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The Northern Territory Government has announced a further $230 million for youth and child protection services in its full response to the youth justice royal commission.
More than 200 recommendations from the royal commission into youth detention and child protection are to be funded by the NT Government, in a bid to reform the Territory's "broken" youth justice system. The $229 million package of works will focus on preventing children and families from entering the child protection and youth justice systems, and will be budgeted and implemented over a five-year period.
The royal commission delivered its final report in November after a year of hearings. The inquiry was sparked by an ABC Four Corners report on the tear-gassing and mistreatment of young people detained at Darwin's Don Dale youth detention centre.
Last month, the Gunner Government promised an overhaul of the Territory's child protection and youth justice systems, offering full or in principle to support to all 227 recommendations made by the royal commission. Of those recommendations, 217 relate directly to the NT Government, and have been allocated to 17 work programs.
The investment centres around a $71.4 million commitment to replace both the current Don Dale facility and the Alice Springs youth detention centre with "youth justice training centres", announced by the Government in February. An additional $66.9 million will be used to fund a new information technology system that will enable better protection of children from abuse and improve youth justice.
The need for a new client information system and data brokerage service was highlighted most recently in the review of an alleged sexual assault of a child in Tennant Creek, which found child protection services lacked oversight and coordination in its handling of the case.
A further $22.9 million has been put aside to improve youth detention operations and reduce recidivism, while $11.4 million will be used to establish coordination hubs and expand the number of Child and Family Centres across the Territory.
"We have come a long way, this has been a long journey," Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield said. “ "We absolutely have had a system that has failed Territorian families and community. This is about long-term, systemic changes that will be drivers for a safer community for us all. This is about keeping kids out of the system'
The Northern Territory Government said it would align its total budget and effort towards achieving the required reforms. Ms Wakefield said the funding would focus on early intervention, with an emphasis on the Aboriginal voices and communities central to decision making, and shifting service delivery to Aboriginal controlled organisations.
In addition to the $110 million already set aside for out-of-home-care per year, $5.4 million will be invested over four years to improve support to kinship and foster carers, and outcomes from children in care. Just over $4 million of that funding will be quarantined for Aboriginal controlled organisations, and Territory Families will prioritise partnering with those groups to increase the number of Aboriginal carers.
"This is about keeping vulnerable kids out of the child protection system," Ms Wakefield said. "It recognises that a culture of punishment does not work to break the cycle of crime. ”
The five-year plan of works will be delivered in three implementation
phases, and some of the key funding announcements, including the
replacement of youth detention centres and a new integrated client
information system, are not expected to occur until the third stage, or
Phase one, to be rolled out within 12 months, includes the establishment of three new Child and Family Centres, expanded access to diversion and bail support and increased support to young people leaving care to access housing, among other initiatives.
Within three years, the NT Government hopes to "transform out-of-home-care", establish the Commission for Children and Young People and establish NT and Australian Government joint planning mechanism.
20 April 2018
Source: ABC Radio Australia
Province investing in grassroots support, mentorship and skill-building projects
Ontario is supporting new opportunities for youth across the province to engage with their communities, build healthy relationships, learn new skills and achieve academic and career success.
Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, was at Young and Potential Fathers in Toronto today to make the announcement. Young and Potential Fathers was one of the first organizations to receive support through the Youth Opportunities Fund when it was created five years ago.
This year, a total of 39 projects are receiving support through the Fund, offering:
• Skills training in science, technology,
engineering and math to help youth pursue careers in fields like
medicine and aviation.
• Mentorship in arts, culture, music and media.
• Workshops, resources and peer support to help youth build supportive and healthy relationships.
• Programs specially designed for Indigenous, racialized, newcomer and LGBT2SQ youth.
Helping children and youth in communities across the province succeed is part of the government's plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, and easier access to affordable child care.
• Ontario is investing more than $12 million this year to fund 39
projects through the Ontario Youth Opportunities Fund, which will be
delivered by grassroots, youth-led, community-based organizations. They
will serve communities including Cochrane, Hamilton, Moose Factory,
Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Peterborough, Sudbury, Thames Valley,
Thunder Bay, Timiskaming, Timmins and Toronto.
• Since its launch in 2013, the Youth Opportunities Fund has provided approximately $41 million to 154 youth-led groups benefitting over 146,000 youth across the province.
• Grants are awarded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation based on how well projects address outcomes in Stepping Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario's Youth Succeed.
• The Youth Opportunities Fund is part of the province's $55-million enhanced Ontario Youth Action Plan, Ontario's largest investment to date to help children and youth in high-priority communities across the province.
• Under the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan, the Youth Opportunities Fund has increased by $1 million annually to support projects focused on skills development programming for Black youth.
• The application period for next year’s grants will launch this summer.
