought together in a new Intensive Support Unit to be formed in the Department for Human Services.

The family, in its many styles and structures, remains at the core of human society.  It is how we care for each other, a basic economic unit, a basis for our sense of who we are, a psychological comfort and a vehicle for raising our children.  It is also the site of some of our greatest problems, of violence, abuse and neglect.  Over generations it can perpetuate our noblest aspirations but also nurture our darkest failings.  For some families, problems with poverty, debt, unemployment, drug misuse, mental illness, family violence, insecure housing and contact with the justice system combine to create major barriers to the enjoyment of the relative wellbeing and wealth that our community has to offer.

Informed by the research commissioned on the back of the Nyland Royal Commission into the Child Protection System in SA, the Department’s planned Intensive Support Unit promises to focus squarely on the families with the most entrenched and challenging issues.  It aims to work with families to identify issues they face and coordinate the services and supports they need in sustained way.  In the past we have striven to ‘rehabilitate’ the individual young offender or ‘cure’ the person with a mental illness without regard for the social circumstances they came from and to which, in all likelihood, they will return.  The Department’s new strategy will refocus the bulk of the family support, domestic violence and children’s support services that it provides and contracts on these families.

‘Troubled Families’

The rationale and structure resembles the Troubled Families program that has been in place in the United Kingdom since 2012. The program recently released its National evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme 2015-2020: Findings Evaluation overview policy reportIn the UK program, intervention is based on a keyworker who builds an understanding of problems and of the individual family dynamics. They look at the totality of what’s going on and use what the report calls ‘a persistent and assertive approach establishing a relationship with the family and working closely with them to make sure the family resolve their problems’. The keyworker agrees on a plan with the family and local services so that interventions are sequenced and coordinated and there is a shared ownership of outcomes among service providers.

The evaluation report shows some headline gains including an almost one-third reduction in children being taken into care after a 19-24 month intervention and a one-quarter reduction in young people receiving custodial sentences.  The economic benefits and net budget savings modeled in the report make a strong argument for the UK Government to persist with the program.

We should anticipate that the South Australian strategy, like Troubled Families, will encounter some challenges as it is rolled out.  Services will need to adapt their practice, data collection and information sharing to a family-based way of working – and being funded.  We can look to the NDIS as an example of the difficulties a change of service and funding model can produce for clients and providers if not well managed, no matter how well intended. The shift to a payment-by-results model can produce distortions in the provision of services and a gaming of the system if not well-conceived and managed from the outset.

Aboriginal families

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the new strategy will be how well it addresses the outcomes for Aboriginal families. The last Closing the Gap report confirmed that, after more than ten years of investment, we still struggle to provide services to the Aboriginal community that are culturally safe, trusted and effective.  If we shift the focus to families we will have to understand and embrace an Aboriginal concept of family which is very different in how it operates to the white European model on which much of our current system is based.  On top of that we will have to translate what words like ‘disadvantaged’, ‘troubled’, ‘struggling’, ‘complex’, and the many other policy terms governments use, mean to Aboriginal families. It will need to develop an understanding of how Aboriginal families define their needs and what success means to them.

To its credit, the new DHS strategy explicitly acknowledges the necessity for serious Aboriginal involvement in the design and governance of the new system and in the decisions that affect the lives of Aboriginal families and children.  Getting this right for Aboriginal families will be a touchstone for the success of the strategy as a whole and its ability to serve the very diverse set of groupings and relationships that we call ‘family’ in the 21st Century.

How would you invest in child protection? – survey results

chart of survey results

Two weeks ago we asked our colleagues and friends to spend a hypothetical $100 to improve child protection in South Australia.  These were their top five choices:

#1 More early intervention and family support (29.6%)

The range of comment showed that this meant different things to different people.  Varying interpretations included using education and public campaigns to reduce unwanted pregnancies, decreasing the social isolation of parents, removing children from ‘failed’ mothers or families at birth and building the capacity of struggling families to become suitable parents.  Several respondents noted that supporting Aboriginal families entailed culturally suitable practice, engaging Aboriginal communities and the use of Aboriginal staff.

#2 More therapeutic placements for children in care (10.1%)

Trauma-informed care, therapeutic placements and related matters occurred very often in the comments.  Training in understanding a responding to trauma was proposed for foster and kinship carers, residential care workers, social workers and even management and policy makers.

#3 More effort to recruit foster carers and kinship carers (8.5%)

Good family-based care was noted as the best out-of-home care placement option by many respondents.  Poor remuneration, lack of support and bad treatment at the hands of DCP and NGO staff were cited as reasons why families did not take up fostering or did not return to it.  More rigorous selection, training and review for foster carers could improve the quality of foster care and make it a more attractive option for more people.

