SA Government declines secure care facility for children under Guardianship

SA Government declines secure care facility for children under Guardianship

by Freya Lucas

August 25, 2020

Following extensive consultation and advice from key child protection stakeholders, the South Australian Government will not pursue opening a secure care facility for children and young people under Guardianship, with the “overwhelming majority” of those consulted not supporting the implementation of a model of secure therapeutic care.

 

Nearly all stakeholders recommended a therapeutic model of care should be implemented across the system first, and as such, the State Government has announced a new $600,000 commitment towards implementing the Sanctuary Model of therapeutic care to support quality care and outcomes for all children and young people.

 

SA Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson said therapeutic residential care will instead be implemented across all Department residential care units over the next three years.

 

“Early intervention and prevention continues to be a focus,” she added, noting a number of programs and pilots now underway to better support vulnerable South Australian children and their families.

 

SA Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People April Lawrie said she was pleased the Minister had elected not to go ahead with the secure therapeutic care model.

 

“My obvious concern was that for the Aboriginal community of South Australia, a secure care facility would form part of the ongoing incarceration of our Aboriginal children, or alternatively, be utilised as a facility where Aboriginal children who are deemed ‘difficult’ be placed,” Commissioner Lawrie said.

 

Department for Child Protection Lead Psychiatric Director Dr Prue McEvoy said there was limited evidence to support secure care achieving improved outcomes for children and young people who have already experienced severe neglect and abuse prior to coming into state care.

 

“We must concentrate on developing a therapeutic system of care that is trauma-informed and focussed on meeting the needs of children as soon as they come into care,” said Dr McEvoy.

 

“For children requiring residential care – often the most complex – the introduction of our new therapeutic residential model Sanctuary is a very important part of this process, that will address trauma these children have experienced,” she added, describing short term secure environments as “contributing to an ongoing crisis driven system which can perpetuate their distress.”

 

Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright said the Minister’s decision was the right one, adding that her position “remains the same as when the Guardian was last asked to provide advice on this matter in 2008, as there has been little change of significance”. 

 

The roll out of the Sanctuary model across DCP residential care facilities is “an important first step in improving the care experience of some of our most vulnerable children and young people. If we improve their lives they are less likely to leave their placement,” Ms Wright added.

 

For more information about the Sanctuary model, please see here

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