Australia is in the throes of a critical increase in the number of children held in foster care! Currently, that number exceeds 40,000. At the same time, there are huge shortages of people willing to foster children, so they have lifted any potential obstacles to being approved to be a caregiver. Children find themselves shuttled from home to home, abused, lost, unattached, or institutionalized due to lack of available homes where abuse is rampant, and sometimes placed in an orphanage when there is no other available bed or housing facility.
Social Services claim a severe shortage of available employees and are over-whelmed by the sheer numbers. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to make a notification if they suspect abuse or neglect.
Between 2012 and 2013 there were nearly 273,000 such notifications with only 53,000 being substantiated, less than 20%. Still, the number is severe enough for the government to become concerned and question why the spike.
The closest corollary is the change in defining ’emotional abuse’. This category would seem to have the largest number of cases at 38%. But what defines emotional abuse is the real worry. Emotional abuse could be as loose as a parent yelling at a child, or a parent yelling at another parent which is then classified as ‘domestic violence’. These dysfunctions are now ruled as ’emotional abuse’ and warrant the immediate confiscation of all children from the household and placement in foster care.
A foster parent receives an allowance ranging from $910 per month to $2720 for a child with a disability. In addition to this allowance, foster carers are reimbursed for clothes, education, daycare, supplies, activities, hobbies, medical, travel, therapy, establishment costs, life story work and respite. These enticements are offered in order to increase the number of carers willing to engage in the raising of the children as a licensed foster home. As residential parents refuse to come forward, these subsidies are paid to institutions. In addition, NGO’s have been rapidly coming to the forefront as the government offers adoption subsidies for every child placed ranging from $30,452 to $44, 217. These are considered ‘facilitation costs’. Post adoption subsidies may also be paid based on the adoptive parent’s income.
The business thrives on dollars and available children.
But there is a growing consensus that these same homes and institutions have an unsurpassed rate of physical and sexual abuse within their system. Some claim the perpetrators are the children themselves, others claim it is the adults, either way, the point is the system that is supposedly built to safeguard children is proving to be – the perpetrator.
The Royal Commission has been called to investigate, however their response has been weak, filled with inconsistencies, and flawed. Little has been done to right the wrongs, and the state is now themselves creating the abuse at a far more prevalent rate than the abuse they claim to mitigate. Children report being prostituted, raped, subjected to abhorrent violence, provided illicit drugs and worse. These children in the foster system are shown to have the highest rates of depression, anger issues, behavioral issues, mental health issues, dropping out of school, and are profoundly more apt to become victims of sexual exploitation, pornography and prostitution.
This is the fix, the government has instituted. In Australia, once a child is placed in foster care, the parent(s) lose all legal right to make any decision with regard to that child. Their medical, educational, housing, are all now transferred to the foster caregiver. If a foster caregiver deems the child should not ever return to the birth parent, the child is offered to the NGO for potential adoption.
The highest proportion of foster children are under the age of one – making them the most likely age group to be adopted. Coincidence? Studies show that the increase in numbers in foster care is also in proportion to the fact that few children are returned to their parents – ever. Parents are required to prove their innocence rather than a caseworker proving an allegation. Most of us think of abuse in terms of bodily harm, but in fact, the number of cases in which a doctor assessed physical harm were minimal. According to the last statistical data available, 2001, there were 476 hospitalizations of children that they categorized as having suffered some form of assault. Of those, 57% were attributed to the parents. That means that 271 cases could have resulted from parental abuse. Yet there are 40,000 children in foster care, the discrepancy is vast – .6%.
The second highest category which necessitates foster care is neglect at 27.5%. Cases have been lodged for such unqualifying negligence as running around without shoes, dirty, playing outside without a parent’s supervision, etc… While these may normally be construed as simple childlike ways, today they constitute neglect and can be cause for abduction of the child and placement in an institution.
So why are caseworkers so intent on labelling and classifying some inane action as child abuse? Could it be as simple as meeting a quotient? Or could it be laziness in reviewing cases, following up on cases and searching for a better solution? Is the system broken?
It would certainly appear that is most definitely the case. Despite scrambles to put band-aids on the open wound, the bleeding continues.
Monetary incentives are not the answer. This sort of solution is ripe for creating even greater fraud and corruption as the child is valued as property rather than as a living human being. Despite the government claiming that residential careworkers are highly trained and in a rigorous 3 to 6 month course, a recent study found that the carers lacked even rudimentary skills. Residential care has decreased dramatically, replaced with institutions and daycare facilities that operate in conjunction with each other. These facilities have transitory care with high turnover rates. The children are subjected to a far worse scenario than what they had at home and the monetary curve powers the pockets of just a few. It is a system in chaos.
When there are not enough beds in orphanages, institutions and homes, according to this report, there are instances in which children are housed in motels and trailers. The risks are formidable. The absurdity is incomprehensible.
The government has continued to try to distance itself from the situation through the utilization of NGO’s. But the initial claim stands as being made by a Social Services employee and subsidies are made without much verification or data.
In an effort to relinquish legal disagreements, in-home day carers have created contracts upwards of seventeen pages which contain language that may be considered questionable, “The Carer may transfer, assign or novate this agreement to a third party by giving written notice to the Parent (but without needing the consent of the Parent).” This clause may constitute the sum of grievance many parents express as it implies the assigned caregiver has the right to assign the agreement to a foster caregiver without consent. The agreement for childcare also suggests that a third party right to ‘benefits’/payment is enforceable and inclusive. Therefore, a child under the initial care of an in-home carer may transfer their agreement to a foster institution as a third party. It also states the carer and any third party are immune from any legal suit or proceeding.
“If the Carer believes that another Care Provider Type (other than In Home Child Care) is more appropriate then the Parent agrees to do all acts and sign all documents to enable the Carer to transition the child the subject of the In Home Child Child Care to that other Care Provider Type as determined by the Carer.”
The effect of the above clause is to place the absolute right on a caregiver to intervene and make a judgement decision on behalf of the child as to whether they may live at home or be transferred to a different type of care such as foster care. Once in foster care, the child may be adopted out.
Stolen children. Stolen childhoods. A Crumbling Crumb of a system…