Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Standards for Children in Care

New national standards to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of children living in foster homes in all States and Territories will be developed by the middle of the year as a key measure under the Australian Government’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, today released details of measures being considered for inclusion as part of the new national standards.

‘Currently, child protection systems vary markedly across the country, with each State and Territory having its own child protection policy, standards and legislation,’ Ms Macklin said.

‘We need national standards of care so children who cannot live with their families can grow up in a safe, secure environment. The implementation of national standards will provide a benchmark for the care of these children no matter where in Australia they live.’

Ms Macklin said some of the options canvassed include best practice standards for the assessment of foster carers as well as appropriate training and support. Another measure could be setting a benchmark for regular health checks for children in foster care.

‘The tragic and apparently preventable death of a 12 year old Northern Territory girl and the Coroner’s findings on her death show just how important it is for the health and welfare of children in care to be regularly monitored.

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‘We also need to reduce the disruption to children’s lives caused when they are moved from one foster home to another. A 2009 study revealed that children had experienced an average of 5.7 placements in the last 5 years. By reducing the number of placements, children can have the stable and secure environment that’s essential for their long term development and wellbeing.’

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report Child Protection Australia 2008-09, released today, there were more than 34,000 children living in out of home care at 30 June 2009.

This is an increase of 9.3 per cent, compared with the number of children in out of home care in the previous year.

The report also found that substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect increased by 1.7 per cent with almost 55,000 substantiated cases, affecting around 33,000 individual children.
The Government wants all those with an interest in out of home care to contribute their views and ideas to the development of national standards. Children, young people, carers, practitioners and organisations are all being encouraged to provide feedback.

The Australian, State and Territory Governments and non-government organisations will work with an advisory team from KPMG to develop the national standards for out of home care.

From next month, national consultations will start in all capital cities, as well as four regional locations in Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

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A copy of the National Standards for Out of Home care paper.