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Queensland: Australia's foster care capital

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on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 09:20
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Many children have never been abused and don't want to be taken away by the Government

Queensland: Australia's foster care capital

First it was homelessness, now Queensland has claimed the dubious title of foster care capital of Australia.

Latest Department of Child Safety figures show the Sunshine State has more children in foster care per capita than any other state, prompting one leading welfare agency to label Queensland's system the "worst" in the country.

Queensland Council of Social Service President Karyn Walsh said the foster care system was highly overloaded as government policies focused on plucking children from danger rather than teaching parents how to look after them.

"At the moment we are relying on the out-of-home care system rather than providing support that would keep families together," Ms Walsh said.

According to the DOCS, more than 7200 Queensland children are currently in foster care, second only to New South Wales with 10,623.

But the Sunshine State outstrips its southern neighbour when it comes to the number of children aged zero to 17 in foster care per head of population.

"The number of children in out-of-care home is only increasing ... as government policies in Queensland seem increasingly focused on reactive approaches and crisis-driven programs," Ms Walsh said.

Under current practices, children are immediately removed from their families after an incidence of abuse or neglect is reported, or a risk identified.

The Council of Social Service is now calling for protection, rather than reaction.

Dr Eileen Munro from the London School of Economics, in Brisbane yesterday to present a seminar on child protection, said reports of poor practice and abuse in the system only made things worse.

"The highly critical attitude to child protection mistakes has led to defensive practice and a serious difficulty in recruiting experienced staff," Dr Munro said.

"Defensiveness inhibits learning and we need to learn...in general about how to help families in trouble...and (how) to build up a body of skilled front line workers who are provided with effective guidance."

The Council has appealed for a stronger focus on individual case work and in-home support for families dealing with poverty, homelessness, mental health issues or drug and alcohol addictions.

"There needs to be greater investment in non-government services so that children have the best possibility of staying with their families," Ms Walsh said.

"There is only a small focus on prevention ...(and) this imbalance must be addressed."

Phil Reeves is the Minister for the department of Community Services in Queensland.

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-australias-fo...