With June already upon us, it would be safe to say that the first half of 2018 has delivered little joy for ACWA and indeed the sector as a whole. It seems that uncertainty is the only certainty in this current climate.
With the new Permanency Support Program set to be fully implemented on July 1, agencies have been focusing their efforts on putting in place the new structures and processes necessary to meet the requirements of the new contracts. However, a lack of detail, particularly in relation to costings, continues to frustrate and engender ongoing concern.
In terms of the Intensive Therapeutic Care recommissioning process, FACS has identified a shortlist of preferred respondents and agencies have been notified accordingly. Understandably, ACWA has been approached by a number of agencies outlining their concerns and uncertainties in relation to the outcomes and process. Given the confidentiality clauses involved, it is difficult to determine at this stage exactly what the landscape will look like for children and young people in this area of care. ACWA will however continue in our efforts to develop a clearer picture. We have also spoken with the Children’s Guardian, who shares many of our concerns around the transitional arrangements for children and young people.
It is no secret that there has been a sense of growing unease across the sector around Minister Pru Goward’s infatuation with fast tracked adoption as a means to reducing the number of NSW children in care. This runs contrary to the approach of any other jurisdiction in Australia and, while we fully acknowledge that adoption forms part of the continuum of permanency options for children, we do not share Minister Goward’s ideological intent to make it the most prominent on the placement hierarchy. ACWA, alongside our Aboriginal peak counterpart AbSec, remains fully committed to family reunification as the top priority.
Unfortunately the NSW Government has made its intended policy direction patently clear by awarding to adoption advocacy group Adopt Change the tender to lead the recruitment and support of foster carers,under the newly named My Forever Family NSW. ACWA and AbSec have released a joint statement vehemently opposing this decision. Not only is it highly insensitive to the cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, but it runs contrary to what is in their best interests of all vulnerable children and young people.
For ACWA, this tender outcome means our Fostering NSW recruitment and retention project will be closing up shop at the end of June, after five years. Running this program has been a great privilege for ACWA, and our understanding of the challenges of recruitment and foster carer retention has been greatly enhanced as a result. Of course we couldn’t have done any of this important work without our talented, committed Fostering NSW team and a highly supportive statewide reference group. We also thank the agencies who, in sharing our vision of a co-operative service sector, have so actively supported our efforts.
While on the topic of co-operation, I turn my attention to the upcoming Foster Care Week. Despite the loss of the Fostering NSW project, it is our desire that key elements of this very important week in September continue, in particular the ever-popular annual Foster Care Week Picnic Day in Sydney. ACWA has been running this event in close collaboration with the sector since 1990 to celebrate our exceptional foster carers and all that is good about our sector. We will be having discussions with both FACS and the proponents of the My Forever Family NSW program over the coming weeks in order to establish where Foster Care Week sits in their vision going forward. In the meantime, ACWA is writing to our member agencies outlining how you can support us in helping to keep Foster Care Week alive. We are hopeful you will consider extending your generous support to Foster Care Week 2018.
Against this backdrop, ACWA has been busy forging ahead with plans for our 2018 national conference in August. We have a full and thought-provoking program in the pipeline, with nine international keynote speakers now locked in. Our social program also has plenty on offer, with aWelcome Reception at NSW Government House as well as our conference dinner, where winners of the 2018 ACWA Achievement Awards will be announced. This is a time to celebrate the extraordinary work happening in our sector, so please consider nominating those who have gone above and beyond. All information about our conference, as well as registration details, can be found on our conference website. I look forward to seeing you in Sydney in August.
We are all operating at the moment amid a climate of change and uncertainty. In closing, let me reassure you that ACWA, as your peak body, plans to continue to advocate for our members and the broader sector. There has never been a more important time to have a strong, advocacy voice to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children, young people and families we serve.