Stolen Children – Australia Shamed

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…

21 thoughts on “Stolen Children – Australia Shamed

  1. I’m in Australia, and a close friend of mine works in this exact field as a child protection officer, charged with intervention and relocation of children in unsuitable living circumstances. This post is pretty interesting. You’re a marshal of a writer, commanding an unusual level of authority on a fairly nuanced foreign issue, and yet after all the effort to reference empirical evidence, I feel completely unconvinced of the title assertion. I’m not entirely sure why—you’re a very clear communicator—but it might be that the argument trajectory isn’t quite as strong as your description. You seem to be presenting things something like this: 1) there’s been an increase in foster children; 2) the foster system stands to gain financially from said increase; 3) foster homes are more damaging to children than the homes they were taken from; 4) evidence suggests parents inflict very little physical abuse, yet there’s still a high intervention rate; 5) the bulk of foster children are there due to claims of neglect, when the problems were vastly exaggerated; 6) the whole system is shot to pieces, with caseworkers being untrained and carers being greedy; kids getting more abused in foster homes than at home. Obviously condensed, but that’s how it’s read to me.

    There’s no doubt there are some things that need to be fixed, but the reason your post is unconvincing to anyone with any real insight is that you seem to be jumping to data that fits an agenda instead of objective investigation, drawing false conclusions from selective statistics that fail to justify your arguments, and have then wrapped it up in a bow for dissemination assuming a clear case had been made. It hadn’t been: you only covered a small slice of the pie. The primary cause of children being removed is the same as it is in every country: low socio-economic-backgrounds multiplied by drug addiction. Parents inflicting violence on one another is a far bigger cause of intervention than violence on their children. Drug addiction leads to incredible levels of neglect and financial duress, and psychological abuse in all sorts of screwed up ways, and to suggest a complaint of kids being outside barefooted without supervision would be taken seriously by any government body over here is patently—comically—untrue. The opposite is true: caseworkers are bordering on being overworked, and every case is rigorously vetted to ensure no-one takes advantage of the system. Note I said ‘bordering’ — people who work in the industry are passionate, hardworking individuals and a full workload presents no stretch of resources for them. It’s far from being an attractive job, and as such it recruits people with high empathy and compassion, who genuinely want to help, and who would never remove a child from a parent unless it was absolutely necessary. That’s a general statement of course, but when referring to a gross institutional problem, examining the workforce trend is key, especially when the actual reality of the situation is vastly different to a claim being made about the entire state-of-affairs. Also, statements like “The Royal Commission has been called to investigate, however their response has been weak, filled with inconsistencies, and flawed.”, of which your article has dozens, are entirely vacuous without providing sources.

    Fortunately your blog doesn’t appear to have much of a meaningful following, but the attempt to spread the fallacious and insidious idea that the Australian child intervention system is maliciously angled in favour of financially benefiting foster carers; that children are more at risk in foster care than with individuals identified by professionals as being unfit parents; that any of this is worthy of the title ‘Stolen Children’—a direct reference to the Stolen Generation—is unbelievably insulting, preposterous, and, most of all, telling.

    I’ve looked through some other articles on here as well. There’s no doubting the clarity and exactitude of your writing; you’d make a very good journalist. It seems like the only thing holding your talent back, is that you have an assumed position prior to doing any research, seemingly consistent with hard-right-wing and fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Intelligence just makes us better at justifying whatever beliefs we hold, and when they’re as strong as yours seem to be, an objective position—the key component to all good journalism—is all but impossible to find. I genuinely hope you do find it, because you have an amazing talent and energy at your fingertips, and as far as I can tell, it’s mostly going to waste on dogma-pundit rhetoric.

