Over the past 5 years we have advocated for the right of children to grow up in a permanent family. We have recently been a part of major improvements but our work continues as there is much more to do.
We remain committed to the vulnerable children of Queensland whose voices are small and often unheard. The following statistics, supplied by the Pyjama Foundation (2012), show the negative life results of children who enter foster care which we seek to improve through system & legislation reform.
92% of children in care are below the average reading level at age seven
75% of these children do not complete schooling
50% of the homeless come from a care background
35% enter the juvenile justice system at some point (82% of Australian prisoners have below grade 4 level of functional literacy)
28% of care-leavers are parents within 12 months of leaving care
Our Objective - Advocate for Permanancy for Children in Foster Care in Queensland
This can be achieved through:
Permanency planning legislation. Fortunately due to the advocacy of many including QAK this reform has been enacted & is currently being implemented. Permanency planning sets limits on temporary care placements and ensures timely decisions about permanent living arrangements to stop the bureaucratic indecision and re-traumatization of children. See the Minister' media release on the reforms including permanency.
The collection & publication of the complete statistics on ‘churn’ in the foster care system, ‘churn’ being the bouncing of children in and out care, in and out of multiple placements, and in and out of failed family reunions. With these statistic the system can be measured & improved. Our long call for improved reporting has recently been supported by the QFCC's Foster Care System Review 2017.
Making open adoption a viable option for children in long-term foster care.
Recognition that childhood is fleeting and acknowledgement that families with complex, long-term & inter-generational issues will not respond to early intervention programs for example intergenerational drug/alcohol abuse, physical or sexual abuse.
Making Child Safety practices child focussed as they are currently focused on the rights of the biological parents. For example contact with family when it is safe and in the best interest of the child.
All children in care receiving the same quality of care, regardless of ethnic background.
Our most important achievement to date is our important role in legislative changes. In 2017 QAK wrote an extensive submission to the Legislation Review of the Qld Child Protection Act. Our submission was acknowledged for its quality and evidence. This review has resulted in changes to the Child Protection Act to "provide forever homes for vulneragle Queensland kids". We congratulate all involved.
Cultural change within the department has been the major barrier and we've done much to build awareness and work with the department at all levels including:
QAK's role in advocating for increased permanency for children in foster care in Qld which has resulted in an 18.6% increase in permanency placements for foster care children (Guardianships to other carers orders)
QAK wrote submissions to Qld Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (aka the Carmody Inquiry) 2013 as well as the Legislation Review of the Qld Child Protection Act in 2016 and the Queensland Adoption Act in 2016.
QAK’s Options Submission for changes to the Queensland Child Safety Legislation in 2017 incorporated input from 5 other organisations including Deborra-Lee Furness’s Adoption Change to make theirs a joint submission.
In 2013 QAK held a public forum which included leading Child Advocates, Hetty Johnson and Jeremy Sammut. The then Shadow Minister for Child Safety and the current Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attended and acknowledged the extensive public concern around permanency for foster care children.
In 2014 & again in 2017 QAK partnered with Adopt Change & Barnardos Australia (respectively) to provide professional training for parents & professionals including staff of the Department of Child Safety.
QAK has on-going discussions with the Minister (and Shadow Minister) and their advisors as well as the staff and management of the Department of Child Safety.
QAK directs research, provides information and produces training tools. For example, by using Queensland University of Technology psychology students, QAK produced a Best Interest of the Child Decision Tree (concurrency planning) and presented their work to the Qld Department of Child Safety in August 2016.
Membership in the steering committee of the My Home Initiative and organsing a doctoral scholar to work with the department to examine outcomes of the initiative. "My Home" aims to provide a permanent home for children who are unable to live with their own families by seeking applicants who are wanting to provide permanent homes for children and might not usually consider foster care due to the instability of the placements, for example applicants on the approved adoptive parents register. The initiative is being supervised by the Adoption Services unit of the Qld Department of Chid Safety in an attempt to attain the better outcomes of adopted children for children in foster care. It has also informed some of the current reforms.