Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies Conference (2022)

Association of Childrens Welfare
Agencies Conference
"What Works? Evidence Based Practice in Child and Family Services
Swiss Grand, Bondi Beach
3 September 2002

Keynote presentation
"Lessons from the UN Special Session on Children"
Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM, Human Rights Commissioner

I am delighted to
be invited to speak today at the Biennial Conference of the Association
of Childrens Welfare Agencies, in association with partner organisations
dedicated to the wellbeing of children.

Thank you Nigel (Nigel
Spence, CEO of Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies) for your invitation
and Kelly (MC Kelly Trewin) for your kind introduction.

I would like to acknowledge
the Dharawal people, part of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians
of the land on which we stand. I particularly like to do this as it reminds
us that Australia is blessed by having one of the oldest surviving cultures
in the world.

I am especially pleased
to be given the opportunity to speak to members of children's welfare
associations and agencies. Consulting and partnering with professionals
such as you is a central plank of the Commission's goal in promoting the
human rights of children in Australia. It is your invaluable day to day
dedication and expertise in children's rights which brings the Convention
on the Rights of the Child to life.

Today I acknowledge
and applaud your ongoing commitment. In particular I would like to mention
the welfare sector's role in providing first-hand testimony to the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Ex-Detention Centre social
workers, psychologists and others have testified about their experiences
and State children's and community services officers have generously shared
their time and expertise.

(Video) Interview with victims of Germany’s Child Welfare Agency. European Parliament accuses Germany

Turning for a moment
to that Convention over which I have jurisdiction, namely the Convention
on the Rights of the Child (CROC). Let me refresh your memories:

  • this treaty is
    the pre-eminent international human rights instrument dealing with children's
    rights;
  • its subject matter
    is wide, covering everything from the child's right to protection from
    sexual exploitation to the right to play;
  • it covers civil,
    political, economic, social and cultural rights;
  • it is the world's
    most ratified Convention;
  • Australia ratified
    the CROC over eleven years ago, in December 1990; it was scheduled to
    the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act in 1993;
  • CROC establishes
    the minimum benchmark for the way children are to be treated.

As you would be aware
the main distinguishing feature of CROC is that it recognises the right
of all children to participate meaningfully in all matters affecting them.
This emphasis has quite profound implications in the way adult society
must now negotiate its way through issues involving children.

We at the Human Rights
Commission are a statutory body, completely independent of Government.
As Human Rights Commissioner, it is my task to promote and protect the
human rights of all people in Australia.

In particular, the
Commission monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of
the Child in Australia and has the capability to inquire into acts or
practices by Federal Government agencies that may violate children's human
rights.

This we can do in
two ways. By investigating individual children's complaints of violations
of their rights under the Convention or by conducting broader inquiries
into systemic violations by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, for example,
my current National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, about
which more later.

Overall Australia
leads the world in protection of children: we do not face widespread malnutrition,
child labour and child prostitution; we have no military conscription
of under-18s.

In the past decade,
significant progress has been made domestically. For example with regard
to immunisation - according to Government figures, in 1996 only 56% of
one-year olds had been immunised against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus,
polio, measles, TB, but by March 2002, immunisation coverage of one year
olds had risen to 90.5%. In education, high school retention rates overall
have vastly improved.

However the progress
is not uniform. Some children still fall through the cracks, and here
I would like to mention three particular categories of children. Firstly
indigenous children, who show a high rate of incarceration in juvenile
justice centres, low health standards and lower school retention rates.
Secondly, children in state institutional care, and in particular babies
and children in immigration detention centres. And thirdly the 15% of
children living below the poverty line.

When asked where
we could improve - there is a range of common themes that have emerged
during my ongoing consultations with children and young people around
the country. These include:

(Video) Emerging Practices in Information Sharing between Child Welfare Agencies and DV Advocates

  • children's desire
    to participate in decisions affecting them;
  • a lack of harmonisation
    of laws and practices in relation to juvenile justice in the eight state/territory
    jurisdictions - for example with regard to police move-on powers;
  • the need for
    more civics and democracy education;

There were also some
calls for the creation of a Federal Children's Commissioner.

The information obtained
during my consultations proved to be very useful when I was invited to
attend the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children on 8-10 May
2002 as a member of the Australian Government delegation.

I participated in its work, including representing the leader of the delegation,
The Hon. Larry Anthony, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs at the
Gate Foundation Concert "Turn This World Around - Leadership for
Children" on 9 May 2002.