16 April 2018
Source: Ministry of Children and Youth Services
There were 3,422 incidents last year in which children in care or their carers were injured. These included 784 cases where medical attention or first aid was required.
More injuries to both young people in care and to staff occurred because of incidents, rather than accidents, but children are more likely to come to harm than their carers.
The data, released under Freedom of Information, is split into three categories: special care, in which a small number of young people are placed each year; Tusla or voluntary placements; and private centres.
The information was recorded on the Child and Family Agency’s Significant Event Notification database, although Tusla stressed that it recorded the number of incidents, rather than the number of people involved.
It categorised whether the injuries caused to young people or staff were as a result of an accident or an incident, and whether no treatment was required or referenced, or whether first aid or medical treatment was provided.
So while there were 1,663 staff-injury incidents in private centres and which did not require treatment, there were 54 staff-injury incidents in the same setting which did. Some 251 injury incidents involving young people in private centres required first aid or medical treatment. That was the single highest area of injury to young people in care, with another 66 children in private centres injured as a result of accidents last year.
In Tusla/voluntary centres, 228 young people were injured due to an incident that required medical treatment, with another 100 injuries, caused to young people in accidents, requiring treatment.
In special care centres, the numbers were much lower: seven accidents to young people resulting in medical treatment, and 31 incidents involving young people where medical attention was required.
Fórsa, the trade union for public service staff, said its members working in centres for young people in care had not raised any specific concerns about their work there, whereas there have been high-profile incidents in the youth justice area, and particularly regarding the Oberstown campus.
Tusla said it did not gather details of the nature of the injuries. There are 26 voluntary residential centres and 81 private residential care centres. The figures do not relate to foster-care placements.
A spokesperson for Tusla said: “The Child and Family Agency recognises that working in a residential care setting can be challenging. Staff working in residential care settings are provided with training to equip them with a range of measures to manage potentially challenging behaviour. On occasion, incidents do occur.”
By Noel Baker
16 April 2018
A shared priority for Canada, Ontario and Chiefs of Ontario is to
improve outcomes and opportunities for all First Nations children,
youth, and families in Ontario, and to reduce the number of children and
youth in care.
Today, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, the Honourable Michael Coteau, Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Community and Social Services, and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, and the Chiefs of Ontario leadership signed a joint commitment on policy and funding reform for First Nations Services in Ontario.
All partners met Thursday in Toronto as a follow-up to the Emergency Meeting Minister Philpott hosted in Ottawa in January 2018, on Indigenous Child and Family Services.
The document signed today by Canada, Ontario, and the Chiefs of Ontario leadership commits partners to work together in developing new policy and funding models to support reform of First Nations child and family services in Ontario. This recognizes, in particular, the need to shift focus to more comprehensive approaches that support better outcomes by focusing on an expanded range of prevention services.
As part of this work, Canada, Ontario, and First Nations are also completing an Ontario Special Study, which will provide options for new First Nations child and family well-being policy and funding approaches that are child-centered, community-directed, and support better outcomes by focusing on prevention.
It is expected that the outcomes required from this joint commitment will be completed within 12-18 months.
"The federal government is committed to working with all partners to address the severe overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care. This is why I am pleased today to sign this Joint Commitment to Policy and Funding Reform for First Nations Child and Family Services in Ontario with the Chiefs of Ontario leadership and the Government of Ontario. The interests of children and families must come first, and it is through this commitment and our shared goals in developing new funding and policy approaches that we will be able to ensure that First Nation children in Ontario are safe and supported within their communities."
The Honourable Jane Philpott, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indigenous Services
"The importance of laying a framework for recognizing First Nation jurisdiction on Child Welfare is the most vital policy discussion that we face; as Ontario First Nations, Canada and Ontario meet on the matter. A cooperative and coordinated outcome will be our primary effort as we organize these first steps - the authority to choose the best path forward will ultimately rest with our First Nation leadership and Child Welfare authorities. There can be no other option but full First Nation control."
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day
Chiefs of Ontario
"Ontario is committed to working collaboratively with First Nations partners and Canada to reduce the number of First Nations children in care, and ensure that all First Nations children have equitable access to child and family services that are sustainably funded, and that support positive outcomes across a child's lifespan. Today's joint commitment on funding reform represents a critical step forward in reaching that goal. Ontario looks forward to continuing to work closely with our First Nations partners and Canada on the funding reform needed to improve outcomes and opportunities for all First Nations children, youth, and families."
The Honourable Michael Coteau, MPP, Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Community and Social Services, and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism
12 April 2018
Source: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
Workers at summer camps, preschools and day care centers that get
federal grants may soon need to be fingerprinted and subjected to
national criminal background checks.
