REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON FAMILIES SA
Laid on the Table of the Legislative Council and ordered to be printed on 17 November 2009 ____________________________________________________________ _______________ Third Session, Fifty-First Parliament 2008-2009 3. Recommendations The Committee recommends that: 1. The Minister must take steps to address the rotten culture within the Department. 2. The Department must adopt a more co-operative, accountable, transparent and inclusive approach to dealing with foster carers, families, non-government organisations and others. 3. An independent competency assessment and evaluation of minimum training and competency levels for child protection workers must take place. 4. An independent audit of the qualifications of workers within the child protection system be undertaken. 5. The mandatory reporting system be improved by the establishment of independent regional panels to determine appropriate responses to all notifications of child abuse. The panels are to consist of persons such as teachers, police officers and social workers, as well as Departmental officers. 6. Administrative staff be appointed in regional offices, as a matter of urgency, to ease the burden on case workers. 7. Greater efforts be made by the Department to respect the work of foster parents and carers and appropriate training and education courses be provided and encouraged. 8. There be an independent review of the performance and methods used by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and of the competence and qualifications of its personnel. That the review examine and report on the cases of Burgess, Easling and others where claims of false allegations have been made and acted upon by the SIU. 9. That family reunification practices and policies be re-examined and adjusted in light of research findings. In particular, reunification should not be universally demanded, but should be targeted, time-limited and subject to change if parents do not demonstrate sufficient progress for their childs developmental and emotional needs. 10. That all relevant practice manuals, policy guidelines and proformas (e.g., for a Case Plan and Consent to Family Preservation Services) be published on the Departments website and promoted to the public. 11. The Department should be encouraged to foster new and innovative models of care and service delivery. In particular, non-government organisations should be actively encouraged to participate in the field of providing care for children at risk. 12. To encourage the required culture change within the Department, an independent professional panel be established to deal with the complaints about the conduct of individual workers. 13. An advocacy service to assist parents and carers who are aggrieved by decisions and actions of the Department be established and adequately funded. 14. An on-line information service be established containing details of non-government organisations which provide information and support for families under pressure or in crisis. 15. That an independent investigation be undertaken to prepare a report on the operation of Section 38(1) of the Childrens Protection Act 1993 (regarding substance abuse) with particular reference to the extent to which the department seeks orders under that section Page 9 of 88 requiring undertakings for parents and others, the nature of the undertakings sought and the actions taken to enforce and monitor compliance with such undertakings. 16. The reports from recommendation 3, 4, 8 and 15 be tabled in both Houses of Parliament within 14 sitting days of them having been received. ——————————————————————————– and Section 7 7. Departmental Culture There is a marked discrepancy between the practices of the Department on one hand and its formal policies and procedures on the other. The overwhelming evidence suggests that a culture of arrogance, mistrust, bullying and dishonesty is endemic within the Department. The Committee received evidence on this matter from foster carers, family members, advocacy agencies, staff and experts in child protection. All concurred with the opinion that there is a pervasive and rotten culture within the Department. A sample of the evidence pertaining to this culture follows. However, it is not suggested that all Departmental staff are part of corrupt behaviour. In fact, many work extremely hard under very difficult conditions and make every effort to support those in need.