I am pleased to report
that both the Australian delegation and NGOs have played a positive role
in negotiations on the final document. I was particularly pleased that
Minister Anthony's statement delivered on behalf of Australia to the 27th
Special Session of the General Assembly on Children mentioned the work
of HREOC.

I also represented
Australia at the first meeting of Independent National Human Rights Institutions
regarding the protection and promotion of the rights of the child. This
was held
on 7 May 2002, prior to the UN Special Session. 17 countries sent their
representatives (Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Columbia, Denmark,
France, Iceland, Macedonia, NZ, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland,
South Africa, Spain and Sweden) and 3 observers.

During the meeting
the institutions shared information on their strategies, activities and
challenges to their work. In this context, I gave a report on Australia's
progress regarding the rights of children and outlined the functions and
structure of the Commission. I also spoke about the role of the Asia-Pacific
Forum.

The Meeting agreed
to:

  • urge Governments
    and the UN system to mainstream and give a priority to children's rights
    and to develop appropriate mechanisms, including legislation to advance
    children's rights;
  • support development
    of children's independent human rights institutions in every State;
  • call on the UN
    system to give formal recognition to independent human rights institutions
    to enable them to be active participants in all UN proceedings;
  • develop a list
    of long term follow-up and commitments, including a commitment to establish
    a global network of independent human rights institutions for children
    and the organisation of regular meetings and exchanges of information.

In addition, during
the visit to New York, I conducted a number of consultations with Australian
and other NGOs present at the Session and with UNICEF officials.

Turning now to the
other issue that has been consuming my time this year, namely the National
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

(Video) Child welfare agencies and CASA intersections (full length)

The Terms of Reference
are broad and include child asylum seekers' health and education needs;
legal status, mental health and development and overall treatment by staff.

The methodology is
very thorough, involving:

  • over 290 submissions
    received from health, education, welfare and legal professionals as
    well as members of the public, including refugees;
  • inspections of
    detention centres which include interviews with detainee children, young
    people and their families;
  • public hearings
    (DIMIA and ACM outstanding);
  • focus groups with
    ex-detainee children and young people;
  • examination of
    DIMIA/ACM documents.

On a number of occasions
I have expressed a concern about the human rights of children in immigration
detention. Clearly these children in immigration detention are among the
most vulnerable in Australia today, especially those who are unaccompanied
minors. Many of these children have fled situations of war and persecution.
They have arrived in a strange country after a long journey; for adults
these are confronting and traumatic experiences, how much more so must
they be for children?

Under Australian
law, all "unauthorised arrivals" (people who arrive without
visas) are placed in mandatory, non-reviewable and often long-term administrative
detention. This is despite the fact that they have not committed any crime
by seeking asylum in Australia. It is their right to seek asylum under
the Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a party.

Father Frank Brennan
gave the following analogy: "We are not to punish them for having
the temerity to turn up without a visa. This defect is the equivalent
of not having a parking permit when you have entered the carpark while
fleeing a bush fire."

The policy of detaining
during the processing of applications applies to both children with their
family and unaccompanied children. Detention, which can be for a period
of over one year, continues until the asylum seeker is recognised as a
refugee or deported. Under new laws in September 2001, asylum seekers
who arrive at "excised offshore places" are unable to apply
for any visa and may be removed to a "declared country" (eg.
PNG, Nauru).

The precise number
of children held in Australia's immigration detention centres will vary
from week to week. However, it is possible to say that over the past few
years, at least five hundred children have been held at any one time and
that the figures are comparable to the country's entire juvenile detention
population. I am pleased to say that at present the number of children
in detention in Australia has reduced to about one hundred and twenty,
but I would still argue that it is one hundred and twenty too many. And
this figure does not include children in Manus and Nauru.

Australia has international
obligations to protect these children as outlined in the Convention on
the Rights of the Child. According to CROC, the detention of a child shall
only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate
period of time (article 37(b), CROC).

Even when it is absolutely
necessary to detain a child, under the Convention, Australia must ensure
that the conditions and treatment of children in immigration detention
respect their human rights. This includes their right to education (article
28 and 29), to the highest attainable standard of health (article 24),
to practise their culture, language and religion (article 30) and their
right to family life (articles 5, 9, 18).

(Video) Child Welfare Agency Committee Meeting

One thing is clear,
if Australia decides to detain children, it must accept that this policy
brings with it certain obligations to do right by the children.

