OPINION: The SA Government is failing in its duty of care towards South Australian children


DATE:  13 November 2020

OPINION: The SA Government is failing in its duty of care towards South Australian children

A reflection South Australia’s outcomes framework for children and young people


It is important to understand that those involved in formulating these outcomes had the best intentions in mind. Whether or not they were able to predict future outcomes or influence the decisions of governments who will ultimately determine the outcomes is a completely different issue.


It is perhaps unhelpful to begin with a negative attitude but rather to consider what is being offered and whether or not it will provide the outcomes required for the most vulnerable in our community.

I will begin by quoting what the authors determine as an appropriate reflection on what is important to children,

“having a good home life, having support from trusted adults, being listened to, participating in decisions that affect them, opportunity for a quality education, employment and most importantly, being respected and valued.”

This is a good start and is the template for what follows. None of this is a surprise.

For any proposal to be effective there needs to be total community involvement with the focus on everyone working with children and young people to produce the outcomes which the young people desire. I struggle to see the needs to have a document which tells us that which we already know by stating the obvious.

For example, the charter suggests that children and young people have a good start in life beginning before birth or that children and young people live in safe and stable housing that children and young people have opportunities to establish and maintain friendships and that children and young people are portrayed positively.

We all want children and young people to be safe just we all want young people to be free of the use of alcohol and drugs and to have healthy relationships.

I consider it offensive to be told something that most of us know and that those of us who work to better the outcomes for children are fully aware.

What is disturbing is that for far too many children, many of these lofty aims are unlikely to be achieved because, as a community, we fail to engage with young people in a meaningful and productive way.

This reminds me of the “bridging the gap” proposal for Indigenous and Torres Straight Islanders where the goals were similar but the outcomes have remained poor.

The outcomes framework is designed to report back to the government about how children are faring giving particular consideration to the children in out-of-home care and to Aboriginal children.

Both his cohorts are faring poorly.

In true government fashion data will be accumulated, evaluated, assessed, published on a website and little will come of it.

I am bewildered by the type of data they are seeking given that most of this data is currently available. Governments could be making decisions around what is in the best interest of children if they accessed and responded to the data available.

One of the indicators is are children safe and nurtured. One of the measurements is the “proportion of children and young people feeling concerned about family conflict proportion of children and young people living in households with financial hardship number of children and young people experiencing homelessness”. Another, “children and young people are safe from abuse and neglect”, is a measurement looking at the number of children and young people being admitted to out-of-home care.

We know that the number of people being admitted to out-of-home care is excessive and growing. This is information that is currently available to all of us and yet governments do nothing to resolve the problem.

This begs the question, what difference is this framework going to make when the data they’re seeking is currently available and governments are not responding to it? I wonder what magic wand or superior influence the Council has in making the changes which we already know are necessary?

The skeptic inside me is saying that this is another opportunity for governments and professionals to appear to be concerned about issues which have been prevalent for many years, and unresolved, and to give the appearance that action is being taken.

I am certain that nothing will change and the problems which beset us will remain.

It is evident that under this proposal little is going to change. We require governments to work with families in meaningful ways so that children are not placed in out-of-home care.

We need governments to acknowledge that they are the worst parent and the outcomes for children in their care are poor. We need to find ways to confront domestic violence in ways which protect children and provide a way to remain with a protective parent. We have two confront the damage caused to children by removing them from their biological parent.

We should stop blaming parents for being “bad parents” and instead strive to understand why it is that these parents struggle with being a parent?

Instead of gathering meaningless data we need to find more creative ways of resolving many of the problems which confront our children today.


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