Media Release: Monday, 6 April, 2009

Reports of a state ward sleeping rough while her distraught foster parents of 14 years have no legal right to information about her have again highlighted how Australia’s community welfare system often fails to serve the best interests of the child.

That’s the opinion of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which today called on State and Territory Governments to examine whether foster parents should be given greater support to uphold the best interests of children in their care.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that a report on the teenage ward in today’s The Australian raises real concerns over whether foster parents are being adequately supported in their responsibility to nurture and put appropriate boundaries in place for the children in their charge.

“Any parent can tell you that children don’t always know what is best for them. Surely it is better for a child to be cared for in a loving home with appropriate discipline and standards than to be sleeping in railway stations and living on the street?” Mr Wallace asked.

“Governments need to examine whether foster parents are being given enough authority to raise the children in their care, or whether their lack of legal rights is feeding problems of teenage rebellion, with sometimes tragic consequences. “We have a massive problem with our care of children, with the continual stories of the failure of DOCs in NSW particularly galling and demanding of Government action,” Mr Wallace said.

“You are left wondering whether ideology of one type or another isn’t trumping commonsense in the management of children,” he said. “We have a best practice model for child welfare, it’s called a home with a mother and a father and where suitable foster parents are stepping in to provide that environment, we should be giving them every assistance to succeed, not inhibiting them.

“As a nation we need to be concentrating far more on serving the real best interests of children by providing environments they can thrive in.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan