‘Children must be heard’

Children in out-of-home-care need to be heard and care must be taken in public debate, according to the state’s Children’s Commissioner. 

Kids in out-of-home-care in Tasmania increased by 89 to 1150 in the year to June 30, 2016, an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released on Thursday showed. 

Tasmanian Children’s Commissioner Mark Morrissey said ideally, as a community, the goal was to see the numbers reduce. 

“However, where a child is unable to remain with their family and is placed in out-of-home-care, the state must provide the best possible standard of care,” Mr Morrissey said. 

“These young people have views about their own lives and their care arrangements that need to be better heard, understood and responded to; failing to meet their needs can have a detrimental impact on their own health and wellbeing.” 

Mr Morrissey cautioned that although public discussion and debate about the OOHC system was important, it also had “the potential to do harm to individual children in care” and issues raised publicly needed to be handled with respect to children and carers. 

“We must all do better for these children but … the issues are longstanding and complex,” he said.

Out-of-home-care and child protection have been politically contentious recently, with allegations against and investigations into providers Safe Pathways and Key Assets.

Labor criticised the state government this week after a government-contracted care provider, Life Without Barriers, advertised for carers on a buy-sell Facebook page. Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma said Labor was attempting to play “tawdry politics” and said the state government was investing $20.6 million in redesigning child protection.

Foster and Kinship Carers Association of Tasmania CEO Dr Kim Backhouse said she believed there was a steady increase of children needing care because of the breakdown of their traditional family homes.