This poses the greatest
problem in the cases of long-term detention, where children and their
families cannot go backward or forward. The family may be rejected but
cannot be deported to another country because of the difficulty of procuring
travel documents or because they come from a country such as Iraq where
they cannot be returned at the present time. During the impasse they remain
in detention for months, sometimes years.

The effects of this
were never more evident than in my most recent visit to Woomera detention
centre in June 2002. I was deeply concerned by what I saw and heard. Many
children were on hunger strike and all were despairing. We were told that
children self-harm now on a weekly basis, and that the mental health of
all families has deteriorated markedly in the past six months.

An earlier visit
of my officers last January confirmed that there had been a number of
incidents of self-harm by children in the facility at the time of the
January hunger strike. Children were responding to the "atmosphere
of despair" in which they lived in the facility. Five months later,
the situation had deteriorated much further. The families that I interviewed
have been existing in detention centres for 15 to 20 months. Woomera in
particular now looks like a psychiatric hospital, but with no facilities
or appropriate staff, instead there are prison guards whose primary experience
has been securing adult penal institutions.

I can make no final
judgement in the middle of my Inquiry, however I can report that some
of the emerging themes, are:

  • the despair of
    those long-term detainees who can't understand why they are being detained
    when they only came here for protection;
  • the lack of adequate
    education - however I wish to acknowledge the recent move to use outside
    school facilities - this seems to be the right way to go;
  • health and mental
    care is still a concern with a lack of appropriate or timely medical
    and psychological care;
  • there is limited
    access to services for children with disabilities;
  • there is limited
    availability of child specific nutrition, for example, an unreliable
    supply of infant formula milk;
  • no adequate protection
    from witnessing of self harm or violence.

What I was also concerned
with during the public hearings was that a number of witnesses requested
in-camera hearings because of fear of speaking publicly. These included
not only detainees and ex-detainees, but visitors, volunteer workers and
ex ACM and DIMIA workers.

In conclusion, Australia
has a proud record with children's rights, but noblesse oblige.
And there are areas where Australia needs to improve, as I have indicated
in my address.

Australians, through
our governments, community and professional organisations, schools and
businesses need to take greater responsibility to ensure that no child,
no matter what its migration status, misses out on the enjoyment of her
or his inherent human rights.

Although we in Australia
have many things to be proud of, there is much work needed to ensure that
all children's rights are respected throughout the country, without discrimination
of any kind.

(Video) Norwegian Child Welfare Services. Things you must know before a meeting

I urge you to inform
yourselves further about the situation of asylum-seeking children in this
country. I urge you to inform other Australians, especially your professional
colleagues, about the issues associated with long-term mandatory detention.
We are a democratic country and we need to change public opinion to secure
policy change.

I thank you very
much for listening and wish you all the best in your vital work with children
and young people.

Last
updated 5 September 2002

FAQs

How many possible outcomes are there of a section 47 Enquiry? ›

The Section 47 Enquiry will result in one of four possible outcomes: Child protection concerns are substantiated and the child(ren) is (are) considered to be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, in which case an Initial Child Protection Conference will be convened.

What is the maximum timescale for children's services to make a decision? ›

The focus of the assessment must be on the needs of the child and the maximum. time for completion of any assessment is 45 days.

Can I refuse a child protection plan? ›

Unfortunately, as a parent, there is nothing that you can do to prevent your child being placed on a child protection plan. Whilst you can make your views known at conference, you cannot stop it from happening if all of the professionals are of the view that it is necessary.

What does a Section 17 assessment determine? ›

A 'child in need' assessment under section 17 will identify the needs of the child and ensure that the family are given the appropriate support in enabling them to safeguard and promote the child's welfare.

What happens after a child protection conference? ›

If the conference decide to take further action to protect your child, you should get legal advice from a specialist. They'll help you understand your options and work out the best way forward for you and your child. The conference can't say whether someone is guilty of abusing a child - only a court can do that.

How long should a section 47 investigation take? ›

While the timescale within which the assessment must be completed is 45 working days the outcome of enquiries under Section 47 must be available in time for an Initial Child Protection Conference which (if required) must be held within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting where the enquiries were ...

What do social services look for in a home? ›

Aside from having a clean and livable space, your social worker will also look to see if your home is free of any hazards. Make sure there is nothing that could make your home dangerous. This could mean ensuring wires are tucked away and unused outlets are covered.

Can a social worker speak to my child without my consent? ›

The Social worker should normally ask for permission from a parent first, unless he/she has good reason to believe you may threaten the child or try to make them stay silent, or otherwise compromise their enquiries.

