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Coroner’s report not the final word on child protection in SA

SACOSS Policy Council has met today to consider issues surrounding South Australia’s child protection system in response to the state Coroner’s recommendations in the Chloe Valentine case. 

While the Coroner’s report has added insight into the devastating circumstances that resulted in the abuse and death of Chloe Valentine, reform of our child protection system demands deeper analysis and considered responses.  

Ross Womersley, SACOSS Executive Director said,
“We understand the distress and outrage surrounding Chloe’s death. But SACOSS is extremely concerned that the reform of our child protection system must not be overwhelmed by inflamed public opinion and highly reactive, sometimes one-dimensional, responses to this case

“While some of the recommendations arising from the Coroner’s report are well founded, SACOSS is concerned that a number of them, including the imposition of compulsory income management and forced adoptions, are ill-informed

“Nor do we believe that the immediate sacking of yet another CEO of the Education Department will progress any reform. We believe it will only hinder any nascent reform efforts to improve the protections available to vulnerable children in South Australia”.

SACOSS knows that the systemic issues confronting our attempts as a community to build a child protection system that protects the most vulnerable children, like Chloe Valentine, will never be solved quickly.

The culture of an organisation like Families SA has been built up over many years and reorienting its work demands serious investment, clarity about what the most critical issues are, and cross-sector agreement about the outcomes we all want from our system.

Mr Womersley said,
“As stated in our own submission to the Royal Commission into Child Protection System, any attempt at reform will fail unless there is significant investment in early intervention and strengthening of universal support services, separating the statutory and supportive functions, and creating a best practice out-of-home care placement system”.

SACOSS calls on the state government and Families SA to urgently strengthen their relationships with key external stakeholders - including the Child & Family Welfare Association SA (CAFWA), the Australian Centre for Child Protection, and key non-government organisations - all of whom must play a crucial role in reform.

SACOSS rejects suggestions that reform must wait until the release of the Royal Commission’s findings, and continues to believe that the appointment of a children’s commissioner would be helpful.

Given the complexity of the issues involved, we urge Premier Weatherill to immediately convene the child protection system’s key stakeholders to advance progress on changing this system for the better.

SACOSS endorses the Ten Point Action Plan released by CAFWA in late 2014, which also calls for the urgent appointment of a children’s commissioner or ombudsman, the development of an engagement strategy with the sector from government, and promotes a joint planning and resource allocation strategy to define and address well known short, medium, and longer term issues in the system.
Mr Womersley said,
“We also note that it is crucial at this time that the group of people who devote their lives as workers and volunteers in the government and non-government child protection sector, receive our public support for the extremely difficult work they undertake on our behalf."

Published Date: 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015