What are your biggest frustrations in trying to be the best Carer that you can be?
Do you believe that whether you get on well with your Families SA worker or not affects the services and support you are provided?
Hello world! February 5, 2010
I thought it was about time that we all had place and an opportunity to share our ideas, fears and thoughts on all things that we face as Foster Carers. Somewhere that we can discuss and respond with like minded Carers. Use this blog as an outlet, a sounding board, a stress release, a search for answers, a support for others…. use it as you see fit.
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.
A parliamentary report on Families SA has highlighted a culture of power and bullying within the department. The report’s executive summary refers to a “rotten culture of power” in Families SA and claims caseworkers are bullied by supervisors. The report is from a Select Committee inquiry moved by independent MP Ann Bressington and did not involve the South Australian Government. She has told State Parliament that Families SA needs to change its attitude of being above reproach. “A change in a culture that believes but would never state openly that the family is the cause of all dysfunction,” she said. “Believe it or not, there are those within this department, within this agency, who believe the state is the best parent.” The report makes 16 recommendations including changes to the system for mandatory reporting of child abuse and checking qualifications of staff involved in child protection. A staff member says Families and Communities Minister Jennifer Rankine does not accept the report’s criticisms. Jan McMahon from the Public Service Association says problems in Families SA have been caused by job cuts. “In a civilised society we need to be putting more people back into Families SA and this is what this report says,” she said.
More SA children in emergency care Posted Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:08pm AEDT A South Australian parliamentary committee has heard there are 140 children in emergency state care, including 60 who are being housed in motels. The committee has been told the cost of the care was $16 million last financial year and is likely to be higher this year. The SA Families and Communities Department is expecting to have more than 1,500 children under guardianship this year, which is 300 more than forecast last year. The Department’s David Waterford has told the committee it is the same as the trend elsewhere in the world. “The increased numbers of children being taken into care is reflective of significant increases starting right back at the beginning in terms of notifications, there has been very significant growth in the number of child protection notifications – significant growth over the same period in the substantiations of serious abuse and neglect,” he said. No guarantees The Families and Communities Department says it cannot guarantee that services for children who are at risk will not be affected by planned public sector cuts. The State Government has asked departments to cut their budgets by a combined $75 million over four years. That figure is in addition to previous savings targets, including $20 million this year for the Families and Communities Department. The Department’s executive director of financial services, Joe Ullianich has told a parliamentary committee the Department is trying to quarantine frontline services from any cutbacks. “As we go further it will be harder and as to what happens if we can’t achieve them at that point, that’s a question at a future point whether or not Treasury … will accept that advice and remove that savings requirement or insist on that savings requirement,” he said.
A Carer’s Story: My wife Meg and I were Foster Carers for two boys aged 5 and 9 for a total of 18 months, up until mid January 2009, when they were removed from our care in the most heartless of ways by Families SA In the short time we had them the boys had made tremendous improvements even though their background was one of tremendous trauma. They had already been with a previous Families SA Foster Carer who had been appointed even though he had been jailed in NSW for carnal knowledge. (Sex with someone under the age of consent.) This Carer has been de-registered now (thank God) after some form of investigation, however for some years it is believed he abused the children in his official care. Remember these are damaged and traumatised children before they go into care. Meg was required to attend monthly meetings about the boys (I was working). But, meeting after meeting, the office in question never acted on the boys or our needs. The youngest boy was severely damaged psychologically, but Meg also found that he had a hip degeneration problem that had been overlooked for years and was causing him real pain. Meg consistently asked to have the second-hand wheelchair she had purchased replaced with a light aluminium model, to save her back, lifting the chair in and out of the car boot. The office never replaced the wheelchair or authorised Meg to purchase one. Meg also repeatedly requested substantial respite. (We went for 12 Months without respite.) All we got was 4hrs each Sunday from NanniesSA. They proved unreliable and often didn’t turn up, which unsettled the boys more. So Meg cancelled them. The younger boy was having severe behaviour problems at school, such that Meg would be regularly called by the Principal to come and take him home. Yet after repeated requests Families SA failed to arrange a Teachers Aid (SSO) at the school for this child whos’ trauma was in large part caused by their previous official Foster Carer. Meg dreaded these useless meetings and became extremely anxious during them, because her passion for the boys was being ignored and in fact they started to scapegoat her for problems, rather than offer concrete help and support. Meg has a history of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and after 6 years of stability she began to have panic attacks during the meetings. (She never panicked with the boys and was a true “Mum” to them.) So rather than help, after six months of wasted meetings they decided we needed a psychological assessment. This for a couple who had looked after a difficult foster boy previously and had glowing reports from previous Social Workers and who were also getting glowing praise from school teachers for our love and care of these two boys. Well, Meg was insulted and felt “put down”. It seemed directed at her. Her fear was that this was Families SA’s way to control us and avoid responsibility. She refused to undertake the assessment and within a month they summarily dismissed us as Carers. This while I was trying to negotiate a resolution. (I was not aware of how serious the problem was, until a few weeks before our sacking.) We had no independent advocate acting for us at this time and were just “thrown to the wolves”. Also, to this day, we have had no written explanation of what we did wrong and why we were sacked. Also we were not informed that we had any rights (as it turns out we did have rights as per Families SA’s own document of rights updated in November 2008.) We also were not made aware of our right to complain or that the Department has a Complaints Officer. I literally cried during the sacking meeting and was offered nothing. (not even a tissue.) Meg wasn’t at the meeting and I thought it was going to be a negotiation or problem solving meeting. Later when we finally tracked down Gail Bartlett (Departmental Complaints) she said they had broken a whole lot of their own rules. Initially, after we were sacked, we went into severe shock and grief. The boys had finally gone on a two week respite holiday during this time, but they never came home. Meg, on the behest of Y’s psychologist, had given the little 6 year old a piece of her jewellery as a treasure she told him she needed back – this was to help him trust that he would return. (He had severe separation anxiety.) He never got to return that treasure to Meg. When we recovered our composure we made enquiries and found Donna Scott another Carer on a Carers Committee. Donna contacted the office of the Minister for Families & Communities and arranged a meeting with the Regional Director, Marj Ellis and District Centre Manager, Wendy Joyce. Ms Ellis seemed conciliatory and undertook to revisit and resolve the whole affair. We were hopeful. However as of now (28Jun09) the matter is still unresolved except to say that last Wednesday we were told that Child Y will not be coming back to us. No details were given. The fate of Child X is still in the balance. It is now almost 6 months since the removal and still they procrastinate. We estimate that the cost of maintaining the boys in a Families SA house is around $1500.00 per day. To date this would add up to $250,000.00 to $300,000.00. This is at least 10 to 15 times more than leaving the boys with us. Amazingly one of the reasons they did not support us with the boys’ needs in the first place, was the cost! (Go Figure!) Save a couple of thousand to spend half a million! Although Ms Ellis is ever so professional and charming, we have to judge the tree by its fruit. On that level she has not delivered and continues to waste our time. We believe we are being massaged and manipulated until they can claim due process and finalise a pre-planned solution, without us in it. Power and secrecy are used by the department to justify the most appalling things done in their name. Also much of what we have been told is inconsistent, with explanations apparently being made up on the run, with little regard to the facts. What is so dreadfully sad is the fate of these damaged little children. We still love them. But the Department and the Minister are their parent. (they are under the Guardianship of the Minister.) In this case the Minister does not look like a loving parent. They came to us damaged and traumatised and through hard work and love we saw improvement. What will become of them now? We don’t know, but our heart aches for them. This is not complete and believe it or not, there is more bad stuff to add, let alone the final outcome.