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This page offers selected letters to the editor, and provides links to the articles to which the Centre was responding.

Vulnerable young

(Published in The Age, 28 July 2011)

MICHELLE Griffin's excellent report (Focus, 27/7) highlights community visitors' contribution to the care of people with a disability living in supported accommodation.
We support calls by Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary to introduce a community visitor scheme in residential care for vulnerable children and young people. This would offer a powerful voice for them and be a means through which they could independently advocate for change.
The proposal's effectiveness would depend on its details, and the engagement of young people and residential care providers in developing a model that would provide real benefits. Failures of the system, and in quality of care, need to be acknowledged and addressed. This should include accountability for individual practices, and also facing up to the resource constraints and demand pressures beyond the control of service providers. Community service organisations should not be held to account where the failure is one of government in funding the system.
Dr Lynette Buoy, CEO, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Melbourne


Lessons in tragedy

(Published in The Age, 31 March 2011)

DRAWING lessons from the tragic death of Darcey Freeman is not the same as seeking - in the words of your editorial (The Age, 30/3) – to ''give some meaning to an unspeakable act''. We can sadly grant that Darcey's murder is without rational explanation or meaning, and that Arthur Freeman has been justly held to account, but still seek ways to prevent such dreadful conclusions to the young lives of other vulnerable children.
It is essential to heed the measures that have already been suggested to intervene earlier in situations where children are at risk. To suggest such measures is not to reduce Arthur Freeman's responsibility for his actions, or even to claim that all deaths are preventable - they are not. What is possible is for society to construct as many barriers as we can to block the many pathways to harm at the earliest possible stage. A test of the Baillieu government's responsibility will be the extent to which the current child protection inquiry heeds the lessons of earlier inquiries and reports, engages the community sector, and recommends meaningful measures that are resourced to make a difference.
Dr Lynette Buoy, CEO, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare


Remember the young and homeless

(Published in The Age, 10 February 2011)
AMONG the most alarming findings of the recent survey of homelessness in Melbourne is that 25 per cent of survey respondents were from a foster care background. Coupled with the recent report that even priority cases for public housing are experiencing unacceptable delays, this again points to an urgent need for specific action to meet the needs of children leaving state care.
Our vulnerable children cannot be allowed to become lost in these numbers when they are at risk of chronic homelessness.
Solutions that must be urgently considered by the new Baillieu government are providing dedicated public housing for the relatively small number of young people who leave state care each year. Housing is a key factor in the future prospects of these young people, and must be combined with appropriate supports for their well-being.
Further consideration should also be given to extending foster care from 18 years of age to 25. While the average parent would not expect their children to leave home unsupported at 18, why should we subject those far more vulnerable to such hardship?
Future surveys will be the test of success or failure in our support of young people who should not be forgotten when they leave state care.
Dr Lynette Buoy, Centre of Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Melbourne


Improve disclosure

(Published in The Age, 16 October 2010)
IT IS unfortunate the Department of Human Services has highlighted additional "checks and balances" as the answer to revelations regarding children in state care. There are limits to these admittedly necessary measures if training and resourcing continue to be inadequate. If there are simply too few carers and they are not sufficiently supported, there will be diminishing returns and a mounting human cost from further measures geared narrowly to monitoring compliance.
At the same time, we should acknowledge that a range of incidents from an under-resourced system caring for troubled children is entirely foreseeable, and the focus of reporting needs to accurately identify the most serious cases where action is urgently needed, rather than burdening carers with bureaucracy that hinders rather than supports quality care.
Where important disclosures need to be made public, this should not occur only after the intervention of the Ombudsman or via questions on notice from a parliamentary committee. Given the emphasis placed by the department on reporting by community service organisations, it's time we considered ongoing public reporting by the department itself on broadly agreed indicators around the standard of care experienced by children whose legal parent is the state.
We should also consider extending the powers of the child safety commissioner, or creating an independent children's commissioner, to ensure that disclosure is matched by effective government action, with a focus on training and resources to boost quality of care.
Lynette Buoy, Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Melbourne

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