It's not talked about nearly enough, but Australia's crisis in child well being should be higher on the national political agenda.
It has been almost three years since the ACL-commissioned For Kids’ Sake
research was launched at Parliament House in Canberra.
A meta-analysis, it shone a bright light on the crisis.
Here is a reminder of just some of its findings:
- The number of children in out of home care because it is too dangerous to live at home doubled in a decade to 35,000
- More than a quarter of young people aged 16-24 years have a mental disorder compared with one in five (20 per cent) in the general population
- Self-harm for teenage girls 12-14 years of age leading to hospitalisation is six times the rate for boys
- There was an increase from 28 per cent to 38 per cent in female school students experiencing unwanted sex between 2002 and 2008
- There was a doubling in the rate of hospitalisation for alcohol intoxication for women aged 15-24 between 1998 and 2006.
ACL is working to keep the welfare of kids front and centre of the political debate.
On Monday night in Brisbane, ACL's Queensland director Wendy Francis hosted a panel of experts and state parliamentarians to discuss the crisis in a lively Q&A format.
The panel included State Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland child safety minister Tracy Davis, Bravehearts' Hetty Johnston and the Centre for Independent Studies' Dr Jeremy Sammut.
The audience included a number of people involved in foster care and advocates of adoption.
The reluctance of governments to allow kids in the care system to be adopted generated spirited debate.
According to Dr Sammut, no government wants to be accused of creating another stolen generation and this meant that kids with abusive parents remained in limbo for too long, as did their foster carers.
Other jurisdictions have a pathway to what is known as 'open adoption' so that kids with abusive parents could be given permanent living arrangements and foster carers certainty.
Clearly this is a win for both, but it is controversial.
In the United States there are 50,000 adoptions per year of kids from abusive situations. If we followed this in Australia it could potentially take 5,000 kids out of the care system and into permanent homes each year.
Breaking what seems to be an anti-adoption culture needs to be explored.
But so too does strengthening couple relationships.
The Federal Minister for Community Services, Kevin Andrews, has been subject to unfair ridicule for proposing vouchers for couples to pursue relationship counselling.
If those of us who are married or in a relationship are honest, we will all admit that we need to work on it because romantic feelings, while wonderful, are not enough to sustain us.
It stands to reason that if couple relationships are strengthened, children benefit.
Children benefit from permanency in their living arrangements and especially from the permanency of the relationship of their biological parents.
That is why when a couple make the commitment of marriage, they are not just benefitting themselves, they are providing unfathomable benefit to any children they produce but also a massive social and economic benefit to society.
Our modern approach to relationships, marriage and sex has become so self-centred that we have forgotten these basics.
Political correctness stops us from talking about this.
Meanwhile we wonder why we have a crisis in child well being.
Unless our political discourse gives us permission to talk about strengthening marriage, the endless cycle of state government inquiries into our failing child protection systems will continue.