How long do children's services have to respond? ›

Timescales

Once received, all Referrals must be written up and a decision made about their disposal within 1 working day of the initial contact. (Note: This should be as soon as possible where it is evident the child is seen as requiring immediate protection/urgent action.)

Can a social worker enter your home without permission? ›

Re: Can social workers just enter and search your home

You have every right to refuse any social service people admission to your home. They would have to go away and get police assistance + court order (they would have to provide enough evidence to a judge it was an emergency, that your kids were at risk).

Can I tell social services to go away? ›

Some have asked ” can I tell social services to go away ” – If you tell them to go away, they won't and you will end up in Court and there is then the risk that your children really will be removed. Be Honest. This might sometimes seem like a bad idea.

How often are child protection visits? ›

Children must be seen a minimum of once every 10 days. However, if the worries are significant this can be much more frequently, (remember to complete the correct child protection case note).

Can I refuse a parenting assessment? ›

The consent process should meet the criteria of informed consent. Parents have the right to refuse to consent as long as they truly understand the consequences. They may often feel, however, that there really is no option but to go through the assessment, thus feeling disempowered (Budd et al., 2006).

How long should a section 17 assessment take? ›

Social services are required to decide what response is required within one day of the referral being received and to conclude the assessment no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral.

Can I refuse a child and family assessment? ›

Yes. Child in need assessments are voluntary. This means that parents or carers do not have to agree to have an assessment. Remember, a child in need assessment aims to find out what extra help and services a child and their family need.

Why would you have a child protection conference? ›

The purpose of the conference is for parents and professionals who are involved with the child to get together and decide whether the child is at risk of significant harm, and if any action needs to be taken to protect the child.

What does it mean if a child is on a child protection plan? ›

After a child protection conference, the people who were there will make a plan to protect your child - this is called a 'child protection plan'. Check who can go to a child protection conference. You'll get a copy of the plan from a social worker.

What decisions can be made at an initial child protection conference? ›

The conference must decide if they think the child is likely to suffer significant harm in the future. If they do they must:
  • Come up with plans to make sure the child is safe and well cared for.
  • Decide whether there needs to be a child protection plan.
  • Set a date for any future review conference.

What happens after a section 47 investigation? ›

Concerns proved – If the outcome of the Section 47 enquiry is that concerns are raised with the Local Authority, they may make the decision to start Court proceedings by making an application for an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order concerning the child.

Can I refuse a section 47? ›

A child who is of sufficient age and understanding may refuse some or all of the medical assessment, though refusal can potentially be overridden by a court. Wherever possible the permission of a parent should be sought for children under sixteen prior to any medical assessment and/or other medical treatment.

Who attends a Section 47 strategy meeting? ›

The police, health professionals, teachers and other relevant professionals should attend the strategy meeting and support the local authority in undertaking its enquiries. The Children's Social Care Manager has responsibility for chairing the strategy meeting and authorising a Section 47 Enquiry.

What is considered an unstable home for a child? ›

The child may reside in a home that is not physically safe or supportive; it may have no heat, electricity, water, sewer disposal. The house may be in general ill repair. The second physical instability comes from the physical interactions that occur between family members.

What are the 4 types of child neglect? ›

Answer
  • Physical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary food, clothing, and shelter; inappropriate or lack of supervision.
  • Medical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment.
  • Educational Neglect. ...
  • Emotional Neglect.
27 Dec 2018

On what grounds can social services remove a child? ›

What are the common reasons social services would want to remove a child from a family? There are many reasons why a child could be removed from their home and placed outside of family and friends, but common reasons include abuse, neglect, illness, or abandonment.

Do judges always agree with social services? ›

The judge is likely unless he or she considers that the evidence before the court suggests otherwise to take full account of the recommendations made by children's services and the guardian.

Can you sue social services for false allegations? ›

The answer is yes, you can take legal action against if this has happened to you or someone that you love. You could be able to make a claim irrespective of whether the abuse or negligence that you have suffered happened recently or a long time ago when you were a child.

What questions would a social worker ask a child? ›

Depending on the allegations and what the caseworker observes, they may also ask questions about physical abuse.
...
Questions about Physical Abuse
  • How did you get that injury?
  • Do your parents ever hurt you on purpose?
  • Are you scared of making your parents angry? Why?
  • What happens when your parents get upset?
4 Jun 2020

Which 3 things should you avoid if a child makes a disclosure? ›

Don't make promises that you can't be sure to keep, e.g. "everything will be all right now". Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong and that you take what is said seriously. Don't promise confidentiality – never agree to keep secrets. You have a duty to report your concerns.

