The Queensland opposition’s plan to overhaul the child safety department would see compulsory drug testing for some parents in the system.
It would also cut red tape for people wanting to adopt vulnerable children.
However, a psychologist is concerned the plan is too heavy-handed and puts kids at further risk.
The Liberal National Party wants to enforce random, compulsory drug tests for illicit substances like methamphetamine for parents already under the eye of the department.
‘Cycle of abuse’
Parents who fail a drug test would undergo mandatory rehabilitation while their children go into care.
If they then fail a second test, they will be required to rehabilitate themselves before getting their kids back.
Permanent foster care would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
“The cycle of drug use and child abuse must be broken and parents need to break the cycle of addiction to ensure they can care for their kids,” LNP leader Deb Frecklington said on Wednesday.
“Leaving vulnerable children in homes of abuse can be a death sentence.”
Clinical psychologist and Griffith University Professor Sharon Dawe said the plan would lead to unnecessary child removals.
“I don’t see any merit in mandatory testing and mandatory treatment, nor do I see any merit in having a two-strike process whereby two positive tests would indicate permanent removal of a child,” she said.
Compulsory drug testing would be ineffective because it only captured drug use in a short window rather than identifying a pattern, she said.
Prof Dawe says the policy is a knee-jerk reaction to high-profile child safety failures like the death of toddler Mason Lee in 2016.
Mason died after his mother’s boyfriend struck him so hard in the abdomen it ruptured the 22-month-old’s small intestine, leading to an infection.
The man, William Andrew O’Sullivan, was sentenced to jail for Mason’s manslaughter after the Queensland Supreme Court heard he was an ice addict.
The Queensland government on Wednesday formally adopted every recommendation of the coroner who found the department’s handling of his case was “a failure in nearly every possible way”.
Prof Dawe said early intervention was key.
“If we look at the long term data on outcomes for children and foster care they’re actually extremely poor,” she added.
Under the LNP’s policy, the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women would be split in two, with child safety standing alone as the Child Protection Force.
Wages for department officers who work with families would be raised to attract staff with teaching, nursing and policing backgrounds, with new training to focus on early intervention.
Foster carers would also be paid higher fees in an attempt to lure more into the system.
“It’s about creating a long-term care model, with increased support for carers and more help for families transitioning kids into adulthood,” LNP child safety spokesman Stephen Bennett said.
‘Parents need to break the cycle of addiction to ensure they can care for their kids.’
Bennett the party would make adoptions easier, with vulnerable children under three years of age prioritised.
He said regional child safety service centres would also have to improve their reporting standards.
A team of police would also be tasked solely to working with the department.
Investigation procedures for high-risk cases would be overhauled and officers would respond to complaints alongside department officials 24 hours a day.