Reposted from a story by Political Reporter Lauren Novak adelaidenow June 10, 201310:00PM
Child Development Minister Jennifer Rankine. Source: News Limited
FAMILIES SA will hire at least 360 full-time public servants to care for the most troubled children in state care, replacing expensive casual carers and eliminating the need to place children in motels.
The initiative will save almost $20 million a year.
About 140 children who have been removed from their parents live in government-funded accommodation because their circumstances rule out foster care or living with family members.
It costs the government $322,600 per year to contract carers to look after one child for 24 hours a day, totalling about $45.1 million for all 140 children.
Education and Child Development Minister Jennifer Rankine said hiring full-time public servants would cost $180,500 per child per year, or a total of $25.2 million for all 140 children – an annual saving of $19.8 million.
Ms Rankine said replacing casual carers with Families SA staff meant “our most troubled young people will get the long-term, therapeutic and consistent care that they require” instead of supervision by contractors who changed from day to day.
“Our children deserve to have care from the state’s very best so they can grow into confident and well-adjusted adults,” she said.
“They must be nurtured by caring staff from a highly skilled workforce.”
The 360 full-time carers will include existing Families SA staff now working part-time and new staff recruited to the public service.
The Government will advertise the positions in about a month and all 360 staff are expected to be in place by mid-2015.
They will be hired on three-year contracts and must undergo police and child protection background checks, a psychological assessment and at least six weeks’ training.
The ratio of carers to children will range from one to three to one-on-one.
Savings made from the change will be spent on therapy for children, supervision and training for staff.
Child protection expert Freda Briggs said vulnerable children “need continuity of care”.
“It’s absolutely vital that they’re able to become attached to one person. If it’s not the parent you need a regular parent replacement figure,” she said.
“When children are being cared for by agency workers you never know who is going to be looking after them tomorrow.”
Ms Rankine added a better level of care would also mean children could be moved from government housing to family placements sooner.
The State Government has used Federal Government stimulus funding to purpose-build or remodel 22 homes across Adelaide to house at-risk children, taking the total number of multiple-bedroom homes to about 50.
Ms Rankine said the extra accommodation “phases out the need to use motel rooms”.
Education and Child Development Department deputy chief executive of child safety David Waterford said few children were put in motel rooms these days.
“Maybe one or two nights out of every fortnight we might have one child in a (motel) room,” he said.
Mr Waterford said some children stayed in state housing for only a few weeks until they could be rehomed with a family member or foster carer.
“For children with the most extreme needs we’d be talking several months to a couple of years,” he said.
“These are children who are removed from their parents because its not safe for them to be there. There are children who have experienced significant trauma and they may have behavioural issues.”
Mr Waterford said having consistent contact with Families SA staff would “help stabilise and heal these kids so they can move on to a foster care environment”.
The number of children needing out-of-home care has been rising, prompting the government to allocate a separate $27.2 million in last week’s state Budget for extra foster and family care