Push to lower number of children in residential care

The Child Protection Minister has announced a new program to help move children as young as two out of the residential care system and into family-based care.

Jan 16, 2024, updated Jan 30, 2024
Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard.

Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard.

The Finding Families program will involve seven senior placement officers working to identify appropriate family placements for young people.

Children 10 and under will be priorities after it was reported that children as young as two are in residential care, against recommendations from the Royal Commission into the South Australian child protection system in 2016.

AnglicareSA Executive General Manager Community Services Nancy Penna welcomed the announcement.

“We know that trauma significantly impacts children’s development, so it is particularly important for young children under 10, when their developmental needs are significant and crucial, [to] be placed in family environments that can best address these impacts and nurture their future development,” she said.

“Evidence [shows] that children in family care have better developmental outcomes than those with paid, rostered staff.”

early childhood

Evidence shows children raised in family-based care experience better life outcomes than those in residential care. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard said the program would comprise three teams; one focusing on general placements, one on children from culturally diverse backgrounds, and the last working with Aboriginal children, in partnership with KWY Aboriginal Corporation.

“Importantly, there will be teams dedicated to working with Aboriginal and multicultural families, with a strong and clear focus on ensuring cultural factors are considered when finding family-based placements for children,” she said.

The teams will work closely with DCP case managers and residential care staff to refer children to the program.

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Workers in the program will then seek an appropriate family or community in the state to take in the children.

KWY Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Craig Rigney said the specialised teams would help meet the need of keeping kids in community.

“The overall outcome for these specialised teams is to connect our children with community and families, leading to a reduction of our children in out-of-home care across SA,” Rigney said.

Recent reports showed Aboriginal children are over-represented in child protection, with one out of every two Aboriginal children being subject to at least one child protection notification in 2020/21, compared to one in every 12 non-Aboriginal children.

Currently, 15 per cent of children in the child protection system are in residential care, while 85 per cent are in family-based care, such as foster homes.

The program will be trialled for 12 months and then evaluated.

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