'The Life They Deserve' recommended significant reform to the Other Person Guardianship process.
These changes will be implemented in the Children and Young People (Safety) Bill, and when passed, will make it easier for a carer to obtain long term guardianship of their foster or kinship child.
Additionally, a number of legislative changes will be made to provide foster and kinship carers with more information about children coming into their care, and improved decision-making rights.
The Department for Child Protection is also working closely with carers to conduct a targeted internal review of kinship and foster care.
This review aims to find ways to better support and promote family-based out-of-home care for children. It focuses on the needs of foster, kinship and specific child-only carers, creating strategies to better attract, retain and support them in their vital work.
Four carer relationship managers will be engaged to provide carers with support dealing with government processes and procedures.
These relationship managers will provide carers with information about their rights and responsibilities, support better day-to-day decision making arrangements, and ensure that the contributions of carers are valued.
To ensure that the voice and experiences of carers are heard, they will be represented on the Child Safety and Wellbeing Advisory Panel by foster and kinship care peak bodies.
A significant change will be the introduction of the Child Safety Pathway. The pathway is a multi-agency intake model, or ‘front door’, to the child protection system.
Notifiers will be able to contact the pathway, and will be efficiently triaged to the best possible person to address their concerns.
Additional resources have been committed to the pathway to answer phone calls, making it easier for people to report concerns.
All staff receiving the initial calls will be degree qualified in a relevant human service field.
When a concern requires escalation, the matter will be quickly referred to the Department for Child Protection for investigation.
Where further assessment is required, the matter will be referred to experienced social work qualified staff who will respond and undertake rigorous assessment with support from a multi-agency team.
An automated call-back feature at the call centre will be activated for a 12 month trial period, starting in 2017.
The broader child development system outlined in 'A fresh start' (PDF 4.5MB) aims to avoid protection measures wherever possible by changing parent behaviour and addressing the social factors that lead to abuse and neglect.
Universal services will target the entire community, providing a starting point for education and early support.
These services generally carry fewer stigmas than other interventions, and are often delivered in everyday settings. Examples include:
- prenatal support
- early childhood care
- the education system.
These services will become a pipeline for advice, education and collaboration with families, providing approachable access points for vulnerable parents to seek help.
The new Early Intervention Research Directorate will create and coordinate a 5 year whole-of-government prevention and early intervention strategy.
Local assessment and referral networks will be trialled to support families, and respond to their individual needs.
Importantly, we will implement these and other programs while ensuring that protection services continue for our most vulnerable children.
The Early Intervention Research Directorate will be established and will act as the intersection between data and child protection evidence, evaluation, research, and practice.
In collaboration with the academic sector, it will take an evidence-based approach to prevention and early intervention, providing strategies to help families before they reach crisis point.
Additionally, we will test, monitor and evaluate new strategies and services before implementing them.
Pilot programs will be used to ensure that we allocate resources to rigorously tested and effective services.
The new Early Intervention Research Directorate will have a specific mandate to focus on Aboriginal children and families.
This work will aim to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the state’s child protection system through enhanced understanding and culturally suitable approaches to early intervention and prevention.
Aboriginal recruitment strategy
An Aboriginal Recruitment and Retention Strategy will be implemented to attract and retain Aboriginal employees to the child protection workforce.
This will improve the capacity of the department to provide cultural advice both operationally and strategically.
Extra training has been funded for staff working with carers and Aboriginal children to develop the cultural competency and capacity of the workforce to better work with all Aboriginal children, families and communities.
Family scoping resources
Additional resources have been committed to establishing a family scoping unit within the Department for Child Protection.
This unit will be dedicated to finding family and kin to care for children in care at the earliest opportunity, ensuring more Aboriginal children in care are cared for by kin and are supported to maintain cultural connections.
Aboriginal Community Leadership Reference Group
The Aboriginal Community Leadership Reference Group has been initiated to work with the government and represent the needs and views of Aboriginal children, families and the communities in the reform of the child protection system.
The Aboriginal Reference Group will act as a key point of reference for advice and guidance to the government in the development and implementation of system reform.
Young adulthood is a critical time for all South Australians, but none more so than young people leaving care.
A raft of recommendations will be implemented to improve and extend services for children transitioning from care to adulthood.
This includes provisions in the Children and Young People (Safety) Bill that allows support to be offered to children leaving care up to 25 years old.
Carers will receive extended financial assistance for some children, to support the child’s pursuit of further education and training.
There will also be a greater investment in services that currently provide services for children leaving care.
The government has committed to talking to children and young people about what the recommendations mean to them, how they should be implemented. This may include:
- conducting focus groups or one-on-one discussions with children, run in conjunction with child advocacy groups
- maintaining our ongoing dialogue with child advocates, such as the Guardian for Children and Young People and the Commissioner for Children and Young People
- better use of touch points with children, such as on-the-ground departmental staff
- developing communication materials specific for children.
We will also work closely with peak bodies and agencies that deal directly with children and young people, using their existing networks and expertise to scope issues and changes with children.
Children will be involved in the governance of reform through the Child Safety and Wellbeing Advisory Panel.
Youth representatives will be periodically invited to attend panel meetings, and will also be represented by the Guardian for Children and Young People, peak bodies and the Commissioner for Children and Young People.
Various changes aim to reduce the number of children needing statutory intervention and will help to maintain stable and healthy family environments where children can thrive.
Through a focus and investment in early intervention and prevention, the adoption of a collaborative sector approach and the implementation of several initiatives, the child protection system will be able to reach more families in need earlier, and in a more coordinated and constructive way.
These initiatives include the establishment of the Early Intervention Research Directorate and the implementation of Child and Family Assessment and Referral Network trials.
Networks will coordinate services at a local level and connect children and families with support services that are suitable to their needs. Services could include:
- coordinated access to drug and alcohol treatment programs
- mental health support
- children’s services
Strong collaborative partnerships will be built between government, not-for-profit organisations and other community service providers.
When a child must be removed from their biological parents, there will be a focus on earlier identification of appropriate carers who are known to the child, including extended family.
Child protection is everybody’s business. Neighbours, friends, teachers and the whole community need to come together to support families and children.
We all have a role to play.
This means forming connection with your local community, checking in with vulnerable families and encouraging people to seek help.
When you have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is experience abuse and neglect, report it.
Reform Implementation team
Email: CPReform [at] sa.gov.au