I have been in the position of Guardian for almost six years, short by many standards but long enough to know the challenges and pit-falls.
Many times I teeter on the edge of lowering my expectations of what can be provided to children to match my knowledge of what is there.
I caught myself doing it the other day while discussing an agreement about sibling access arrangements. In a hurry, I was suggesting compromises before everything had been explored. What was easy for me to treat as a task had big implications for the girls.
I did it again recently, in accepting that siblings would probably be separated and anticipating the justification as moving them to a less expensive placement. I belatedly realised I had thought of the rationale ahead of arguing their best interests. Fortunately it was not too late to return to the decision.
Of course decisions that depend on human and financial resources to implement have to take into account the likelihood of resources being available. The problem comes when we start to constrain before we expand. That is, our thoughts go straight to the justification for not doing something we know is good rather than start with what is good and look for everything we need to make it happen.
It’s the ‘good enough’ or ‘best we can do’ explanations for inadequate care or reduced hours in school or a wait of six months for mental health services that bother me. The reality is that this may be the best in the circumstances here and now but it is not okay to let this lie. The compromise should not become the end.
At a recent CAFWA forum, Nancy Penna, Director of Statewide Services at Families SA, said that in so many ways decisions for children in care are simple because we have to judge them against what we would want for our own children. The standard should be no less. Arguably it should be more, to balance prior disadvantage and loss.
The Rapid Response commitment made by the state government in 2005 and featured in this edition of the newsletter, is an example of public policy that raised expectations of what could be done for children and young people in care. Similarly, the introduction of the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care and the Alternative Care Standards lifted our sights to what was right and proper.
Our aspirations should be high. When the reality doesn’t match we plan for how it can, without blame or arrogance, but with purpose and intent. This child, every child, deserves no less.