This week’s introduction of the State Government’s new child protection laws to parliament have been welcomed by AnglicareSA, but South Australia’s largest foster care agency said a stronger emphasis and priority must be placed on keeping children and young people safe.
AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman said he welcomes key elements of the Children and Young People (Safety) Bill 2017, including the focus on strengthening the voice of the child/young person, prioritising family-based placements and greater involvement for foster carers in daily decisions.
“Our vision for the child protection system is that everyone can work together to deliver child-centred and connected services which enables all children to enjoy fullness of life and feel safe,” Peter said.
“Following the engagement process we are pleased to see the reinstatement of Child Safe Environments, noting that the previous Act provided a framework for greater accountability of practice and supports for children and young people across all stakeholders.
“AnglicareSA welcomes the inclusion of Aboriginal gazetted organisations in the Bill. We are supporters of Aboriginal or community controlled organisations being fully empowered to inform policy and provide service delivery, including involvement in the removal and placement of Aboriginal children.
“The inclusion of the Child Assessment and Referral Network is also a positive step. This network will provide a precedent for the inclusion of and commitment to other services aimed at reducing families’ involvement in the statutory system.”
Peter said while there were many positive elements to the proposed laws, there was still more which could be done to improve the legislation, including addressing a key flaw and area for confusion when it comes to the wording around protecting children.
“The decision to dilute the previous Act’s paramount consideration ‘to always keep children safe from harm’ to ‘so far as is reasonably practicable, protect from harm’ in the new legislation, weakens the overall intent and force of the legislation to protect children. Wording surrounding protecting children should be crystal clear,” he said.
“Working in the best interests of the child and keeping ‘children safe from harm’ must always be the paramount consideration.
“Further changes also need to be made to extending care and support to 21 years of age. The current Bill keeps this at 18 years of age, however at a minimum young people should have the choice to opt for continuing in care until to 21 years of age.”
AnglicareSA welcomes debate on the Bill and is hopeful that any necessary amendments are made in a timely and bi-partisan manner.