Children with Disabilities using Child and Family Welfare Services

New research has discovered that a high proportion of children living in foster and kinship care are suffering preventable disabilities related to their experiences of family violence, abuse and neglect.

The report outlining these findings was today launched by Andrea Coote MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Family and Communities.

The research undertaken by community service organisation OzChild shows that attachment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other mental illnesses are common, while the system is failing to deliver many children adequate levels of support.

Lisa Sturzenegger, CEO of OzChild, identified disability as a major factor in family breakdown and called for the recommendations from the research to be actioned.

“OzChild undertook this research to confirm what we already were observing, that is, the nature and extent of disability amongst the children who use our services is significant. Our research showed that half the disabilities of children in out-of-home care were environmentally based, that is, they are preventable”. 

Ms Sturzenegger said that she is “outraged that 42% of children in OzChild services have a disability compared to 3% of the general population”.

CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Deb Tsorbaris, said that “the findings highlight the important or prevention… increasing family and carer support is key to preventing children with disabilities from entering the protective system”.

“This work reinforces the need for flexibility in the way support is delivered to ensure services are tailored to each child’s specific needs, with integrated and connected primary care, disability and protective services”.

“This funding should be improved to help carers to cope with children’s disabilities, deliver better training for staff, offer children better assessment and diagnosis, and identify placements at risk earlier so appropriate support can be implemented.

A panel of experts discussed the key challenges and opportunities for young people with disabilities in child and family services at the launch. The panel included:

  • Andrea Coote MLC – Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services
  • Bernie Geary OAM, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • Laurie Harkin AM – Disability Services Commissioner
  • Kate Jenkins – Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner
  • James O’Brien – State Manager, National Disability Services
  • Elizabeth McGarry – Association for Children with a Disability
  • Robyn Miller – Principal Practitioner, Department of Human Services
  • Frank Lambrick – Principal Practitioner Disability Services

A copy of the report is available below.

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