Fostering a Better future for children
The reported increase in the number of children at risk should alarm all Australians Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, said today.
“Child protection is probably the toughest area the States and Territory Governments have to administer. All Governments are making inroads through early intervention and prevention programs.
“However, many children currently in the child protection system will have some time in foster care and I do not believe that foster carers or foster children are well enough supported.
“The 8,300 foster families who look after more than 16,000 children do an enormous service for Australian communities. They stretch their family circle to encompass someone else’s child and provide them with care, safety and support.
“A recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on child protection found there has been an increase of 30 per cent in the number of children going into care between 1997 and June 2001.
“I recently met with the executive of Families Australia, the new peak body that pulls together representatives from the Association of Services Supporting Australia’s Families, the Australian Foster Care Association, the Child and Family Welfare Association of Australia and the Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care to discuss the recent University of New South Wales report into the cost of foster care and the lack of uniformity across the States and Territories.
“Support for foster children is the responsibility of State and Territory Governments. However, the Federal Coalition Government makes a substantial contribution through:
- Eligibility for Health Care Card Concessions for all children in foster care;
- Eligibility for the full range of Commonwealth payments such as Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit and parenting payments;
- Exemption of foster care allowances from income tests for family payments, including Family Tax Benefit; and
- An allowance for young people leaving care to help their transition to independent living (to be introduced in March 2003).
“I am looking to hold a national roundtable meeting of Commonwealth, State/Territory and community stakeholders in the hope that there would be enough co-operation to develop a national approach to foster care,” Mr Anthony said.