    • Garry –

      A very interesting dissection! I like that you put the time and effort into thinking thru what I said and how you felt it addressed the issue. With regard to the content, a blog is just that, a cursory bit of information that addresses an issue in a succinct manner – not a Thesis. As such, “the agenda” is stated and evidence is provided in a lean manner. I wrote about this topic because a woman in Australia specifically asked me to address this issue. The foster care issue is a huge issue that has been written about extensively in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany and Australia. There is currently a massive investigation going on in the UK with respect to horrific abuses in which children were prostituted and in some cases murdered – not by the caseworkers – but by politicians and well known people within the entertainment and sports industries. This has been addressed as well here in the states and is considered a crime that is perpetrated on an international level. Removing a child due to ‘low socio-economic’ backgrounds is not a valid reason to ‘remove’ a child from the parents. Drug addiction and domestic violence are only one part of the pie, and certainly there are many children that need to be taken from abusive parents. And then – sometimes they shouldn’t. That’s the complexity that needs to be reworked in a system that as you say is ‘over-worked’. I didn’t “suggest a complaint”, all issues that I presented were true and recorded. But it would appear from your dialogue that you are speaking from an agenda… to gloss over what is being done, what has been done, within a system that is gravely flawed does not help these children. If caseworkers are over-worked, then they can’t possibly be ‘rigorously vetting’ every single case! The point is to bring to light inconsistencies, to offer something that makes you think twice, to peak an interest, to make you look deeper and inquire into alternative views. In this case, it involves children – whitewashing the system does not help those times when a child falls through the cracks, or in the case of the UK investigation – hundreds of thousands of children… Systems break. If the Australian system is overworked, over saturated, and overly stressed to the seams, then obviously children will be the victim. Pretending otherwise, does nothing for them. Stories abound in the US, targeting Native American children.
      These realities however hard, have to be addressed. It would appear given the heightened angst and insult of your writing as you progress in your response, that you are the friend you mention that works as a child protection officer and you have taken this blog as a personal attack… That was not the intent. I apologize if that is your perception.
      My values and personal beliefs will always be reflected in my blogs – however objectivity does not mean ignoring facts, and allowing a broken system, a political agenda, and a cover-up to discourage truth. If you really want to help children, then instead of becoming defensive for your own position, maybe a bit of flexibility could allow you to see that there is something wrong, children are being abused and parents rights violated. Not every child – but if you could help just one – would you refuse? A rigid position will always ultimately break, blinders will obscure the true picture and the crack will be allowed to widen to a cavern… if that is what you want, if that is your agenda, then the children and the parents – will suffer. The choice, is yours.
      I do not typically list my sources in the blog, that is not common. However, I will for you because you doubt my research:!OpenDocument

      • I should have left in the bracketed comment following ‘overworked’ that said ‘your mind just took that to mean they can’t do their job properly’, but I left it out because it felt a bit aggressive. There’s no audience here but me, so it doesn’t make any sense to reframe something stated within a certain context, in an entirely new one to support your own replying argument. Unless it was a simple reading error? The concept of caseworkers being overworked was introduced within the context of evidencing how the system doesn’t tolerate minor or vexing cases, qualified with the term ‘bordering’, and then used as a platform to describe the general integrity of the intervention workforce. They are not overworked; there’s no evidence to support that with any degree of distinction above any other public sector vocation, and nothing that would implicate poor judgement.

        Additionally, I said ‘low socio-economic background multiplied by drug addiction’, as in, drug addiction as an exponential factor to environment and conditioned behaviour. You are still vastly undervaluing child abuse outside of physical violence. To reiterate and expand on the previously mentioned: children are primarily removed because of domestic disputes between parents; physical violence between parents; irregular cashflow to the point of severely affected diets; psychological abuse in a myriad of sinister forms, from parents with aggressive BPD or drug-induced psychosis raging uncontrollably like giant feral animals, to the gas lighting of developing personalities, to the warped manipulation of a child’s reality in all kinds of horrible ways; to sexual abuse of all disgusting degrees; to a severe lack of basic hygiene — all things that show more prominence than physical violence. With seriously damaging parenting issues such as these, the government simply can’t afford to consider petty cases or abstract ideas like socio-economics unlinked to any noxious act. The bulk of your reasoning simply does not address this, assuming the gap in statistical data to be indicative of number fudging or crisis definition-modulating. It simply isn’t true.

