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Children and Young People (Safety) (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

8 June 2021

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:33): In a briefing a couple of weeks ago, it was indicated that a major review of the legislation was scheduled in the next several months. It is suggested that the proposals in this bill could easily be picked up at this time. The complexity of the issues addressed in the act is acknowledged, and a number of the provisions proposed seem good, but foster carers have raised concerns about the lack of consultation. Clearly, the interests of the children are paramount, but the alienation that foster carers feel cannot be in the best interests of the child and the operation of an effective child protection system.

Foster carers are needed, and they need to feel included and supported by the system wherever possible to limit the use of residential care. If the Legislative Council was to proceed to consider opposition and Greens amendments to the bill, it would add to this alienation. Rather, the government should withdraw the bill and consider these amendments and the views of the foster carers in their more comprehensive review of the legislation.

I would suggest further matters the government could consider in the review of the legislation. The CEO of the Department for Child Protection is the guardian. This function could be shifted to a separate statutory position, if the lack of confidence by foster carers is irredeemable and the system as presently structured is broken. For example, the potential elevation of the position and role of the Guardian for Children and Young People in care to that of decision-maker could be considered.

At present, the position has a limited role. The guardian is appointed to advocate for and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people under the guardianship of the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection. The Children's Guardian in New South Wales does seem to have extra teeth but may not actually take on the role either. Further research is needed.

In addition, foster carers have raised a number of concerns that they consider need to be urgently addressed in the legislation; namely, one, that sufficient remuneration be provided to foster carers rather than depending on their goodwill to ensure care above the poverty line is provided to children in their care; two, that the department has an obligation to seek damages where children are harmed in state care; and, three, that there is timeliness of decisions and actions by the department to ensure attachment trauma is not added to the trauma already experienced by the child. I reserve my position on this bill.