Personal Stories Shared at Roadmap to Reform Discussions

roadmap-to-reform

On the 12th and 13th of November I spent time with DHHS representatives and agency colleagues discussing the Victorian government’s Roadmap to Reform paper for our sector. Apart from the usual presentations there were speakers including young adults who once were in care as well as young parents who received support through the cradle to kinder program. Unsurprisingly their comments resonated the loudest to most of us. One young person shared that when they entered foster care at the age of 10 yrs, they were illiterate. Their foster parent taught them to read and write. Another said that given her childhood abuse she didn’t want any contact with her mum for 2 yrs, even though there was a lot of pressure to do so. The message was the importance of listening to the child.

The young mums were equally impressive sharing their personal stories. One said she was a heroin addict when DHHS removed her children. At the time she hated DHHS but now she could say that was the right thing to do. The message was that with the right support, change was possible. What counted was having a worker who stuck through thick and thin, allowing trust to develop.

There was very strong agreement about the broad policy directions we should move toward. The importance of early intervention, the reduction of children in OOHC, especially residential care, the prioritising of culturally appropriate practice, the adoption of evidence based services with measurable outcomes and the need for place based flexible models.

I am pleased that we have had these types of conversations and feel we are well placed to rise to the challenges and opportunities that these issues raise. I anticipate that next year we shall see the beginnings of service models that reflect these aspirations, like the complete move of kinship care from DHHS to our sector. I think there will be trials of intensive foster care models aimed at moving children from residential care. The Minister was very clear when she spoke to us that she wanted to see a reduction of children, especially young children, from residential care to home based care types.

So, I think next year is going to be very exciting with more change and forums, that if done well can be the foundation of excellent work for the families UMFC was established to serve.

taskforce-1000

From the 20th to the 27th of October, Maria and I had the privilege to participate in Taskforce 1000 when it met in Wodonga and Wangaratta.

The taskforce is a review of all Aboriginal children in OOHC in Victoria, chaired by Andrew Jackomos, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People.

It was a deeply moving experience hearing the life stories of some 50 children, 15 of whom were under UMFC OOHC.

I was very impressed by the professionalism and compassion demonstrated by our staff who were clearly committed to achieving the best outcomes possible.

Andrew will present his report to the Victorian Parliament when his review is completed, next month. I anticipate amongst his recommendations will be for much more effort put into exploring family networks for kinship placements. One of the parts of the process was for agencies to reflect on how we could support such placements better.

I suggested UMFC could conduct a cultural audit. I have spoken with one of our Board members, Liz Hetta, to assist us in this action. This action was prompted not only by the taskforce experience but also by a comment made at the Ministerial Committee on OOHC on the 23/10. Prof Murial Bamblett was cited as saying, “If we get it right for Aboriginal children we get it right for all children.” That sounds right to me and therefore clear about the work required to make sure we do.

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