#4 More psychological services for children in care (8.3%)

Comments included many calls for much greater access to psychological services for children entering and during their time in care.  This was seen by some as a natural complement to therapeutic care.

#5 More child protection report investigators (8.2%)

Comment on this was limited and concerned mostly the conduct of investigations and the interface with the court system.  A report on the lack of response to child protection reports by the former Families SA was current at the time of the survey, which may have influenced responses.

Download the full report, including all comments, as a PDF.

Responding to abused or neglected children

8 November, 2016

Themes from Nyland  #10

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

Commissioner Nyland proposed no change in the current responsibilities of mandated notifiers but recommended that there be two quite different pathways through which those duties can be fulfilled by notifiers.  The Child Abuse Report Line (CARL), would be maintained and improved and another, non-statutory option, added.

She acknowledged the shortcomings of CARL, particularly the extended wait times for callers and the closing of cases due to workload issues which sees ‘children left in unacceptable circumstances in which they needed help’.  She recommended the addition of extra call centre staff, making the call-back system widely available and promptly advising notifiers of the intended response so that they can take other action if required.  The setting of service delivery standards for call answering times and call-back times are other measures aimed at restoring confidence in the system.

Once notifications were received by CARL, more problems were evident.

…consistently poor quality assessments undermined by excessive optimism, lack of focus on the child’s experience, too little reliance on the expertise of other practitioners and unrealistic reliance on informal agreements in which parents promise to reduce their dangerous behaviour. 

She recommended substantial increases in and upskilling of the workforce, development of more rigorous and standardised assessment tools and giving greater powers to acquire information from government and non-government sources.  Targets should be set for the reduction of backlogs and progress publicly reported.

For matters that proceed to court, she proposed a greater reliance on independent expert opinion to inform court decision-making and the granting of orders.

To take the load off CARL and to provide a way to divert appropriate families away from the statutory system, Commissioner Nyland recommended legislative change to allow mandated notifiers to discharge their obligations by referring concerns to one of a set of ‘child and family assessment networks’ to be established in metropolitan and larger regional locations.  Specially trained staff in government agencies could assist and guide colleagues to understand their obligations to notify and the best options for troubled families.

The Commissioner recommended ways of reducing the numbers of children coming into care while still protecting those who need to be protected.  This will require a substantial investment in preventative and early intervention services and a solid strategy to guide funding and service design and delivery.  A cross-department Early Intervention Research Directorate would identify innovative and evidence-based services.  They would be to be provided by non-government organisations and be of the type and in the locations identified by an analysis of needs.

A particular priority she identified was the need to provide services that were culturally appropriate for Aboriginal families and communities.

As reform progresses we look forward to seeing:

  • Improvements to the CARL service including system and staff changes to meet published service standards for call-answering and call-backs.
  • Upskilling of investigation staff to ensure that the voices of children are sought and heard in the investigation process.
  • Setting of service standards for the commencement and completion of investigations as set out by Commissioner Nyland4
  • Establishment of a set of ‘child and family assessment networks’ in metropolitan and major regional locations and legislative changes to allow mandated notifiers to discharge their obligations by referring to them.
  • Setting out a five-year strategy for the provision of prevention and early intervention services that is evidence-based and suited to local needs and conditions.
  • Development of prevention and early intervention services that are culturally appropriate for Aboriginal families and communities.
  • Regular training and the development of training tools to improve the knowledge of mandated notifiers about their responsibilities.

Please join the discussion via the reply box at the foot of the page.

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 childrenEducation and Stability and certainty in 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 Recommendation 177: Ensure that all care concern notifications are investigated in a timely manner:

  1. investigations should commence within 48 hours of the receipt of a notification; and
  2. in the absence of ongoing criminal proceedings or special reasons, investigations should be completed within six weeks from receipt of the notification.

Early intervention and family support tops the options in our child protection survey

Of the 358 respondents to our survey that asked ‘How would you spend extra money on child protection’, early intervention and family support proved the most popular option by a great margin.

Nine out of ten selected More on early intervention and family support as one of their options while two-thirds of the extra funds on offer would have been allocated that way if our respondents had their preference.

The online survey from December 1 to 4 canvassed the views of 944 subscribers to the Guardian’s Information Service.

More therapeutic placements for Children in care was the second most popular choice, nominated by 61% of respondents and allocated 11% of the funds.

