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Vulnerable young people deserve chance to flourish

Jesuit Social Services says an understanding of the particular needs of Aboriginal children and families in the child protection system is vital in improving outcomes, following the release of a report by the Commission for Children and Young People.

“We know that Aboriginal children are dramatically over-represented in all areas of the child protection system in all states and territories,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“Here in Victoria, the rate at which Aboriginal children experience an out-of-home-care placement is among the highest in the country. In 2014, Aboriginal children were nearly 12 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to have experienced an out-of-home-care placement.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent another Stolen Generation.”

The report, In the Child’s Best Interests: Inquiry into compliance with the intent of the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle in Victoria, includes 54 recommendations aimed at placing Aboriginal people and community controlled organisations at the heart of decision-making and case management.

Recommendations which relate to the Department of Health and Human Services have all been accepted in full, in principle or in part.

Ms Edwards says that improving outcomes for young people involved in the out-of-home-care system can prevent vulnerable children and young people from becoming involved in the youth justice system.

“We recently completed a snapshot of participants engaged in our adult and youth justice programs and found that 60 per cent had Child Protection involvement either as children, parents or both. This supported a similar survey published in the Youth Parole Board Annual Report 2014-15 which showed that 62 per cent of current youth parole clients were present or former Child Protection clients,” says Ms Edwards.

Ms Edwards says that Jesuit Social Services supports a therapeutic response that addresses the needs of vulnerable children, particularly those in the state care system who come into contact with the justice system.

“It is also crucial to note that many Aboriginal children and young people in the out-of-home care and youth justice systems have experienced disadvantage in areas such as health, housing and education. Vulnerable young people need support to engage with vital preventative support services to allow them to flourish.”

Media enquiries – Kathryn Kernohan, 0409 901 248 or kathryn.kernohan@jss.org.au