What can you do if someone falsely reports you to social services? ›

If a malicious or false report's made about you

If you think someone has intentionally made a false report against you or your family, contact the police. If the police agree the person who made the report is harassing you they may decide to investigate.

How long do social services take to investigate? ›

Investigations usually take about six months. The process may take longer depending on the availability of relevant information, or if an investigation is put on hold.

What is the timeframe for local authority to make a decision? ›

Within one working day of a referral being received, a local authority social worker should acknowledge receipt to the referrer and make a decision about next steps and the type of response required.

What is the maximum time frame for an assessment from the point of referral to conclude? ›

The maximum timeframe for the assessment to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral.

What is Section 17 of the Children's Act? ›

Section 17 of the Act places a general duty on all local authorities to 'safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need. ' Basically, a 'child in need' is a child who needs additional support from the local authority to meet their potential.

What is the recommended time frame for taking action in the review process Sova? ›

9.4 Timeliness & risk

Managing immediate risks- Some adult safeguarding concerns will require an immediate response to safeguard the adult. As an indicative timescale, an assessment of immediate risks and action needed should be undertaken within 48 hours of receiving the adult safeguarding concern.

What is the most common reason for a child protection plan? ›

Emotional abuse and neglect remain top reasons children are within the child protection system.

What is a Section 47 child? ›

A Section 47 enquiry means that CSC must carry out an investigation when they have 'reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm'1.

Can I refuse a section 47? ›

A child who is of sufficient age and understanding may refuse some or all of the medical assessment, though refusal can potentially be overridden by a court. Wherever possible the permission of a parent should be sought for children under sixteen prior to any medical assessment and/or other medical treatment.

Can I tell social services to go away? ›

Some have asked ” can I tell social services to go away ” – If you tell them to go away, they won't and you will end up in Court and there is then the risk that your children really will be removed. Be Honest. This might sometimes seem like a bad idea.

How long do social services take to investigate? ›

Investigations usually take about six months. The process may take longer depending on the availability of relevant information, or if an investigation is put on hold.

Can I refuse a parenting assessment? ›

The consent process should meet the criteria of informed consent. Parents have the right to refuse to consent as long as they truly understand the consequences. They may often feel, however, that there really is no option but to go through the assessment, thus feeling disempowered (Budd et al., 2006).

What is a Section 27 child protection? ›

Section 27 imposes a duty on other local authorities, local authority housing services and. health bodies to co-operate with a local authority in the exercise of that authority's duties. under Part 3 of the Act which relate to local authority support for children and families.

What is Section 20 of the Childrens Act? ›

20 Provision of accommodation for children: general.

(3)Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of sixteen and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation.

What does a Section 20 mean? ›

Section 20 agreements allow the local authority to remove a child and place them in foster care without the need for a court order. Whether or not to enter into a section 20 agreement is a voluntary decision made by the parents with the local authority.

What are 6 principles of safeguarding? ›

What are the six principles of safeguarding?
  • Empowerment. People being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consent.
  • Prevention. It is better to take action before harm occurs.
  • Proportionality. The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
  • Protection. ...
  • Partnership. ...
  • Accountability.

Are there 5 key principles of safeguarding? ›

Responding to risks in an appropriate, ideally unintrusive manner. Ensuring everyone has the knowledge and training required to protect people from abuse. Partnering with other organisations and communities to support vulnerable people. Making sure everyone understands their responsibilities around safeguarding.

What level risk is Priority 4? ›

Risk RatingRating Action Bands
2. UnlikelyLow Risk 3 or 4
3. LikelyMedium Risk 6 or 8
4. Most LikelyHigh Risk 9, 12 or 16
To establish Risk Rating multiply “Likelihood” by the “Severity”
2 more rows

Videos

1. ANIMAL MAGNETISM Dinesh D’Souza Podcast Ep388
(Dinesh D'Souza)
2. International Child Welfare Conference: Global Issues Facing Youth, Keynote Address
(The University of Chicago)
3. Webinar: Turnover… Turnaround: Creative Solutions for Child Welfare Agencies
(APHSA)
4. How can Child Welfare Services help?
(Barne-, ungdoms- og familiedirektoratet (Bufdir))
5. Improving Human-AI Partnerships in Child Welfare: Understanding Worker Practices, Challenges, ...
(ACM SIGCHI)
6. Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee (7-21-22)
(KY LRC Committee Meetings)

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