National Child Protection Week 2020

Extracted from Hansard - House of Assembly 9 September 2020

I rise in support of the motion brought forward by the member for Badcoe. I would also like to congratulate the member for Reynell on her new role as the shadow minister for child protection. Child protection is an enormously important portfolio and I look forward to bipartisan support to improve the lives of those who matter most: our children. 

National Child Protection Week is from Sunday 6 September to Friday 11 September. Child Protection Week is an initiative coordinated by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, also known as NAPCAN, who are also celebrating their 30th anniversary. Yesterday, I launched the online NAPCAN conference with the theme 'Putting children first'. The theme is very relevant to what I as the Minister for Child Protection and my Department for Child Protection strive to do every day, that is, prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. 

The aim of the week is to engage members of the community in supporting families and protecting children. COVID-19 has been a particularly challenging time for all families, especially those who have recently become financially disadvantaged through unemployment or those who are affected by mental health, domestic violence or substance abuse. It is important to recognise that the broader economic context at an international, federal and state level directly impacts families and organisations all around us in our local communities. 

Coronavirus has placed additional pressures on families, and we are working hard across all levels of government to ensure we can respond early to families under stress; however, it is essential the entire community supports vulnerable parents, children and young people at this time. That is why our government acted swiftly to provide additional assistance of a $200 payment to foster and kinship carers for essential items during the early stages of the coronavirus public health emergency. 

Significantly, in South Australia, we are shifting our focus to provide services that are trauma-responsive, therapeutic and culturally aware to enable children and young people to feel safe, stable and well supported. One example of how we are prioritising child protection and working hard to improve the very lives of those who matter the most, our children, is my recent announcement of a $600,000 investment to bring the therapeutic residential care model Sanctuary to residential care homes in South Australia. 

Foster and Kinship Carer Week is also held annually in September and will be held from the 13 to 19 September. The National Foster and Kinship Care Conference that was planned to be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre in September and hosted by Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers SA Inc. has been postponed until June 2021. 

Family-based care offers the best outcomes for the majority of children and young people, as it offers a stable, family environment. We recognise, respect and support the role and contribution of all family-based carers across the state. As part of our acknowledgement of the work of our family-based carers, on behalf of the government, I have provided a public statement of commitment to work in partnership and to support our South Australian foster and kinship carers. 

This statement was a combined effort between my Department for Child Protection; our carers advocacy service, Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers SA Inc.; and our industry peak, Child and Family Focus SA. The statement of commitment is a joint acknowledgement of the important role that foster and kinship carers play in looking after children under guardianship. It is also a reminder that many organisations have an important role to play in supporting carers so that they are able to best support children in care. 

This commitment is part of the Marshall Liberal government's strategy for children and young people in care 2020 to 2023, 'Every effort for every child'. It outlines the foundation principles that contribute to a strong partnership approach between family-based carers, government and the sector to ensure that children under guardianship receive high-quality care. The statement highlights five key priority principles that guide our work with those carers. Those five principles are that carers can (1) expect to be informed; (2) supported; (3) consulted; (4) valued; and (5) respected in their roles. It also acknowledges the important contribution of Aboriginal carers. 

The Marshall Liberal government delivered on its commitment to provide carer payments for both kinship and foster carers of young people to age 21. This is fully funded and now an operational program within DCP. This policy change provides support to valuable carers who have opened their homes to a young person in need by supporting them with the costs associated with a young person to remain in their homes up to 21 years of age. 

Prior to this policy change, research showed that approximately 30 per cent of young people exiting care were homeless within 12 months. The future of our care system in South Australia is reliant on growing family-based care. I always encourage those who are interested to become foster carers to go to our website fostercare.sa.gov.au or to call 1300 2 FOSTER for more information. 

The Marshall Liberal government is committed to supporting families, protecting children and investing in their futures and recognises that it is a whole-of-government and a whole-of-community responsibility. Last year, we released the 'Safe and well: supporting families, protecting children' strategy. This outlines the actions taken by government to create a connected system that ensures the right support is available to children and families at the right time. 

This whole-of-government approach supports families who need help, keeps vulnerable children safe from harm and provides stable and loving care for children who can no longer live safely with their parents. At the centre of this are the voices of the children and young people. I commend the motion to the house.