Jane French, Executive Director, Children, Youth and Families, shares her reflections on National Child Protection Week.
National Child Protection Week is never an easy one. How do we acknowledge something that, by its very nature, is hard to acknowledge? The very fact that children in our society need protection is hard to dwell on. So, how should we focus our attention during this significant week?
Should we focus on the children who experience the impact of abuse and neglect and need our protection?
Thinking about the parents who are instrumental in children’s suffering is difficult, too, because almost all of them have experienced abuse and neglect themselves and are worthy of our attention, empathy and support. They are also the key to helping us improve the way the system responds to vulnerable children.
Should we think about our Youth Detention Centres, where 10-17 years olds are incarcerated, nearly all of whom have experienced abuse and neglect? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are over-represented in these centres.
Or look at our homeless population and ask ourselves how many of them experienced a warm and loving home life?
As a country, so many of our social challenges can be linked back to an unsafe childhood. We must do better at protecting our children, at supporting families to stay together safely, at teaching parents – who didn’t experience loving kindness themselves – to provide this for their kids. No parent starts out wanting to harm their children. It isn’t really that complicated. Let’s put the funding where it counts – keeping kids safe at home.
So, while we wait for that to happen, let me take this opportunity to acknowledge this is Child Protection Week, and it is hard for parents whose children are in care and for the children themselves.
At Life Without Barriers, we believe that families should – wherever it is safe and in children’s best interests – be actively involved in their children’s lives. As such, ‘Family involved’ is a principle that guides our work. But we know that this principle can’t diminish the impact of the separation when children are in out-of-home care.
Let me also wholeheartedly honour the thousands of Foster Carers, child protection and out-of-home care practitioners who give their all every day to keep children safe. You are greatly admired, appreciated and acknowledged. Life Without Barriers could not do what we do without you!
I am proud every day of the work you do in supporting children to live full and happy lives, to be reunified with their families, to be returned to Country, or to be transitioned to long-term guardianship and sometimes even adoption.
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