26 September 2023

Child protection review calls for adult response

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The Department for Child Protection (DCP) has released the report of a review into child protection work in South Australia which found the system to be ‘under immense pressure’ and in urgent need for a ‘strategy to balance the system’.

Conducted by nationally and internationally recognised expert in reform and child protection practice, Kate Alexander, the review Trust in culture: A review of child protection in South Australia discusses five observations and makes three recommendations.

In her review, Ms Alexander addressed the terms of reference, the first of which was to review the implementation of recommendations for child protection since 2010 and the second related to the alignment of practice with statutory obligations.

Her first observation was that the State’s child protection workforce had excellent, well-qualified people.

“Social workers, leaders and agency partners alike talk about their work with notable pride,” Ms Alexander found.

“In comparison to other Australian states the statutory workforce in South Australia boasts a relatively high proportion of qualified social workers.”

She also observed that there needs to be a deliberate focus on Aboriginal children.

“Seven of the eight children whose tragic deaths are at the centre of this review were identified as Aboriginal,” Ms Alexander said.

“South Australia also has the highest rate of Aboriginal children on long-term guardianship orders, and the lowest rate of reunification for Aboriginal children compared with other Australian states and territories”

She also found the SA child protection system to be under immense pressure and in need of an urgent strategy to balance the system.

“The spending in the system reflects a serious imbalance,” Ms Alexander said.

“Almost 80 per cent of funds are directed to out of home care,” she said.

“The spending on early intervention and intensive family support is the lowest of all Australian states and territories.”

She recommended that: A South Australian Child Protection Expert Group be established to address the current concerns in the system and capitalise on the current progress; The functions of the DHS and the Department of Child Protection be merged to bring all Government child protection services under the one Minister, executive and governance structure DCP; and The Government rely on the Senior Executive Group within DCP for internal reform initiatives.

Ms Alexander’s 146-page report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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