The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) has welcomed efforts of the NSW Government to improve future outcomes for children and young people in care through proposed amendments to child protection laws, but remains concerned that the implications of such significant changes for families have not been adequately explored.
ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum said any legislative change that is designed to give children and young people the stability and security of a loving home, and the opportunity to become the very best they can be is to be applauded.
“While a thorough and appropriate consultative process must inform any legislative change, our member agencies are concerned that the process in this case has been rushed,” Mr McCallum said.
“Given the significance of these amendments, we need to be rigidly mindful of the unintended consequences such change may create for families, in particular the setting of a two-year deadline in which children in the care system must be found a permanent home.
“Good practice leads to good legislative design. Not the other way around.”
Mr McCallum said it is nevertheless pleasing to see the proposed legislative amendments place a priority on restoring children and young people to their families where possible.
“As has been so widely researched, children do best when they are with their own families,” Mr McCallum said.
“This is why proposed changes that will require the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution to give struggling parents the opportunity to address inherent problems before their children are removed into care are particularly welcome. However, when restoration is not possible, the recommended amendments offer robust support for alternative permanency pathways.”
This notwithstanding, Mr McCallum said ACWA is acutely aware of the problematic place that adoption holds for Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities.
“Adoption from care will never be an acceptable solution for Aboriginal children,” he said.
“Nor should adoption ever be considered the favoured permanency option for all children and young people in the out-of-home care system.
“More broadly, any permanent placement should be adequately supported into the future.”
The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies is the NSW peak body representing non-government organisations that provide services to vulnerable children, young people and their families.
Media contact: Andrew McCallum 0409 221 414
Media enquiries: Libby McCalman 0418 659 525