The use of kinship care for statutory child protection placements in Australia is burgeoning. The latest national AIHW figures (June 2017) reveal 47 percent of children living in out-of-home care were in kinship/relative care. ACWA is concerned about the lack of adequate, consistent policy and programmic responses for this growing form of care at both federal and state levels. For example:
- Grandparent carers are eligible for free childcare (subject to means test) while other kinship carers are not.
- Despite policy to the contrary, statutory kinship carers receive less financial support than foster carers.
- Some kinship care placements are made by child protection without a care allowance being authorised.
- Unlike foster care, kinship care assessments are undertaken post placement, and are frequently superficial. Alternative emergency placements are limited, rendering difficult the establishment of appropriate standards for kinship care placements.
Despite concerns about the safety of children in kinship care and the support provided to these carers, there is no national body advocating for a better response to this form of out-of-home care.
ACWA’s Kinship Care: Making It a National Issue project aims to establish a national policy focus on kinship care.
Funded by a grant from the Sidney Myer Fund’s Poverty and Disadvantage Program, this initiative will lay the groundwork for the development of a coherent policy approach to kinship care in Australia through a number of key activities including:
- High-level tracking of current policy and service provision across state and territory governments and NGOs to identify service gaps and associated risks.
- The hosting of a one-day kinship care national forum at the Human Rights Commission on August 23 to examine the issue and discuss solutions.
- The establishment of a kinship care specific subject stream on ACWA’s 2018 national conference program.
To further promote and highlight the issue, ACWA will be publishing a kinship care themed edition of our child, youth and family work journal developing practice incorporating papers presented at the ACWA 2018 conference as well as recommendations arising from the Kinship Care National Forum.
ACWA has established a steering committee and reference group made up of representatives from government agencies, NGOs and academia across Australia, to guide and support the project.