SNAICC has released a final report on the South Australian consultations under its national initiative Family Matters, Kids safe in culture, not in care. The initiative aims to reduce the alarming and soaring number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care across Australia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up just 3.5 per cent of the child population (aged 0-17 years) in SA but comprise 29.6 per cent of all children in out-of-home care. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 11.5 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Aboriginal children, which is higher than the national average. Since 1998 and the enquiry into the Stolen Generations, the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in SA has increased by 319 per cent.
Family Matters, Kids safe in culture, not in care hosted its third public forum on the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care in Adelaide on Wednesday 27 August, as well as a community meeting in Port Augusta on Friday 29 August 2014.
The forum and community meeting was organised in partnership with Aboriginal Family Support Services, Uniting Communities, SA Council of Social Service and Child and Family Welfare Association SA.
Two-hundred-and-twenty early childhood and child protection workers, representatives from Aboriginal controlled organisations and members of the community attended and participated in discussions to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care and keep them connected to their culture. They identified local issues in relation to child removal and made 49 recommendations in total: 27 for government, 20 for the non-government sector and 2 for community.
Some of the major recommendations for government include:
- outsourcing the development of cultural care plans to the non-government sector to ensure foster placements with non-Aboriginal families keep the cultural connections with children’s birth families
- delegating the Kinship Care Program to an Aboriginal community controlled organisation to increase the recruitment and assessment of Aboriginal carers
- re-establishing the Aboriginal child abuse hotline and providing Aboriginal staff with child protection delegations to make decisions and review practices
- funding a peak Aboriginal community controlled organisation to support the delivery of culturally appropriate child protection services in the non-government sector and
- ensuring all staff employed at Families SA undergo cultural awareness training as a condition of employment.
Among the recommendations for the non-government sector was the need for education providers and universities to include Aboriginal cultural content, particularly in relation to child rearing in social work courses, and the establishment of a network of CEO’s to consider issues of funding, resource allocation and provision of services.
SNAICC CEO Frank Hytten has written to the Minister for Child Development and Education, Jennifer Rankine and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Hunter calling on the SA Government to reduce the dramatic and disproportionate number of Aboriginal children in care by one quarter by:
- increasing prevention and early intervention for families through the redistribution of resources from child protection to intensive family support
- reducing the number of substantiated notifications through increased understanding among child protection workers of Aboriginal culture and child rearing practices and
- improving the rate of family reunification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their birth or extended families.
The report aims to share the content of the discussions at the forum and community meeting, while an issues paper, which provides background to the problem in South Australia, has also been released.