A plan filed by Gov. Charlie Baker expands background check procedures for the Department of Early Education and Care to comply with new federal rules, which require a check on the National Sex Offender Registry.
"Massachusetts does not currently meet these requirements, which puts the state in jeopardy of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding," Tom Weber, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, told a legislative committee on Tuesday. "This is a sweeping change affecting a substantial number of people."
Baker's plan would actually exceed the new federal rules by requiring checks for employees at state-licensed residential programs, as well as adoption and foster agencies.
In March, Congress authorized more than $5.2 billion in federal funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program – $2.37 billion above fiscal 2017 levels – but included requirements for background checks who those who work with children.
Weber said Massachusetts gets about $277 million a year through the block grant, which funds roughly half of his department's budget. In order to acquire federal grants for child care providers, the state must update its background check process by Sept. 30.
Under a 2014 state law, every public or private school employee who may be alone with students – including preschool teachers, day care workers, counselors at after-school programs, teacher assistants, custodians and clerks – must be fingerprinted so they can be checked for previous arrests and convictions nationally.
Parents who volunteer for school field trips and events are also required to undergo background checks, at their own expense.
Previously, schools were only allowed to conduct background checks for crimes committed inside Massachusetts using the state’s name-based Criminal Offender Record Information system. Those checks did not cover any criminal history outside the state.
Lawmakers approved expanded screening following the indictment of a Wakefield man charged with sexually assaulting more than a dozen children while working at his wife’s unlicensed day care. John Burbine, 50, died in March 2014 of injuries from a suicide attempt at the Middlesex County Jail.
Statewide more than 250,000 school and state-certified daycare employees were required to be fingerprinted under the law. State education officials couldn't say how many additional people will be affected by the new federal requirements.
If Baker’s plan is approved, newly hired child care workers and others affected by the changes will need to get state background checks completed by Sept. 30 and federal checks by Sept. 30, 2020. Existing employees will have until 2020 to get the expanded background checks.
Child care providers say they support the added scrutiny but worry that the new rules will exacerbate a shortage of skilled workers. Potential employees often pass on job openings because of the time it takes for background checks, which range from 2 weeks to six months, they say.
"Ultimately this means providers actually have to deny or slow down admissions," said Sara McCabe, vice president of Wayside Youth & Family Support Network, a Framingham-based nonprofit that runs residential programs for teens. "So children and youth end up on long waiting lists in order to find appropriate levels of care because providers are not able to staff adequately."
By Christian M. Wade
11 April 2018
Children told Ofsted that they feel they are receiving less help and support from their carers than in previous years
The inspectorate's annual children's social care questionnaire gathered responses from 37,000 children, parents, social workers and other children's professionals between June and October last year and found that young people in care feel less safe than in previous years.
Children also told Ofsted that they feel they are receiving less help and support from their carers than in previous years.
Among children in residential care surveyed in 2017, 69 per cent said they feel safe in their children's home all of the time, compared with 70 per cent the year before.
In 2015, 24 per cent of those placed in children's homes said they feel safe most of the time, but this had fallen to 21 per cent by 2017.
This year six per cent of those in foster care said they feel safe most of the time, compared with seven per cent in 2015.
One 10-year-old respondent in residential care said: "It's scary sometimes when other children are kicking off."
Another respondent, who is in a foster home, said: "I don't feel comfortable when people I don't know visit the house because I feel unsure."
The survey also reveals that some children feel that staff or foster carers "rarely" or "never" help them if they feel upset by other people.
In 2017 nine per cent of those in children's homes and fostering said they feel they are not supported by their carers in such circumstances, compared with four per cent among those in residential care and three per cent of those in foster placements in 2016.
In addition, the survey reveals that looked-after children feel less prepared when moving into a placement than in previous years.
Among those in children's homes, 61 per cent said they had been able to find out useful things about their placement before moving in, compared with 64 per cent in 2016 and 71 per cent in 2015.
Meanwhile, less than half (45 per cent) of children in foster care were able to find out such information before their placement last year, compared with 54 per cent in 2015 and 51 per cent in 2016.
"I found out that I was moving in with (the foster carer) five hours before I moved in," a nine-year-old in foster care told Ofsted.
"No other information was provided leaving me feeling extremely scared and confused."
A 10-year-old in residential care told the inspectorate: "I would have liked to have seen the home more times before I moved in as it would of made me feel more comfortable."
However, the survey does indicate that those in foster care that go missing from their placement are far more likely to be offered the chance to speak to someone independent when they returned.
Last year 77 per cent of children in foster care said they had been offered this opportunity, compared with 66 per cent in 2016.
There was also a small rise in the proportion of children going missing from residential care who had the opportunity to speak to an independent professional on their return. In 2016 81 per cent said they had this chance, compared with 82 per cent last year.
