Minister admits rift between ministry and foster families over fear of children’s safety
Queensland’s children’s minister has been forced to step in to stem a growing flood of complaints from upstate foster families who say children’s safety is at risk from bureaucrats.
- Children’s minister hears complaints from Townsville foster families over child safety concerns
- A breakdown in communication led to caregivers not knowing how to escalate issues
- Some say there is no due diligence before at-risk children are sent back to unsafe homes
Leanne Linard flew to Townsville to respond to widespread allegations of mishandling of cases in the child safety sector.
Ms Linard and the Director General of the Ministry of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, Deidre Mulkerin, were told that foster families did not know how to escalate concerns about decisions made by the ministry on behalf of vulnerable children.
“We heard from carers here that it was a very well understood system a while ago,” Ms Linard said.
Townsville disability and child safety advocate Mark Claydon was one of several child safety stakeholders who filed complaints with the department about case management in Townsville.
Child safety neglected
Mr Claydon said he feared the department was rushing the reunification process, leaving vulnerable children at risk.
“Some of them [are] being removed from long-term stable environments and what I would call loving environments where their needs are met,” Claydon said.
“They are put back into positions within the family and the community at short notice, where due diligence has not been fully carried out.
Mr Claydon first raised his concerns with the department in the form of a seven-page letter in July 2021.
The letter asked if the department had an unofficial policy to reunite children, especially Indigenous children, with their biological families before the age of 16, rather than focusing on their general safety and well-being. .
Ms Linard dismissed the existence of such a policy and said Ms Mulkerin had investigated the allegations.
“It’s not a policy, I don’t know if it’s been confused with other things and the focus on reunification with families,” Ms Linard said.
“If that’s not possible, that’s when Child Safety removes them.”
Urgent reform needed
A department spokesperson said efforts would be made to address complaints about communication issues between the department and foster families.
This included working with local carer support groups, creating more points of contact for carers to report issues and a personal email to each carer from their manager providing them with information on how to escalate. The problems.
But Mr Claydon said the miscommunications were the fault of the department, not carers.
“Caregivers know how to make things worse, they know how to make worries worse,” Mr Claydon said.
“We have a complaints system that does nothing.
Mr Claydon said the issues within the sector in Townsville ran much “deeper” and that the Minister needed to carry out a “thorough investigation” into individual case management complaints in Townsville and across Queensland.