Joe Tucci: Enough of the words, let’s start making an actual change


For too long abused children have heard and read words following official inquiries into the state’s child protection system, but now it’s time for real action and real changes, writes Joe Tucci.

Words fail children. For many abused children, words destroy their lives.

Over the last 30 years, thousands of words have been written following official inquiries into the Victorian child protection system — with at least 16 major reports and two royal commissions.

And each time, words filled pages with stories of children’s violation, pain and ultimate betrayal by the very adults with the power to protect them.

Each time, similar recommendations were repeated. And each time, the government of the day said all the right words and made all the right promises.

But, the system remains broken.

The latest report by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People highlights the lack of progress made from the years of attempted reform.

Despite 30 years of official inquiries into the state’s child protection system, it still remains broken.
Despite 30 years of official inquiries into the state’s child protection system, it still remains broken.

The report described the tragic lives of 35 children who had committed suicide and had been known to child protection services over the past 12 years.

The commissioner’s words must not be forgotten and should make us all cry.

Many of the children suffered for years. Two-thirds of them had been known to authorities before they were eight years old. Twelve had first come into contact by the age of three.

All of them had been forced to live with severe family violence.

One child witnessed a father punching a mother and breaking her jaw, another saw a father strangling a mother to the point of unconsciousness and a mother being violently raped by a partner.

Some children saw their parents on drugs. Two needed to call an ambulance. And one watched their mother inject the family dog with heroin.

Many experienced serious neglect. One child was described as “hungry, filthy and had flea bites all over their body’’.

One child slept in a barn for two months and another lived and slept on the floor of a caravan.

Children had school lunches that contained rancid meat or mouldy sandwiches.

One child was living in squalor with electrical wires hanging from the room, dangerous power points, and no gas for showers, cooking or heating. The lounge window was smashed and a blanket had been taped to the roof to stop the wind.

One child and their family relocated to 12 different schools during the course of 18 months.
In another case, a child and their mother had moved 13 times in
two years.

The latest report by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People described the tragic lives of 35 children who had committed suicide.
The latest report by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People described the tragic lives of 35 children who had committed suicide.

Half of the children who committed suicide were alleged to have been sexually abused by a family member or person known by the family. Yet follow-up was not always assured.

Concerns were raised of one child being sexually abused by a number of adult males, including a stepfather. There were six separate reports detailing sexual abuse but only one face-to-face contact with Child Protection.

Child Protection received a total of 229 reports for these children — that’s about seven reports per child.

Of these reports, 69 per cent were closed with no further action.

Eventually, Child Protection removed 12 of these children from their families. But, it took an average of six years and four months from the first report.
That’s six more years of more abuse and hurt. By then the damage had been done.

The commissioner identified system failures that could be lifted straight off the pages of previous reports.

There is an over-reliance on voluntary family support, drug and alcohol and mental health services that are designed to work only if the adults make a choice to engage in them. And often they do not.

Children have no such choice.

The threshold of seriousness to determine whether child protection authorities will investigate and take action is still far too high. Meanwhile, these children live in danger.

This is not a criticism of the workers in the system. They are courageous and genuinely invested in changing the lives of the children they serve. But they are stretched to breaking point.

Australian Childhood Foundation CEO, Dr Joe Tucci
Australian Childhood Foundation CEO, Dr Joe Tucci

The system will not change until there is recognition that the very principles that it’s built on are flawed. Services that try to prevent problems from occurring do not work after the problem has become entrenched. Voluntary support services are only effective with parents who recognise they need help. And of course, the government needs to resource them effectively.

But the system is dealing more and more with dangerous families in which children are living with repeated violence, sexual abuse, psychological terror and near-fatal forms of neglect.

They need immediate and ongoing protection from the system. Parents must be compelled to participate in services.

And we must be prepared to remove children earlier to avoid yeas of trauma.

We need a system of care that is not just the minimum we can afford. We need to be the best that we can offer. Stability, love and ongoing therapeutic support are needed for these children to make sense of what has happened to them.

And to help them not believe any of this was their fault.

Over the past 30 years, Victoria has had 12 ministers responsible for child protection, three ministers for family violence prevention,
11 ministers for health, three ministers for mental health,
11 ministers for police and seven premiers. All of them promised to improve the lives of children.

We’ve all heard the words.