        Every large system—especially government-based—has glaring opportunity for improvement; my response to towards the ludicrously critical assessment of there being some kind of Stolen Children epidemic. There are (obviously) real intervention examples offering the tragic image worthy of the kind of things your saying, but I fail to see any reason to believe that anything is nearly bad enough to justify alluding to the majority of removed children being better off where they were, that the system is fundamentally flawed, or that there’s any Machiavellian scheme taking place.

        The reason I have replied, and mentioned the lack of sources supporting sweeping claims, is that, well, you’re very talented, and it’s feasible that you may eventually make a career out of this. I apologise if any of my last post was overly personal; it’s not very good form.

        • I appreciate your angst, but you continue to fail to note the point, which is to say that there is overwhelming evidence that supports the issue, the problem, and the controversy – including the fact that it is not simply number fudging when it is coming from the criminal court system in the UK – for example – which states that they consider this an epidemic to the tune of hundreds of thousands of victim children. Thank you for noting that ‘every large system…” which is exactly what I was stating and addresses the fact that therefore there is much room for improvement, and when the ‘victim’ is a child, well then, the improvement should be a bit more fast and furious. And when you are the child that is the minority – well, I doubt you would feel it was ‘good enough’ to allow hundreds of thousand to fall thru the crack… for the greater good, I imagine is the philosophy.
          I never alluded to the majority being better off – I believe that has been your interpretation… I have said, and say again, how many is too many? At what point do you take note, at what point is even one too many, at what point does your heart lead and your brain follow?
          As to schemes – well I suggest you read up a bit on the cases that stand now and in the past before making such an assertion –

          Finally, if you don’t even try to recognize the failures, the flaws, then obviously you won’t fix them – this applies to nearly every aspect of life… in other words, you can’t fix what you refuse to see.

          • We must have our wires crossed, I was under the impression your article was about Australia, that you’d said Australia is shamed, and that your entire article was about, Australia. I haven’t engaged on anything international here, but from what you’ve said, I can understand how there would be an upheaval needed. It’s probably far from perfect here as well, but your article drastically misrepresents the situation, and makes wildly unscrupulous assertions about the experience of foster children. The title, which clearly references the Stolen Generation, is so extreme it’s beyond opinion, and is incredibly disrespectful to our Aboriginal population. At best it’s just an unintentional coincidence, but even then, it’s still radically misleading. The article is infused with a kind of entitled anger; all I’m really saying here, is dial it back several notches; there are problems, but nothing close to warranting the diatribe you’ve delivered. As you said, this is blogging, and you’re free to say and do whatever, I’m just an example of how a mistaken and over-zealous journalism approach can be received when reaching people it actually concerns. And no, my friend isn’t me.

            • Perhaps an analogy would help:
              You find that one tire on your car has leaked air. But you figure you have three good ones so you drive on. While on the highway the lopsidedness of the car is noticeable, but you drive on because, well, you still have 3 good tires. Suddenly you realize the traffic before you has slowed to a stop and you floor the brakes. But your tire is now driving on the rim and it sends out sparks that catch the dry shrubbery on fire. Unable to stop in time because the steering and brakes can’t impact the lost tire, you plow into the car in front of you, sending it into the next and the next and so on. People are injured, a child dies, but it isn’t your fault, it the fault of the dang tire. Limping off the highway your front end is smashed, but you still have 3 working tires. Coming to a stop light, the brakes are smoked and you see a pedestrian crossing. Unable to steer, you hit the pedestrian and veer off the road, over the curb, down a valley and into a lake. Because of the accident your door is smashed and won’t open. The car is taking on water quickly and you can’t get out. But all you can think of is, ‘at least I have 3 good tires’. Fives businesses burned down from the brush fire, three children died and twelve were hospitalized from the wreck, a pedestrian suffered paralysis and you drowned. But your car still has three good tires…
              My article was about Australia in particular, the phenomena is global, you can argue for the 3 good tires, or you can fix the one bad one. And that my friend, is the moral of the story. Attacking me, telling me how to write, taking a title to task, serves no purpose for the ‘point’ whatsoever. Defending to the heavens – the one tire would seem your agenda.

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