Adoption will be clarified as a genuine option to be considered for vulnerable young Queenslanders under changes to the state’s Child Safety Act.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said legislation introduced to Parliament would enhance permanency for children in long-term care.
“Every child needs stability and certainty.
“Every child deserves a ‘forever family'”, the Premier said.
“My Government has accepted all six of the Deputy Coroner’s recommendations following the inquest into the shocking death of Mason Jet Lee.
“Findings made by the Deputy Coroner highlighted the critical importance of stability and permanency for vulnerable and traumatised children who can’t live at home safely.
“The changes to the Child Protection Act mean adoption is genuinely considered as an option when assessing a child’s long-term needs.
“A stable home is one of part of the stable support many children need.”
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said adoption was already available in Queensland.
“However, we recognise that adoption means different things to different cultures,” the Minister said.
“That’s why the Bill introduced to Parliament today cements adoption as the least preferred option for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children coming into the Child Safety system.”
The Minister said the number of young Queenslanders coming into care is as alarming as it is complex.
“Children unable to live at home has increased by six per cent on last year with one in three from families with parents addicted to Ice,” Ms Farmer said.
“Half of all children coming into care are traumatised by domestic and family violence and 65 percent are from homes with parents abusing drugs and alcohol.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking because every child deserves the right to feel safe.”
Ms Farmer said the Government was investing $1.3 billion in Child Safety and will have hired an extra 500 frontline workers by the end of the year to keep average caseloads low.
In 2018, the Palaszczuk Government was the first in Australia to include permanency options in the Child Protection Act.
“Significant reforms have been implemented to Child Safety as acknowledged by the Deputy Coroner,” Ms Farmer said.
“It is not the same department it was four years ago.”
The Bill also establishes a new requirement for the Director General to review the case plan for any child under her care, after two years, to assess the best options for long-term permanency.
“The inclusion of adoption as a long-term care option demonstrates the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to building a stronger child protection system and a future for Queensland’s most vulnerable,” the Minister said.
Ms Farmer said that, accompanying these amendments would be changes in the way Child Safety pursues permanency for the children in the Department’s care. These will include:
Review of the implementation of permanency reforms to date, including the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle;
Establishment of a new, senior position in the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women (DCSYW) dedicated to overseeing improved permanency outcomes across the department;
Case Plan audits for all children in care under three years old to assess whether further permanency planning is required;
Targeted work with current foster and kinship carers to assess permanency options for children who have been in their care for more than two year;
Quarterly reporting on the status of permanency planning for children in care, including numbers of children on permanent care orders or other long-term orders;
All decisions recommending adoption be pursued as an option for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child in care will be personally reviewed by the Director-General, DCSYW and this responsibility will not be delegated.
The Bill has been referred to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee for inquiry review.