(Phoenix Sinclair)
(Phoenix Sinclair)

As players in Manitoba’s Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry prepare to return to hearings later this month to present their final submissions to Commissioner Ted Hughes, a sweeping review of child-protection in the Australian state of Queensland has wrapped up with a full report on problems and solutions now in the hands of government.

From even just  brief reading of the report [presented in full below], those involved in the PSI would do well to give it full, close reading.

It seems there’s an uncanny wealth of analogies to be made between their situation and the one Manitoba’s in.

Some quick excerpts:

1) “The enduring net effect of the implementation of recommendations from previous inquiries has been a systemic shift towards statutory child protection. This shift has been reinforced by a growing risk-averse culture in the department that promotes a forensic, rather than therapeutic, approach to child protection. Instead of investing in family support and other secondary services, departmental funds since 2000 have been directed to meeting the ever-increasing demand on the tertiary system.”

2) “According to most of the indicators currently used by policy makers to measure activities designed to safeguard vulnerable children, Queensland’s child protection system is under mounting stress. Over the last decade:

  • the number of child protection intakes has tripled (from 33,697 in 2001–02 to 114,503 in 2011–12)
  • the number of children in out-of-home care has more than doubled (from 3,257 in 2002 to 7,999 in 2012)
  • the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care has tripled (from 12 children per 1,000 population in care in 2002 to 42 per 1,000 in care in 2012)
  • children in care are staying there for longer periods (with an increase in the proportion of children exiting care after one year or more from 38 per cent in 2001– 02 to 64 per cent in 2011–12).

In addition, while caseloads for child protection workers have fallen in recent years, they are still exceeding a manageable and sustainable level, and lifetime prospects for children leaving the care system continue to be poor.

Community concern about this unsatisfactory state of affairs led to the current government making an election commitment to review the child protection system with a view to finding the best possible outcomes for our most vulnerable children and their families.

3) “[T]he Commission is convinced by the argument (backed up by evidence) that wherever possible it is better for the child to stay at home — better for the child, better for the family and better for society as a whole. By supporting parents, we not only keep families together but we give parents an opportunity to contribute to their community.

Queensland’s situation is not unique. Similar problems can be found throughout Australia and across the western world. However, Queensland’s fiscal situation has made it imperative that it find out what is causing the system to malfunction, and to identify an affordable remedy.

I note of interest the title of the massive Queensland report: “Taking responsibility.”

I’ll be reading it in full with great interest. July 22 is the date the PSI is due to be back in session.

2 thoughts on “Child-protection “a safety net, not a drag net” Queensland child-welfare a Manitoba mirror

  1. James: 20 years ago we in child welfare used to wonder at why so few children were in care given the shocking levels of child poverty, abuse, neglect, drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness in society. Now we have a higher number of children in care and wonder what we can do to reduce this number? Oh my, just watching the wheels go round and round…sad.

    Before a child comes into care, multiple adults (social worker, supervisor, psychologists, doctors, neighbours, teachers, day care workers, police, judges) have agreed that there is a significant risk to leaving that child in a home…it is not done on a whim, or willy nilly, or as a dragnet.

    The problem is not child welfare practice, it is society. All the commissions, reports, and social workers in the world are not going to change this…but society as a whole can!

    I appreciate your tireless work covering the inquiry and your dedication to your craft. The above is not meant as a criticism of your reporting…but a critique of the futility of complaining about the doctors (cfs) because there is so much heart disease (children in care).

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, and I don’t take what you say as a criticism.

      But looking at it another way, what is “society” to do when the truth of how wretched the situations many Manitoba children live in and the system’s response to them is essentially buried under layers of privacy legislation? The govt. says, ‘trust us, we’re the experts’ and nothing appears to be getting much better overall.

      But yeah, you’re right. We have to own the problem collectively. We MUST innovate.

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