Many respondents provided their own ideas and explanations in the free text section of the survey, so many that we will take a few weeks to work out how best to analyse and present them. In the meantime, the statistical part of the survey is on our website.

download button

The Guardian’s report Expenditure on child protection, out-of-home care and intensive family services, 2004-05 to 2013-14 shows that South Australia spends among the lowest of the states and territories per child on child protection services and on intensive family support services.

 

Cuts to family services can be false economies

picture of Guardian Pam Simmons

Pam Simmons Guardian

Earlier in the year I had the privilege of responding to a SACOSS conference address by Christopher Stone, Research Director of the Public Service Program at the Centre for Policy Development. His address was about the false economies of across-the-board cuts to public spending, among other things.#
One of the themes of the session was along the lines of: when public institutions cannot do what they promise, public trust in the institution falters and, as a consequence, the public’s willingness to comply with laws and regulations falls. This is typically considered a breach of the social contract.
The ‘state’ supports families in numerous ways: paying for or subsidising education, health care, public transport, childcare, libraries, parks, courts and police. When it comes to helping when the going gets really tough, ambivalence creeps in. Understandably there is a strong element of judgement about who gets help, for how long and at what cost. There are consequences though when the state fails to meet its end of the bargain.
We (the state) have a mandate to provide family services and we encourage expectations of support. Indeed, people get blamed if they do not take up offers of support. Take for example a hypothetical Family Q. Family Q has a reunification or safety plan which has half a dozen things they must do for the safety of their children.
Expenditure on family services though is rationed and, in real terms, sometimes cut. Family Q are overwhelmed because of ordinary and extraordinary demands and crises. They have a schedule of appointments to keep, only some of which they think will help them. The family support worker has more families and engages less with Family Q for lack of time.
When Family Q misses repayments, appointments and phone calls we think that Family Q is not really serious about doing the right thing. There is disappointment, disillusion and possibly even disrespect on both sides. The relationship with Family Q is now tense, highly emotional, with a heap of shared anxiety and possibly resentment.
The communication from the agency becomes more impersonal and directive. Family Q starts to receive letters of warning, missed calls on their phones, and sometimes more referrals to services they don’t want. Their resistance and resentment grows.
The family services department documents it all and prepares to report on non-compliance.
Family Q makes a complaint that they were not given a chance to prove they could safely care for their children. The court makes a decision that the child is better off in out of home care than living with ongoing uncertainty and chaos.
Trust has gone and all contact with the family services department is avoided, or if it can’t be avoided, is contested.
This story is over-simplified but it illustrates how a public institution that is potentially supportive, cooperative and helpful can shift to one that is controlling and scrutinising. Rule compliance becomes the currency between bureaucrat and client. Managing disagreements in the form of complaints becomes a major part of the business.
The reform underway in our child protection agency is the start of a transformation which needs to be matched with legislative change, family services planning and financial backing.

# See https://cpd.org.au/author/christopher-stone/ The reference for this letter is primarily in MacDermott, K and Stone, C (August 2013) Occasional Paper: Death by a Thousand Cuts: How governments undermine their own productivity, CPD Australia.

 

link to GCYP twitter

ISG a vital tool in early intervention

Access Economics’ November 2008 report, The Cost Of Child Abuse In Australia, estimated the annual cost of child abuse and neglect in 2007 at  $4 billion. The report conservatively places the value of related costs at a further $6.7 billion.1

The social and psychological costs of child abuse and neglect to individuals and communities are huge and those who pay most are the children and young people who have been abused or neglected. According to a major review conducted by the National Child Protection Clearinghouse in 20052, child abuse is associated with low self-esteem, increased fear, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, homelessness, suicide and many other physical and mental ailments. Even for resilient individuals, these events can have a significant negative impact on success in employment, educational attainment, relationships, parenting and capacity to participate in and contribute to society.

Over the past decade the focus of child protection policy has moved away from punitive measures to an emphasis on early intervention, improved interagency collaboration and education strategies.

The key to success is to intervene early, when children are beginning to experience difficulty, share the warning signs, collaborate and take action before the problems become entrenched.

Keeping Them Safe p.12 3

Child protection reviews and reports, like the 2009 National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children and the 2003 Layton Review Report, advocate early intervention, interagency collaboration and improved information sharing among agencies.

In October 2008 the South Australian State Cabinet endorsed the Information Sharing Guidelines for Promoting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children, Young People and their Families (ISG), a state wide framework setting out how information can be shared to enable early and more effective coordination of services and to prevent further harm.

The first stage of implementing the ISG began in mid 2009. Participating agencies report that:

•   The ISG supports and expands on existing good practice within organisations.

•   There is benefit in having one overarching framework that provides a consistent approach and explains simply and directly how and when to share information and for what purpose.

