Children are suffering due to multiple disrupted placements (as many as 40 within a twelve month period) and too many families are caught in the system when their problems would be better addressed by less formal means. In some cases it appeared that the delivery of support services for those in crisis was considered to be of a lower priority than the removal of children. Many carers feel patronised, mistreated and afraid of being falsely accused of abuse. Many are no longer prepared to undertake the role of carer. Policy and legislation dictates that kinship carers (grandparent and other relatives) are to be given first preference when seeking an out-of-home placement for a child and 36 percent of children in state care are cared for in this way. While the system struggles to find appropriate placements for children who have been removed from their parents, many grandparents and relatives feel abandoned and ignored. They face obstructive resistance when applying to care for children with whom they have a family connection. Many continue to care for grandchildren in spite of a lack of funding and support. South Australia relies more heavily than other states on foster carers to accommodate children in need: 49.5% of children in state care are placed with foster carers. Despite a twofold increase in children needing care, the number of foster carers in South Australia has remained static and many experienced carers have left the system. The attempts of Families SA to recruit foster carers have failed. Foster carers require more access to information about the children in their care, greater freedom to make decisions about the children and access to services they deem necessary for the wellbeing of the children. Foster carers also require birth family access arrangements that are realistically in the best interests of the children as opposed to the best interests of the birth family. Procedures for investigating complaints against foster carers and workers are not satisfactory. The competence of the Special Investigations Unit is questionable. The Committee was assured that the unit has been reorganised. However, serious questions remain about the fairness and efficacy of the investigative processes adopted within Families SA. Many carers believe that the nature and complexity of their work will almost inevitably lead to a Care Concern being raised against them or that they will be the subject of an investigation. They have no confidence that their case will be given a proper, fair, independent and transparent investigation. They fear being left with a tainted record and being stigmatised by departmental staff even if the allegation is not confirmed.
Braking it down… Parliamentary Report Shockers 2…! February 15, 2010