When child protective services determine that a child is at unacceptable risk of abuse or neglect, they will often remove the child from their family and place them into out-of-home care (OOHC).
There are several types of out-of-home care in NSW, including foster care (where the child is placed with an unrelated foster parent), residential care (where the child is placed in a residential facility – an option usually used for children or young people with high needs), and kinship care (where the child is placed with a trusted relative or community member).
At AbSec, we advocate for Aboriginal children to remain at home with their families wherever possible. Early intervention and holistic family support should always be the first port of call. Where this fails to ensure the child’s protection, kinship care is the next best option, as it provides an environment where children can grow up with people they are close to, in a community and culture that is familiar to them. (See the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle for more information.)
It is not ideal for Aboriginal children to be placed into care; however, we accept that there may be times where an Aboriginal child is in need of alternate care arrangements. In these instances, it is important that out-of-home care agencies support Aboriginal children to remain connected to their birth families and communities, as these vital connections inform their sense of identity and belonging. The agencies best equipped to do this are accredited Aboriginal child and family services. AbSec works to support these agencies to meet the needs of our children and families across NSW.
In NSW, more than 5,500 Aboriginal children are in statutory out-of-home care as at 30 June 2016, with approximately 1,200 supported by accredited Aboriginal child and family services. This is an increase of approximately 500 Aboriginal children from 30 June 2015.
AbSec works to build an Aboriginal child and family system that is accountable to our communities by meeting the needs of our children, families and communities. Local Aboriginal organisations represent their communities and are underpinned by governing bodies that reflect their self-determination. The value of a robust Aboriginal child and family system would be self-evident in the improved outcomes for our children. We believe that a self-determining sector is vital in strengthening our families and communities, and ensuring greater accountability and transparency of the system.
This page is regularly updated with information on the current work AbSec is undertaking within the NSW OOHC system to ensure the best possible outcomes for our Aboriginal children, families and communities.
Permanency Support Program, Guardianship and Adoption, Cultural Connection and Engagement
Permanency Support Program
On 1 October 2017, the NSW Permanency Support Program commenced gradual implementation. This program represents significant changes to how accredited agencies work with children and young people, their families and kin, and the people who care for them so that more children and young people have loving, stable families and relationships.
AbSec is determined that any and all programs for Aboriginal children will empower them to be raised strong in culture and connected to community, giving them every opportunity to form a strong identity and sense of belonging. We are working with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) to embed the following safeguards into the Permanency Support Program:
- A move to new case management practices, including an Aboriginal Case Management Policy and Guidelines focused on holistic supports
- New permanency coordinators across NSW to promote collaboration and relationships based practice A central access unit to oversee and coordinate all residential care referrals
- Outcomes-based contracts to tailor approaches to support and focus on quality and outcomes for children and young people, and their families.
AbSec has been commissioned by FACS to work with accredited Aboriginal child and family services in implementing these changes for Aboriginal children, young people, and families. We are undertaking the following work:
- Performing a needs analysis to identify gaps in services and explore where changes need to occur
- Developing a communications plan to ensure practitioners, agencies, families and communities are supported with easy-to-understand information
- Establishing an implementation plan that will ensure Aboriginal children, young people and families are supported through the change by our accredited Aboriginal child and family services
This work is only just commencing, and will involve focus groups, interviews with key stakeholders and surveys. We will keep this page updated with information as it becomes available.
Guardianship and adoption
AbSec is opposed to adoption of Aboriginal children, and this position will never change. In our view, adoption risks permanently removing an Aboriginal child from their family and culture, and further rupturing our communities with little chance for reunification.
As outlined in our 2015 position paper Guardianship orders for Aboriginal children and young people, we call for robust safeguards to be applied to ensure that our Aboriginal children remain connected to their culture and community. These safeguards are focused on the rights of each Aboriginal child to safety, dignity, identity and culture.
Over the course of 2016/2017, we have been engaging with FACS to develop the safeguards called for in our 2015 position paper. The following is an overview of the requirements we are seeking to establish:
- Casework support and monitoring for guardians through an appropriate Aboriginal child and family service
- An Aboriginal-led assessment framework for guardians of Aboriginal children, ensuring their compliance with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principles
- Assurances that cultural support and connection will be maintained for Aboriginal children
- Access to other relevant supports as and when an Aboriginal child may require them, and providing for appropriate Aboriginal oversight of these arrangements.
FACS have indicated they are working to establish an Aboriginal Guardianship Support Model based on these safeguards put forward by AbSec in our position paper. As further information becomes available, we will update this page and invite comments.
Cultural connection and engagement
For Aboriginal children and young people in care, access to their culture and engagement with their community is imperative to their identity formation and sense of belonging. Out-of-home care practitioners and key support people must ensure meaningful engagement with culture and community for Aboriginal children and young people when they are removed from the care of their families.
Over 2017, AbSec worked to establish a meaningful workshop package with the aim to support practitioners and key support people in fulfilling these obligations. Commencing in 2018, one-day workshops have been held across NSW, providing the opportunity for key stakeholders to engage in a facilitated workshop focusing on:
- Creating and maintaining cultural connections for Aboriginal children and young people
- Creating meaningful connections and engagement with Aboriginal communities
- Developing first-hand knowledge of cultural support planning in practice
- Accessing advice and ongoing refresher programs to ensure ongoing, quality support for Aboriginal children and young people.
For more information, go to our page on Cultural Connections workshop.