•   Acting to protect vulnerable children and young people frequently involves sharing information about the adults whose behaviour poses a risk to the safety and wellbeing of the children and young people they relate to.

•   Supporting vulnerable adults supports vulnerable children.

We work from an early intervention and systemic framework anyway, so we always consider the safety and wellbeing of the whole family in what we do. The ISG reinforce that. This process makes staff feel more confident they are doing the right thing.

Group Manager, UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide

Every family that is successfully supported will save the costs to government of investigations, prosecutions, responding to homelessness and provision of state care, mental health facilities, drug and alcohol services and other services.

We have some very strong interagency groups set up across the region and we are continuing to set these up in areas of need. The ISG, and particularly the flow chart, have been used as an induction tool for these groups. Information sharing for us has been significantly supported by the existence and promotion of the ISG. … if anything it’s legitimised the practice we have always had and has strengthened interagency collaboration by removing some of the aspects of uncertainty that seemed to exist across agencies in the past.

Regional Manager Support Services, DECS

The final word is from a Child and Family Health Service worker about a positive intervention involving a young mother and her six day-old child escaping family violence:

… the ISG gave all of the workers involved in this case the extra tools and permission they needed to ‘join the dots’ and provide the multi-agency support this family really needed.

Footnotes

1  Taylor, P., Moore, P., Pezzullo, L., Tucci, J., Goddard, C. and De Bortoli, L. (2008). The Cost of Child Abuse in Australia, Australian Childhood Foundation and Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia: Melbourne.

2  N. Richardson, Social costs: The Effects Of Child Maltreatment, National Child Protection Clearinghouse, AIFS, Resource Sheet no. 9, 2005.

3  Government of South Australia (2004) Keeping Them Safe

What’s been done – September to November 2010

The Office has joined the consultation on the 2010 update of South Australia’s Strategic Plan to propose this target specific to children in care:

Exceed the Australian average for wellbeing of children and young people in out of home care, as indicated by educational achievement, stability and successful transition to adulthood.

We are also supporting new targets for healthy child development and prevention of abuse and neglect of children.  Team members have attended consultation workshops, participated in online conversations and prepared a submission, Making our state a better parent.

The Charter of Rights was tabled in Parliament on 30 September 2010. Two additional agencies, Cora Barclay Centre and West Coast Youth Services, have endorsed the Charter, taking the total to 45 agencies. A survey of agencies who have endorsed the Charter closed on 11 October. The response rate was very high and a report on the findings will be finalised in November.

A discussion paper on improving the mental health of children under guardianship was released for consultation on 16 September. Work on this will continue in November.

Advocate Belinda Walker spoke at the ICAN and Mentoring Statewide Conference, Youth development: everybody’s business, on 27 August focussing on the importance of children’s rights and involvement in developing Individual Education Plans.

The Guardian’s Office has released A Community Visitor Program for Children in State Care report on the feasibility of introducing such a program in South Australia. The report includes background research on other community visitor programs, the outcomes from a discussion with South Australian experts and consultation with the Guardian’s Youth Advisors.

In the period August to October staff from the Office audited 57 annual reviews and conducted 21 monitoring visits.

A report on the Office’s audit of annual reviews of children and young people in care has been compiled and provided to the Minister following opportunity for comment from Families SA.  A Summary of the 2009-10 Audit of Annual Reviews is available in PDF.

With the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), the Office continued a series of information sessions for the NGO sector about the Information Sharing Guidelines (ISG) and is receiving positive feedback about the booklet A Guide to Writing an ISG Appendix. We have been working with Anglicare and Community Centres SA, formerly CANH, to promote the ISG.

The selection process for committee members for the Youth Advisory Committee (see the article on page 6) was held in August and September and the first meeting was held on 1 October.

The Guardian’s 2009-2010 Annual Report, was tabled in Parliament on
30 September 2010.

The independent Report on the Review of Performance and Effectiveness of the Office that was commissioned in April has been delivered.  As well as the evaluation, the report contains suggestions about needs and priorities gleaned from a wide range of stakeholders which will  be included in forthcoming strategic planning.

The brochure You and your future: choosing the right path to university has been updated and reissued for 2010-11 with the assistance of the three South Australian universities.  Distribution has started with the help of Families SA offices, the Department of Education and Children’s Services, the universities and YACSA.  Copies of the brochure can be ordered from the materials page of our website and can also be viewed  in a PDF version.

The Office responded to the Department for Families and Communities’ consultation on directions in alternative care which closed on 3 September.  The Response to Directions for alternative care is available in PDF on the Guardian’s website.