Coalition Calls for Foster Care Review
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Coalition Shadow Minister for Child Safety Jann Stuckey is urging the Minister for Child Safety review all cases where there are more than three children living in a foster home.
In Parliament today, Ms Stuckey highlighted inadequacies within the existing Child Safety legislation that allows foster carers to have unlimited numbers of children under their roof.
She cited one case where 13 children and two adults were living in a four bedroom home.
During the July Estimates Hearings Ms Stuckey asked the Minister whether she intended to introduce limits on the number of foster-children placed with a foster-carer at the one time.
The Minister replied: "It has not come to my attention that we are thinking about setting a maximum in terms of licensing for foster-carers. As at 31 December 2006, on average the number of children in out-of-home care per carer household was 1.9. That would indicate that, generally, overload is not a problem".
Despite this, Ms Stuckey said she had been advised there were two foster care parents, their daughter, two grandchildren, one other child with the same family name, four foster care children aged above 11, and five foster children of primary school age all living in the one dwelling.
"These foster children suffer from a range of behavioural disorders ranging from mild to extreme," Ms Stuckey said.
"This case has been brought to my attention because many families in the small community are concerned about the welfare of the foster children and believe their own children suffer at school because the teacher is spending much of her day managing out of control behaviour instead of being able to teach.
"Allegations have also been raised about the foster carers including intimidating community members, abusing the school principal, refusing to collect the children from or attend meetings at the school and discipline being meted out by the older children.
"There is also the issue of the health and hygiene neglect of an intellectually impaired child from this home who suffers continual head sores, head lice, rotten teeth and has smelly pus coming from her ears."
Ms Stuckey said that only under pressure did the Minister agree to review the case.
"In Parliament today the Minister used the excuse of there being a shortage of foster carers which is already well documented," she said.
"It is common knowledge there is a shortage of foster carers and experienced staff. Whilst the majority do a wonderful job there are some who do not, which raises the question of whether the children would be better off with their own parents if they were given intensive, regular support."
Ms Stuckey said the Minister must urgently review the current situation and place more stringent guidelines with regard to the numbers and monitoring of children that foster carers can care for within a household.
She said the current system was not ensuring child safety officers assess nor verify multiple placements with individual foster carers.
"Sadly, after three years under a new banner, Queensland’s child safety system is still failing in its basic duty of care to protect at risk children," Ms Stuckey said.
"To remove children from one unsafe environment and place them into another is a gross failure by this Government in its duty of care.
"Licensed family day care licensing stipulates that the number of children who can be cared for at any one time is not to be more than seven, with a maximum of four children not yet of school age."
Ms Stuckey said present fortnightly payments to foster carers for five children between six-10 years plus four children 11 years and older was calculated to be a whopping sum of $3,732.33 while the rent on the home was in the vicinity of a mere $150 per week.