QFCC calls for reform to kinship caring arrangements for First Nations children
The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) has called for reform to remove barriers for First Nations kin caring for their family members, and specifically for the requirement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship carers to hold a Blue Card to be removed, allowing more children to be raised safely with family and retain their connection to Country and culture.
“The current Working With Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000, also known as the Blue Card system, assesses suitability for child-related employment, not suitability as a kinship carer. Caring for family, supporting cultural continuity and connection is what we do as family. It is not employment,” said QFCC Commissioner Natalie Lewis.
In the Thematic analysis of provisionally approved kinship carers who receive a subsequent Blue Card negative notice report, the QFCC notes that the Blue Card scheme’s focus on employment suitability, rather than suitability to care for kin, gave limited consideration to the child’s best interests.
Removing the Working with Children screening process (Blue Cards), the QFCC believes, would not put children’s safety at risk, with the Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services (DCSSDS) to continue to conduct comprehensive assessment and approval processes of all prospective kinship carers, including criminal history checks. As outlined in the report, evidence of disqualifying offences within a criminal history report will result in a determination that the person is unsuitable to provide statutory kinship care.
“An inability to resolve the constraints of the current system will mean more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will continue to be placed with strangers or in residential care instead of with kin, and that is not in the best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and therefore not acceptable,” Ms Lewis added.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle provides a framework for ensuring that children stay connected with kin, culture and Country. Despite this, the QFCC said, “far too many First Nations children are being placed and raised away from their families, culture and Country. Queensland has the second lowest rate of placement with First Nations kin (21.7 per cent) in Australia.”
The Blue Card process has long been identified by stakeholders as a significant impediment to higher rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Kinship care. The proposed change would increase the number of children being placed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, and lead to improved outcomes for these children.
“Removing Blue Card screening is a small step towards redressing the historical and contemporary practices of over surveillance, inter-generational child removal, over policing and inequitable access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland,” Ms Lewis said.
“It doesn’t matter how much we tinker at the edges of the Blue Card system and its processes; it will not have the cultural capability or authority to reverse the enduring impact of removing a child from kin, culture, and Country.”
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