21 November 2014 | BLOG: Child Protection
SNAICC has written to the WA Minister for Child Protection, Helen Morton, calling on the Western Australian Government to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in the state by 25 per cent over the next 12 months.
At 30 June 2013 (the latest available figures) there were 1,678 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in WA — or a staggering 49 per cent of all children in care in the state. Since 2008, the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in WA has increased by 55 per cent, compared with an increase of 19 per cent for non-Aboriginal children.
In a letter to Minister Morton, SNAICC CEO Frank Hytten suggests the Government could reduce the dramatic and disproportionate number of Aboriginal children in care by one quarter by:
- increasing prevention and early intervention for families at risk by redistributing resources from child protection and out-of-home care to intensive family support services
- reducing the number of substantiated notifications through increased understanding among child protection workers, non-Aboriginal carers and departmental managers 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.
These were among the recommendations to emerge from a major forum in Perth and community meeting in Fitzroy Crossing in June 2014 under a national initiative titled Family Matters — Kids in Culture, Not in Care being undertaken by SNAICC and partner agencies.
Over 210 people took part in the WA discussions, including representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and community, child protection workers, senior public servants and researchers. Minister Morton also participated, delivering an address to the Perth forum on 13 June.
SNAICC has produced a final report on the WA consultations, which lists a comprehensive set of recommendations for government, NGOs and the community, including those identified above which is available on our website.
Other major recommendations for government include:
- increasing the participation of Aboriginal people in child protection decision making, and starting the process to transfer Aboriginal case management to Aboriginal community-controlled agencies
- increasing representation and advocacy for Aboriginal families, particularly in remote communities
- applying a cultural lens when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander families, and removing systemic racism from policies and procedures
- recruiting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff within the department, particularly in higher decision-making positions
- improving communications with Aboriginal families, including more information on their rights and available support services, and improving relationships between child protection workers and Aboriginal families, and
- formally recognising kinship carers so that they receive adequate financial and other support, and making kinship carer recruiting less time-consuming and less stringent.
Among the recommendations for the non-government sector are the need for education providers and universities to increase the number of Aboriginal graduates, particularly in law and social work, and establishing a peak Aboriginal child protection agency.