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SA plan to reduce number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care

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The Department for Child Protection has released a plan aimed at reducing the number of Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care while simultaneously improving their outcomes.

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Data from the Report on Government Services shows that in June last year, Aboriginal children made up 33 per cent of South Australian children in out-of-home care.

The new five-pronged Aboriginal Action Plan 2019-20 – rooted in Prevention, Partnership, Placement, Participation and Connection principles – aims to lessen this statistic by ensuring the participation of children and family members in the decision-making process surrounding the placement of a child.

The Department for Child Protection said it developed the plan through strong and sustained advocacy from Aboriginal leaders, families, organisations and experts to ensure children and young people maintain connections to family, community and culture when in care.

Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson said the plan is the Government’s commitment to “making a real and lasting improvement to the lives of Aboriginal children and young people” while also setting “accountable” benchmarks for the department.

“We all have a role in addressing the over representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care,” she said in a statement.

“That is why it is so important to have a clear plan that details the efforts that must be made in order to enact change.”

The plan bolsters the Federal Government-endorsed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Child Placement Principle (ATISCPP), which aims to preserve Aboriginal children’s connection to culture by ensuring authorities first consider a child’s extended family as potential foster parents.

If a child’s extended family is unable to provide care, a member of the child’s community or carers in another Aboriginal community are considered.

The plan follows-on from the State Government’s Aboriginal Affairs Action Plan launched last December, which works to improve employment, business and service prospects for South Australian Aboriginal communities through a number of initiatives.

Department for Child Protection Chief Executive Cathy Taylor said this current Action Plan was a step forward to reducing the over representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care.

“All of the actions in the Plan have clear, demonstrable deliverables and our staff are dedicated to ensuring that we have tangible outcomes by next year,” she said.

“This Action Plan is significant in helping to support longer term change and achieving the vision set out in the Family Matters campaign – of which we are a signatory – to eliminate the over- representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 2040.”

Family Matters is a national campaign working to eliminate the over representation of Aboriginal children in care.

According to a report published by South Australia’s Guardian for Children and Young people Penny Wright earlier this year, figures of Aboriginal children in South Australia who are fostered by members of their extended family or community has dropped by 10 in the last decade.

Guardian Wright told InDaily she found the decline in the Child Placement Principle rate in South Australia “of serious concern”.

“It means that fewer Aboriginal children are being placed with people who are known to them and who share a connection to them and their culture,” she said.

A target in the Aboriginal Action Plan under the Participation heading includes increasing Aboriginal children and young people placed in accordance with their placement hierarchy, from 65 per cent to 70 percent.

The placement hierarchy stipulates that family and kinship networks must be prioritised for a child’s care, followed by a child’s community to carers in other Aboriginal communities.

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