But as we head into 2020, vulnerable children more than ever do not need more words.
They need things to be different.

Joe Tucci is CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation

(s

Words fail children. For many abused children, words destroy their lives.

Over the last 30 years, thousands of words have been written following official inquiries into the Victorian child protection system — with at least 16 major reports and two royal commissions.

And each time, words filled pages with stories of children’s violation, pain and ultimate betrayal by the very adults with the power to protect them.

Each time, similar recommendations were repeated. And each time, the government of the day said all the right words and made all the right promises.

But, the system remains broken.

The latest report by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People highlights the lack of progress made from the years of attempted reform.

Despite 30 years of official inquiries into the state’s child protection system, it still remains broken.
Despite 30 years of official inquiries into the state’s child protection system, it still remains broken.

The report described the tragic lives of 35 children who had committed suicide and had been known to child protection services over the past 12 years.

The commissioner’s words must not be forgotten and should make us all cry.

Many of the children suffered for years. Two-thirds of them had been known to authorities before they were eight years old. Twelve had first come into contact by the age of three.

All of them had been forced to live with severe family violence.

One child witnessed a father punching a mother and breaking her jaw, another saw a father strangling a mother to the point of unconsciousness and a mother being violently raped by a partner.

Some children saw their parents on drugs. Two needed to call an ambulance. And one watched their mother inject the family dog with heroin.

Many experienced serious neglect. One child was described as “hungry, filthy and had flea bites all over their body’’.

One child slept in a barn for two months and another lived and slept on the floor of a caravan.

Children had school lunches that contained rancid meat or mouldy sandwiches.

One child was living in squalor with electrical wires hanging from the room, dangerous power points, and no gas for showers, cooking or heating. The lounge window was smashed and a blanket had been taped to the roof to stop the wind.

One child and their family relocated to 12 different schools during the course of 18 months.
In another case, a child and their mother had moved 13 times in
two years.

The latest report by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People described the tragic lives of 35 children who had committed suicide.
The latest report by Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People described the tragic lives of 35 children who had committed suicide.

Half of the children who committed suicide were alleged to have been sexually abused by a family member or person known by the family. Yet follow-up was not always assured.

Concerns were raised of one child being sexually abused by a number of adult males, including a stepfather. There were six separate reports detailing sexual abuse but only one face-to-face contact with Child Protection.

Child Protection received a total of 229 reports for these children — that’s about seven reports per child.

Of these reports, 69 per cent were closed with no further action.

Eventually, Child Protection removed 12 of these children from their families. But, it took an average of six years and four months from the first report.
That’s six more years of more abuse and hurt. By then the damage had been done.

The commissioner identified system failures that could be lifted straight off the pages of previous reports.

There is an over-reliance on voluntary family support, drug and alcohol and mental health services that are designed to work only if the adults make a choice to engage in them. And often they do not.

Children have no such choice.

The threshold of seriousness to determine whether child protection authorities will investigate and take action is still far too high. Meanwhile, these children live in danger.

This is not a criticism of the workers in the system. They are courageous and genuinely invested in changing the lives of the children they serve. But they are stretched to breaking point.

Australian Childhood Foundation CEO, Dr Joe Tucci
Australian Childhood Foundation CEO, Dr Joe Tucci

The system will not change until there is recognition that the very principles that it’s built on are flawed. Services that try to prevent problems from occurring do not work after the problem has become entrenched. Voluntary support services are only effective with parents who recognise they need help. And of course, the government needs to resource them effectively.

But the system is dealing more and more with dangerous families in which children are living with repeated violence, sexual abuse, psychological terror and near-fatal forms of neglect.

They need immediate and ongoing protection from the system. Parents must be compelled to participate in services.

And we must be prepared to remove children earlier to avoid yeas of trauma.

We need a system of care that is not just the minimum we can afford. We need to be the best that we can offer. Stability, love and ongoing therapeutic support are needed for these children to make sense of what has happened to them.

And to help them not believe any of this was their fault.

Over the past 30 years, Victoria has had 12 ministers responsible for child protection, three ministers for family violence prevention,
11 ministers for health, three ministers for mental health,
11 ministers for police and seven premiers. All of them promised to improve the lives of children.

We’ve all heard the words.

But as we head into 2020, vulnerable children more than ever do not need more words.
They need things to be different.

Joe Tucci is CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation

(Source)


Leave a comment


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published