Uniting Church calls for change in out-of-home care
The Uniting Church is seeking a child protection system in New South Wales that provides quality services and leads to better outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.
It believes there must be increased investment in early intervention and family preservation services, and that out-of-home care must be transferred to the non government sector.
The church’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT on September 27 called on the NSW Government to deliver on its commitment to transfer all out-of-home care services and placements to accredited non-government service providers so that children have access to good quality care.
It also called on the Government to increase investment in early intervention and family preservation programs to prevent children entering care.
The Synod, meeting at Newcastle University, noted that New South Wales has the highest proportion of children and young people in out-of-home care in Australia and that, in the five years from 2005 to 2010, the number of children in out-of-home care in Australia rose by 51%.
It also noted that as at June 30, 2010, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care was almost ten times the rate of non-Indigenous children.
Children and young people in out-of-home care were also over-represented in statistics such as school suspension and contact with the juvenile justice system.
UnitingCare Burnside told Synod that all children and young people deserved the best possible start in life.
For some children and young people, living with their families was not possible due to abuse, neglect, addiction and other issues. It said the priority of the Government must be the wellbeing of all children and ensuring that vulnerable children and young people had a safe and secure environment to grow up in.
It said that in 2008 the Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW found that children and young people receive a higher level of care and support when placed with accredited non-government providers compared with those placed within the NSW Government’s out-of-home care services.
“Research shows that investment in early intervention and family preservation programs can help prevent children entering the out-of-home care system.”
The Rev. Harry Herbert, Executive Director of UnitingCare NSW.ACT, said the current situation was untenable.
He said there always would be children who needed care out of home but not in the current proportions.
He said there needed to be a change in community attitudes. “We need the community to help natural parents to care for their children and not remove them from their families.”
Synod encouraged congregations to write to their local State MP and the Premier in support of a fully funded transfer of out-of-home care services to the non-government sector, as well as greater investment in early intervention and family preservation services to prevent children coming into care.