Charities welcome NSW foster care overhaul
12th July 2012
Updated 12th July 2012
CHARITIES will now be looking after thousands of vulnerable children in NSW foster care after the system was overhauled to free up the time of overworked government case workers.
Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward has announced the government will award 38 charities and non-government agencies a total of $123.9 million over four years to support foster parents and children.
Ms Goward said the main responsibility of the Department of Community Services (DoCS) case workers was child protection, and foster children were often neglected.
"Our key job is actually investigating complaints and suggestions that a child is at risk," Ms Goward told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
"Case workers are now free to do that job because the non-government sector will, over the next four years, progressively be taking up the children and caring for their needs.
"Remember the government's community services was not accredited to provide foster care; we did not see children.
"We were lucky if they saw a child other than in a crisis."
Under the new regime the children will be in regular contact with accredited workers from the non-government organisations.
Among the 38 organisations are 11 Aboriginal agencies to support indigenous children and foster parents.
In total, as many as 6,800 children who cannot live safely with their families will be supported by charities such as Wesley Mission, who will receive $15.3 million.
Smaller charities will also be involved such as the Benevolent Society, which will receive $1.4 million.
The society's chief executive, Anne Hollonds, said her staff were committed to giving vulnerable children the best chance in life.
"We owe it to these children and young people to do everything we can to turn these odds around by making the experience as positive as possible and giving them a shot at a better future," she said.
Association of Children's Welfare Agencies chief executive Andrew McCallum also welcomed the reform, saying it would create a more specialised system.
The changes follow a special commission of inquiry into child protection services in 2008 after the deaths of several children known to DoCS.
Justice James Wood recommended that the private sector take control of foster care in the state because DoCS workers were often preoccupied with crisis-driven work.
NSW has the highest rate of children and young people in out-of-home care at 10.7 per 1,000, compared with the national average of about seven in 1,000.