The Palaszczuk Government is working hard to improve outcomes for all children, including children in care.
We cannot do this without our wonderful foster carers. That is why the Palaszczuk Government has invested in a statewide recruitment campaign to encourage more families to open their hearts and homes, aiming to attract an additional 1,000 foster carers.
The government has also acted to improve support for foster carers by:
- Covering additional out-of-pocket expenses related to child care costs for children aged between one and five
- Authorising foster and kinship carers to manage immunisation and blood tests, where previously permission was required
- Bringing forward the transition of foster carer support to non-government organisations.
In addition, $3 million has been invested in a trial to see professional foster carers trained to provide stable, supportive family environments to children and young people with very complex needs, who may otherwise live in residential care.
First and foremost, permanency outcomes for children should be with their family. Thanks to extra family support services put in place since 2015 there has been a 2.9% decrease in the number of children found to be in need of protection.
However, for a number of children in care reunification to their parents is not possible and permanent, stable and loving homes need to be provided. Since 2015 there has been a 7% increase in the number of children cared for by long-term carers who have been made their full legal guardian. In addition since 2015 the number of children cared for by kinship carers has increased to 44%.
The Palaszczuk Government has listened to children, young people and carers about the types of permanency outcomes they want and recently made changes to Queensland's Child Protection Laws. Those changes strengthen permanency planning and introduce a new Permanent Care Order that will provide the stability and permanency of an adoption order, but without severing a child's existing legal relationship to existing family members.
This new order is vitally important for children in out-of-home care. While adoption is and will always continue to be an option to meet the needs of children in Queensland, we must be realistic about its use.
There are many factors that can limit the suitability of adoption for children, particularly for children in care, such as the preference to place children with family and increase permanency with kin whenever possible.
When children are found stable and loving homes within their family, an adoption order would distort pre-existing legal family relationships. For example if a child was cared for by their maternal grandparent, an adoption order to the grandparent would make the child's mother their legal sister. Family adoption is not supported for these reasons in the wider community.
This impacts more than 40 percent of children in out-of-home care already placed with kinship carers.
There is also wider family connections to consider. An adoption order legally severs pre-existing family connections to siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles in favour of the adoptive parent and their relatives. For many children in out-of-home care these family connections are still very important.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the legal separation caused by adoption has implications for their connection to country that extends to their legal participation in native title. 42 per cent of all children in outof-home care are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
These limitations are why many child protection experts like Professor Clare Tilbury have argued that 'adoption should be an option, but shouldn't necessarily be the preferred option'.
What is clear is we need more options than just adoption in Queensland. That is exactly why the Palaszczuk Government has introduced a new Permanent Care Order.