Wednesday, July 20, 2016

National Framework for Protecting Children - Why isn't it used?

The National Framework for Protecting Australia's children was published in 2009. It begins with the catch phrase "Protecting Children is Everyone's Business". The intent of this document is to muster support and co-operation between all levels of Government and the Community. There is an assumption in this report that we are doing all that we can to influence constructive change in the area of child protection. Even though we know that the number of notifications and the number of children taken into care is increasing those who right these reports  tend to want to believe that we are doing all that we can to correct the flow of children into out of home services.

The National Framework expresses all the platitudes one would expect from a document written by public servants who don't wish to be critical of their masters. It is as if they are walking fine line between a soft version of reality and plain deceit. An example of this is the graph below.

Here we see a true indicator of where services should be spent and who is responsible for those services. The writers state that this diagram, in reality, looks more like an hour glass. I would suggest that a truer version would have this diagram as in inverted pyramid. We are using so much of the funding propping up the "Statutory System" and very little supporting the "Universal preventative initiatives to support all families and children". 

The great disappointment by this document is that the writers want us to believe that as a nation we are “onto it”. We needn’t worry because those who manage child protection services in this country have the solution, even though the stats and anecdotal evidence doesn’t support that notion.

“The six supporting outcomes are:

1. Children live in safe and supportive families and communities
2. Children and families access adequate support to promote safety and intervene early
3. Risk factors for child abuse and neglect are addressed
4. Children who have been abused or neglected receive the support and care they need for their safety and wellbeing
5. Indigenous children are supported and safe in their families and communities
6. Child sexual abuse and exploitation is prevented and survivors receive adequate support”

As noble as these outcomes are there is no evidence that any of these outcomes are met by any Government. There is no suggestion that funding should be increased in any of these areas to produce better outcomes. There is no reflection on whether different types of services are required, yet they remain with the status quo and discuss better organising services so they are more efficient. An analyses needs to be made as to what services are inefficient but more importantly governments need to be talking to stakeholders not service providers.

A prime example of a great idea but a miserable failure is:-

 2.4 “Enhance services and supports for children and families.

“Comprehensive evaluation of family law reforms designed to strengthen family
relationships, including:
- research into the characteristics of shared care parenting arrangements that work in the best interests of the child
- research on the impact of family violence on relationship breakdown”

None of the above have been achieved.

Why do Governments put forward the best rhetoric and then produce the worst outcomes? It verifies what I have always believed and that is they truly don’t understand the nature of the problem. Yes, we need services for those who are the most disadvantaged but we are not prepared to invest in those services. The National Framework aligns with the status quo. What they are saying is “We know there is a problem but we have no idea as to how we should approach it?” It is like the parent who recognises that his/her child is acting badly but fails to understand the world of the child which may be causing the behaviour.

It is the lack insight and understanding which is preventing all Governments from approaching child protection with a new vision.

It has been seven years since this document was formulated and yet nothing has changed. I wonder who looks back over this document and asks why haven't we achieved the goals? We need to be asking who is responsible for failing the children and families of this country? 

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