The above article details a case of child abuse that was reported, but shockingly nothing was done to protect the child. The Coroner blamed a “family preservation” ethic within SA Child Protection as the cause of the child’s death. A conclusion that is at odds with the findings of an earlier inquiry conducted into SA Child Protection Services (2009). Findings that were scathing about the over reporting, lack of funding, inadequate training, the failure to remove children in harm whilst removing others that were not. Interestingly it found that far from there being a family preservation ethic there was a quick rush to take some whilst other children in real danger slipped through the cracks.
I believe the Coroner’s findings as well as contradicting those of the earlier Inquiry are simplistic and do not provide a solution to a complex problem and purposely feed into the pro adoption campaign that is presently under-way in Australia. The damage done to the many stolen generations of white and black children permanently removed and adopted have taught us that utilising this as a default child protection measure is not the answer.
Another alarming fact is that the Coroner quotes how few adoptions there are in Australia compared to the UK and the US. He obviously has not researched the myriad of problems there in in the out of home care industry — and that includes adoptions – in those countries. Continually comparing Australia’s low adoption rates with that of the UK and the US has been an ongoing tactic utilised by the pro adoption lobby to argue their case for increased adoptions in Australia for a number of years.
The article does not mention kinship care, which is surprising, considering it was the grandparents who were key players in bringing the abuse to the attention of authorities and repeatedly asked to take custody of their granddaughter for her protection. Considering the severity of the complaints and the fact there were two people who were related to and had the best interests of the child at heart why where the grandparents ignored? Why was the Department’s failure to place the child with her loving grandparents not flagged as a systemic problem within the system by the Coroner? The earlier Inquiry (2009) had certainly stated disregarding grandparents concerns and failing to place their at risk grandchildren with them was a systemic failure in the SA child protection system.
There is a lot to learn from this tragedy. Many caseworkers are poorly trained, inexperienced and over worked. The sector is underfunded. The answer however is not adoption. There needs to be a system set up that is adequately funded so there are enough properly trained child protection workers to adequately investigate cases such as these. Kinship care needs to be part of alternate care arrangements, properly funding supportive services for at risk families and if all else fails then removal under a Permanent Placement or Parenting Order.
The following are some extracts from the SA Inquiry that I published on the Blog more than 12 months ago – See http://apologyalliance.com/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making-part-3/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making-part-4/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making-part-6/:
The Select Committee on Families advised the South Australian Government that the culture within SA Child Protection was “rotten”. The Committee was scathing in its findings. Goward’s claims that an ineffective and abusive system existed within NSW child protection equally applied to its counterpart in South Australia. The Select Committee found that “immature, inexperienced, badly trained” workers were “vindictive and abused their powers with impunity”. They were totally inept at protecting children or engaging with their families. There was no attempt to assist families stay intact. When grandparents offered to provide kinship care for grandchildren with whom they had a connection, care workers not only ignored them, but were obstructive. As was the case in NSW families who applied for respite care or support services had their children removed. Families SA policies for family preservation and reunification were ignored. They covered their mistakes by falsifying files and failed to reunify families that had their children unnecessarily removed. In other occasions they did not remove children who were in danger. Since 1997 SA Child Protection has worked in partnership with NGOs such as Anglicare SA, Aboriginal Family Support Services, Anglicare Community Care, Port Pirie Central Mission/Centcare Whyalla. All of which are collectively known as ACSPs. When children require alternative care the Department refers them to the Central Alternative Care Unit (CACU) which liaises with the ACSPs to obtain appropriate child placement. They were also supposed to assist families whose children were in care. The ACSPs are also responsible for recruiting, assessing and training carers. The Committee stated that the SA out-of-home care is in crisis, failed in its duty of care to protect vulnerable families and instead caused them harm. Further that it has failed a key initiative to preserve and reunify families.
Family preservation SERVICES need to be implemented. This was also the recommendation of the Queensland Inquiry into their Child Protection system.
