An independent inquiry is currently underway, looking into the foster and kinship care system in South Australia. Calls for submissions are open, providing carers the opportunity to share their stories in an effort to improve the conditions in which they provide care and the outcomes for the children and young people they care for.
The inquiry, which is being led by Inquirer Dr Fiona Arney, began in January and will run until 8 June 2022. Submissions are welcomed from current and former foster and kinship carers (including respite and emergency carers), biological children of carers, children and young people who are currently or have been under guardianship in family-based care and agency staff.
The inquiry is seeking feedback on the following areas:
- existing complaint mechanisms as they relate to foster care and kinship care
- existing consultation and information-sharing processes with foster and kinship carers
- any potential recommendations to improve foster and kinship care in South Australia.
“This is a crucial opportunity for the carer voice to be heard and inform legislative reform,” Fiona said.
“We at the peak body for carers are hopeful the inquiry will identify areas in the sector that can be addressed and improved, and embed long lasting changes that will benefit carers and ultimately their children and young people,” she said.
Fiona said Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers SA will focus on a series of submissions for the inquiry.
“Our main focus is to ensure carers are supported to develop their individual submissions. We will also develop group submissions for carers who prefer this method, in addition to our overall organisation submission as the peak body.”
Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers SA’s submission would stem from the seven election commitments they have developed ahead of the upcoming 2022 state election, as well as other topics carers would like raised. The seven election commitments include: a whole of government approach to address the needs of children and young people under guardianship, adequate carer payments, better access to respite support and extended support for young people and their carer families to age 25.
Fiona said the success of the inquiry will come down to the input from the carers themselves and their confidence that that they are going to be heard.
“Carers feel like they’ve already shared critical information about what needs to change in the past so there is some resistance in retelling their stories,” Fiona said.
“Carers need to be guaranteed their voices are being heard and what they say is confidential. They want confirmation of what they are allowed to share and reassurance that what they share is going to be protected yet still serve to improve the outcome of the sector.”
“It is essential that the inquiry process is made clear, accessible and inclusive, especially for First Nations People.”
Fiona noted that writing a submission could be retraumatising for carers, and the inquiry needs to ensure duty of care to the mental health of carers.
“We anticipate carers will come to us for help and support which is why we are running a series of virtual information sessions for our members. Presented by Mark Parnell, Civics Educator, the sessions look at what an inquiry is and how carers can make an effective submission,” Fiona said.
“We will also provide factsheets and provide support (both telephone and face-to-face) to guide the carers through this process.
“Carers have significant experience in child protection and are aware of so many of the issues the sector faces. There is so much to learn from them. We are committed to ensuring the voices of carers (both past and present) will be present to be heard, as part of the inquiry process,” Fiona said.
A report into the inquiry is expected to be released once the inquiry concludes in June 2022. And a full review of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 is expected to begin in October 2022.
Submissions close 3 May 2022.
If you have any questions about the inquiry, please email email@example.com
If you a member of Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers SA and would like information on making an individual or group submission, please get in touch with them on either 1800 732 272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.