Following extensive consultation and advice from key child protection stakeholders, the State Government will not pursue opening a secure care facility for children and young people in care at this time.
The State Government recently consulted broadly with key stakeholders. Of those, the overwhelming majority did not support implementing a model of secure therapeutic care.
Instead, nearly all stakeholders recommended a therapeutic model of care should be implemented across the system first.
The State Government has listened to the experts and recently announced a new $600,000 commitment towards implementing the Sanctuary Model of therapeutic care to support quality care and outcomes for all children and young people.
Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson said since coming into Government she had continued to consult with key stakeholders and sector experts on this issue.
“Upon forming Government, we reviewed the evidence, looked at the latest research and thoroughly consulted with stakeholders before forming a view on whether secure care is the most appropriate next step in improving the child protection system,” said Minister Sanderson.
“The overwhelming majority of experts told us they do not support a model of secure therapeutic care at this time and key child protection stakeholders recommend that the Government first invest in a therapeutic model of care – and we have listened.
“The Department for Child Protection will instead focus its efforts on investment in therapeutic residential care, as seen by our recent $600,000 commitment to the new Sanctuary Model across all Department residential care units over the next three years.
“Early intervention and prevention continues to be a Liberal Government focus, with a number of programs and pilots now underway to better support our most vulnerable South Australian children and their families.”
Department for Child Protection Lead Psychiatric Director Dr Prue McEvoy said there was limited evidence to support secure care achieving improved outcomes for children and young people who have already experienced severe neglect and abuse prior to coming into state care.
“We must concentrate on developing a therapeutic system of care that is trauma-informed and focussed on meeting the needs of children as soon as they come into care,” said Dr McEvoy.
“For children requiring residential care – often the most complex – the introduction of our new therapeutic residential model Sanctuary is a very important part of this process, that will address trauma these children have experienced.
“A short-term secure environment does not achieve this and contributes to an ongoing crisis driven system which can perpetuate their distress."
Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright said: “The Minister has made the right decision in seeking not to pursue a model of secure therapeutic care in South Australia.”
“My position remains the same as when the Guardian was last asked to provide advice on this matter in 2008, as there has been little change of significance,” said Ms Wright.
“In the absence of other intensive therapeutic residential services, there is little evidence to show benefits from secure therapeutic care so it is better to make the investment needed for all children in residential care.”
“The roll out of the Sanctuary model across DCP residential care facilities is an important first step in improving the care experience of some of our most vulnerable children and young people. If we improve their lives they are less likely to leave their placement.”
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People April Lawrie said: “I am pleased the Minister will not be going ahead with the secure therapeutic care model”.
“My obvious concern was that for the Aboriginal community of South Australia, a secure care facility would form part of the ongoing incarceration of our Aboriginal children, or alternatively, be utilised as a facility where Aboriginal children who are deemed ‘difficult’ be placed,” said Commissioner Lawrie.
Commissioner Lawrie said the Government must instead focus on co-designing a culturally informed model of therapeutic care for Aboriginal children and young people.
The former Labor Government had 10 years and two Royal Commissions to take action on delivering a secure care model are care - and did nothing.