(Extracted from an article published on this Blog over 12 months ago:
The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry found that the Department, even after two previous inquiries into its child protection system, one of note being in relation to abuse in foster care, still did not ensure the safety, wellbeing and best interests of children. It concluded that the system focused on coercive strategies of removal rather than supporting families to stay together and that too little money was spent on early intervention to support vulnerable families. Of a budget of $2.6 billion only $90 million was allocated to preventive or supportive services. This resulted in intake of children into foster care growing 185% from – 40, 202 in 2002-2003 to 114,503 in 2011-2012.
Commissioner Carmody stated the:
The symbiotic link between supporting families and having fewer children in the system is irrefutable and has been ignored and underestimated by government for too long. I am also firmly of the view that better rehabilitative and therapeutic family support for parents under stress – especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities plagued with chronic neglect – is the key to stronger Queensland families AND SAFER CHILDREN. It may seem simplistic to say ‘prevention is better than cure’, but it is an undoubted reality that without preventive strategies the cycle of intergenerational abuse will continue to infect successive generations. There is little point in tearing a family apart just to try to put it back together. To children, a loved parent is much more than the worst thing the parent has ever done them: most children are better off being cared for haphazardly by a loved parent than in some else’s family or a state-run facility … The risk-averse ‘better safe than sorry’ culture that has sprung up over the last 10 years has been only too evident during this inquiry. This overly timorous attitude pervades child protection decision making at all levels of government and across the entire system. It is the root cause of over-reporting, resource wastage and an overcrowded out-of-home care system struggling to provide safe and stable placements for children with multiple and complex needs who could, with proper support, be cared for safely at home by a still-loved parent. The best way for government to help children is to support their parents and communities.
According to Commissioner Carmody not to act now will mean that the system will become even more ineffective with an increase of 40 percent of children entering the system in the next decade. He suggests redirecting more of the Departmental budget of $2.6 billion into family support services. If family preservation methods are implemented he projects rather than the welfare budget blowing out in the next decade the number of children in the statutory system will have fallen by more that 25%. Hence the implementation of the reforms will have recovered the new money in the first five years, plus be better off by $578 million in the next five.
Significantly he stated:
Child protection is about more than economics. It is an ethical imperative. The cost of repair may not be cheap — but the cost of doing nothing would be much more, measured both in dollars and human suffering … failure to learn the lessons of history will guarantee that they are repeated. It is time for us to break the cycle of intergenerational abuse by addressing the drivers of abuse and refocusing our attention on parents and families. The new child protection system must be one that encourages and enables everyone to take responsibility for protecting children.(Extracted from: http://apologyalliance.com/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making-part-3/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making-part-4/a-stolen-generation-in-the-making-part-6/
Adoption has not proven to be panacea that pro adoption proponents stated it would be in the past but instead proved to be a failed social experiment that damaged hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers children and extended family members. To link the abusive system of historic forced adoption with current child protection issues obfuscates the illegal and immoral treatment of survivors of Forced Adoption and we learn nothing from this very shameful part of our history.
A child has a whole extended family: siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and of course grandparents. Adoption permanently cuts off the child’s access hence their connection to their entire family. We do not do this if there is a divorce. A child does not get a new birth certificate that obliterates its biological history. It does not get legally constrained from having contact with non-offending biological family members. It is not taken possession of by one side of the family whilst all connections to the other are permanently extinguished.
The pro adoption lobby has done an exceptional job of confounding historical Forced Adoption – which was not conducted on the grounds of child abuse but purely because of the parents unwed status, with child protection issues. The mantra being the more adoptions there are the less child abuse there will be (See http://apologyalliance.com/2014/07/25/politicising-foster-care-abuse-to-promote-forced-adoption-call-for-adoption-targets/ ). This is evidenced in the Coroner’s remarks:
Johns also suggested that “permanent removal to adoptive parents must have a place in South Australia’s child protection system”, noting that “only 114 Australian children were adopted in 2009-10 compared to more than 8,500 in the early 1970s. If Australian children in care were adopted at the same rate as in England, there would have been 1,700 adoptions in Australia …if at the same rate as in the United States, there would have been 4,800,” he said