Some children who had gone missing told Ofsted that they found it useful to talk to someone independent, such as a social worker or police officer.
One nine-year-old in residential care said: "I spoke to a police officer who made me realise I had put myself in danger. I don't want to do it again."
Although some did not feel the need to take up this opportunity, with one 16-year-old in residential care telling Ofsted that they "would rather speak to staff and not a stranger".
By Joe Lepper
6 April 2018
Differing perceptions of risk among child welfare social workers is leading to inconsistent outcomes for children in need, a University of Otago-led study reveals.
Lead author, Senior Lecturer in Social Work Dr Emily Keddell, says children in similar circumstances can receive variable interventions or decisions from child welfare services because of social workers’ different perceptions of risk, safety and future harm.
In a study, recently published in Children and Youth Services Review, data was gathered via an online survey, which was used to develop interviews and focus groups for a second phase of the study.
The findings reveal that, despite similar knowledge bases, child welfare social workers in non-government organisations and the statutory child protection sector observe children in similar circumstances differently.
For example both groups view the presence of domestic violence as a risk, but don't view it as equally serious.
“Children who are in similar circumstances should get equitable access to service provision, or legal intervention, in a manner that reflects their level of need compared to others,” Dr Keddell says.
Some of these differences are understandable, as non-government child welfare social work emphasises early intervention, while statutory child protection practice focusses more on judging when statutory thresholds are reached.
“However, ensuring that perceptions of risk are aligned is important if the aim is a child welfare system where professionals working at every level of it can work collaboratively with families in a consistent manner.”
Dr Keddell believes continuing inter-professional education that grapples meaningfully with practise examples may be useful in order to develop a greater consensus among professionals about family risk and need.
She also believes more attention needs to be paid to the resourcing of both non-government and statutory child welfare.
“Divisions between the two areas of practise are heightened when neither is well-resourced,” she says.
This can lead to families becoming “hot potatoes”, passed back and forth between the two types of agency, too high risk for the non-government sector, but not perceived as high risk enough for the statutory sector.
“This can contribute to lack of service provision to struggling families, as well as decreasing trust between different types of child welfare social workers.”
5 April 2018
Press Release: University of Otago
While the number of child neglect and sexual abuse cases continues to trend downward, America saw an uptick in maltreatment-related fatalities and the number of documented physical abuse cases, according to an annual report by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Nationwide, the number of physical abuse cases rose 5 percent between 2015 and 2016, landing at approximately 125,000 cases. The physical abuse rate reached a low of about 31 per 10,000 youth in 2011, and has wavered between there and 35 per 10,000 since.
Maltreatment fatalities rose to 1,700, which the report cites as an 8 percent increase between 2015 and 2016. However, one state – North Carolina – provided data on fatalities in 2016 but not in 2015.
Assuming no change in fatalities in North Carolina, the increase was 5 percent.
The increase in fatalities was fueled by sizable increases in two states: Indiana, up from 34 to 70, and Texas, up from 162 to 217. On the other end, the biggest numerical decreases came in Florida, Georgia and Washington.
Overall, 20 states saw fewer fatalities in 2016 and five saw no change. Maine and Massachusetts did not supply any information on child fatalities.
The trend report’s authors caution against leaning too much on national trends when it comes to maltreatment rates because “states differ in how statutes define abuse and how abuse is investigated and processed.”
That said, 30 states and the District of Columbia either saw an increase in physical abuse cases, or saw no change, between 2015 and 2016. Several states saw dramatic one-year upticks in this category, including: Tennessee (up 309 percent), Minnesota (up 122 percent), New Hampshire (60 percent) and Wyoming (50 percent).
Neglect cases, which reached a recent low of about 71 per 10,000 in 2012, increased through 2014 and now continue a slow descent back toward the 2012 mark. However, only 21 states actually saw a decrease between 2015 and 2016.
Pennsylvania saw an 89 percent increase in documented neglect cases, according to the report. Montana (up 73 percent) is the only other state that saw an increase of more than 50 percent.
In the wake of the 2011 sex abuse scandal at Penn State, Pennsylvania passed dozens of laws aimed at increasing the number of professionals required to report suspected maltreatment, and tightening scrutiny of people who work with young people.
The number of child abuse reports has skyrocketed since those laws took effect. There were 29,517 reports of child abuse in 2014, according to state data. That climbed to 42,018 in 2015, and 44,359 in 2016.
This is the second year that documented neglect cases have risen in the state; it jumped 25 percent between 2014 and 2015. Documented sexual abuse cases in Pennsylvania increased 10 percent between 2015 and 2016.
The trend report was authored by David Finkelhor, Kei Saito and Lisa Jones. It is based on data reported to the federal government through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
By John Kelly
29 March 2018