When a child is at risk of harm the first place that Child Protection Services look for an appropriate carer is within the family… There is no legislative provision which protects the rights of kinship or foster parents. Support of kinship carers by the child protection system is an area of the legislation that must be urgently addressed.
Kinship care is under assault in Australia. When a child is at risk of harm the first place that child protection services look for an appropriate carer is within the family. When a family member is identified and proves that a child will be safe in their care then the department will formally place the child with the carer. Because this is the first and most appropriate placement for any child it is often the cheapest. Not all kinship carers receive financial support for caring for a child. Since the child is under the guardianship of the State, it is the State that is responsible for the well-being of the child thus providing a continual spotlight on the child and the family in which they reside. This may also mean that, at a moment’s notice, a child could be removed from that placement without explanation.
There is no legislative provision which protects the rights of kinship or foster parents. In many cases, kinship carers are not notified about why a child was removed from their care. The love, care and nurturing a grandparent offers to a grandchild is far more significant than the care offered by a non-family member such as a foster carer. The connection between the biological parent and the child is more likely to be maintained under a kinship arrangement. A child in a kinship care arrangement is more likely to be healthier than a child in foster care.
The Child Protection Party have received many complaints from grandparents at the way they have been treated by the child protection system. The most common complaint is that they have been ignored by the Guardian of these children until such time as a complaint is made against the grandparent. Often, these complaints come from disgruntled family members.
The Child Protection Party supports the strengthening the support provided to kinship carers by providing funding for all kinship carers, the increase in the training of department workers to improve their skills in dealing with difficult behaviours, to the provision of a dedicated worker who meets regularly with the carers and for the kinship carers to have more autonomy in the daily care of the children. Legislation needs to be implemented which recognises the significant role kinship carers play in the child protection system.