'A fresh start' (PDF 4.5MB) outlines a system-level reorientation, inspired by a public health approach.
It establishes a broader child development system, which aims to avoid protection measures altogether by changing parent behaviour and addressing the social factors that lead to abuse and neglect.
There will be a greater focus on prevention, targeting complex and often interrelated risk factors such as:
- mental health
- substance abuse
- family violence
- social isolation
- intergenerational trauma.
Statutory child protection and referral pathways
When a child does need statutory child protection, there will be an increased emphasis on permanence and stability for the child.
There will be an improved model to receive and respond to notifications, and a broader set of referral pathways.
Referral networks will coordinate services at a local level and connect children and families with support services suitable to their needs. This will be supported by the work of the Early Intervention Research Directorate, which will provide the evidence base to ensure we are investing in services that work.
In the long run, these referral pathways will provide a response to a greater number of children who need help, not just the most urgent and serious notifications.
Reducing numbers in emergency care
A key priority of the new system will be to reduce the number of children in emergency and commercial care, as this environment provides the least support and stability to children and their developmental needs.
Where possible, children will be placed into foster and kinship care.
To support this, carers will receive better support in their roles and in their interactions with the government.
There will also be more support for children leaving care, helping them successfully transition from care to adult life.
Support and training
Department for Child Protection staff will be supported in their work through training opportunities, a flatter organisational structure and streamlined processes and procedures.
This will enable the department to perform at its best within the statutory system.
Improved review processes
The new system will have a robust complaints and review process.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People will promote and advocate for the rights of all children, and investigate systemic issues.
The Guardian for Children and Young People will have the power to launch inquiries into individual cases, and there will be a number of referral processes to ensure a thorough and transparent process.
Many of the recommendations from the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission directly relate to the safety of children in out-of-home care.
Significant additional resources have been committed to auditing, supporting and supervising children in commercial care, and to reducing the number of children in commercial care placements.
A community visitor’s scheme will be piloted in residential care to proactively check on children’s welfare and experiences on a regular basis.
There will be stronger advocacy and education for children about their lives.
The Department for Child Protection’s care concern unit - which receives notifications of abuse or neglect to children already in care – will be reformed to better respond to and investigate concerns about the safety of children in care.
The South Australian Government has used the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission findings to launch large-scale reform, in addition to responding to individual recommendations.
This reform involves the input and commitment of the non-government sector and the whole community.
A collaborative approach
A key difference is that the oversight of future reform will not be the responsibility of government alone, but will involve non-government peak bodies and community representatives involved in child protection.
Representatives of the non-government sector will work alongside government at the highest level, and will hold each other accountable for the delivery of reform and child safety and wellbeing.
This will be achieved through the establishment of the Child Safety and Wellbeing Advisory Panel, which will provide an invaluable opportunity for government and non-government bodies to form a genuine partnership to tackle child protection reform.
The government is committed to the process of consultative, collaborative and inclusive reform.
The government has also committed to providing annual reports for at least 5 years on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations.
Reform Implementation team
Email: CPReform [at] sa.gov.au