A Stolen Gen 5: Profits in the Care Industry and Grateful adoptees

A STOLEN GENERATION IN THE MAKING

 Part 5

Profits in the Care Industry

NSW Government under the leadership of Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister Pru Goward has put in place a foster care INDUSTRY.  Their government has contracted out to 38 different NGOs the administration of foster care whereby contractors receive payments for the number of children it provides a bed for each night.  It will receive payments based on quantity which will undoubtedly impact on the quality of the service offered.  It will receive bonuses for each child it moves from the foster care industry into adoption.  There are no incentives to support vulnerable families stay together nor to reunify them.  Further because of the costliness of organising contact visits between kin and their taken children it is doubtful that important relationships between a child and its extended family, including siblings, grandparents etc will be maintained.  There is no financial incentive to do so. Such meetings are not included in the unit price of the amounts government has allotted for each child in foster care – which these same service providers have already complained will not be sufficient to meet their costs.  To survive they must expand their services hence take more children.[1]

Professor Roberts explains the conflict of interest that occurs within US privatised agencies that are torn by two agendas:

Giving agencies the conflicting missions of reuniting foster children with their families while preparing them for adoption is likely to dilute agencies’ efforts at family preservation. When children enter the child welfare system they become candidates for adoption. By offering bonuses for adoption, the new federal law weakens even more caseworkers’ incentive to keep families together. Can unbiased decisions be made with regard to the risk to a child in an atmosphere where adoptive placements are being encouraged and financially rewarded?  The scales are weighted toward ending children’s ties with their parents and moving them into adoptive homes.[2]

By providing financial incentives to keep children in foster care and more incentives to speedily and forcibly separate them permanently by adoption Goward is being the catalyst for the break down of families across New South Wales.  If other States do not heed the sage advice of the Queensland Inquiry into Child Protection  Report (The Carmody Report):[3] that the foster care system has failed to protect and that children are better off with their parents with adequate supportive services in place – then we are going to have a national problem from which there will be no backing away. The buck stops with Ms Goward. She and Mr. O’Farrell and their supporters will go down in history has creating another stolen generation.

Goward has put in place a system run on a business model that treats children as “units”. She has created a climate in which NGOs will compete with each other to get a piece of the pie of a multi million dollar foster care industry. Children will be treated like commodities  in a market place based on competitive business principles in a post Regan/Thatcher world.  Applying a business model to child protective services is rigid, costly and ultimately will not deliver the hoped for reduction in child abuse. It has not worked in Queensland.[4]   It has not worked in the US where it has been described as a “system that fails children and families on both ends of the spectrum –whether the home is dangerous or safe”.[5]   Indeed the US model should not be mindlessly followed, but stand as a stark warning and as a deterrent.[6] The failed US foster care industry is extraordinarily expensive, inherently abusive and has social costs for which generations to come will continue paying.[7]  However we have powerful forces in play with vested interests.  Louise Voigt who sits on a panel with adoption activist Deborra Lee Furness [8] and has the ear of Pru Goward,[9] lobbied the Queensland government to adopt out the babies of dysfunctional families, because she claimed it was unreasonable to think they could be rehabilitated.[10]  To support her argument she uses the work of eugenicist,[11] Jeremy Sammut,  who she cites stating:

“The only effective and affordable way to protect children from dysfunctional parents … is early statutory intervention and permanent removal by means of adoption by suitable families”.[12]

The Queensland government announced on the 16 December 2013 that it was adopting all of the Carmody recommendations, but it was going to adopt out babies. Why is it in the best interests of a child of 3 to be reunited with its family, but for one who is 2 years and 10 month old its best interests is  to be placed with strangers?

Further it is discriminatory to adopt all recommendations to support vulnerable families except when it comes to babies.[13]  Particularly when it is understood that Voigt was lobbying the government to follow NSW’s lead and have Barnardo’s run their open adoption scheme in that State.  In Barnardos’ Submissions to the Queensland Inquiry into Child Protection the number of babies in care in Queensland, the amount adoption saved for the State and the fact potential adopters preferred babies were all points emphasised to promote adoption.[14]  Additionally Voigt noted how grateful adoptees and adopters would be: “Children who have been adopted are also highly appreciative[i] … Many infertile couples appreciate the ability have a child brought into their family”.

The headline Murdoch’s newspaper ran is evidences of its bias: “Child protection revolution to adopt suffering toddlers out of hell”.[15]  It seems that the Queensland Government took heed of Barnardos’ Submissions.

The Privatisation of the Out-Of-Home Industry

When one researches the history of adoption and child removal generally the most egregious practices were always justified by being ‘in the best interests of the child’. Even such atrocities as the Dr. Bernardo run migrant scheme that shipped thousands of children to Australia where they were placed in institutions and brutalised.  Who benefited from forced removals in the past? Certainly not the children nor their families, but it must be said a lot of money was made by those who traded in the trafficking of children.[16] The history of NGOs and child care is littered with the bodies of thousands of traumatised children and their families. They operated without transparency nor accountability.

Child Protection policy and legislation is certainly in need of reform, but not by repeating the mistakes of the past, not by creating another stolen generation.   Unfortunately Australian welfare policy is built on forced removals.  We have witnessed the results of these policies and practices in the testimonies of the Stolen Generations, Forgotten Australians and families torn apart by the policy of Forced Adoption.  Non-government organisations were very much involved in the forced removal of children from poor families and single mothers. The head of the Benevolent society in the late 19 early 20th centuries claimed that it was in the best interests of newborns to be forcibly taken – so they would not be “contaminated by  their pauperised families” or “morally contaminated” by their unwed mothers.[17]   Unwed Mother and Baby Homes were run by the Catholic and Anglican Churches and the Salivation Army and  were institutions that operated very much on the lines of the notorious Irish Magdalene laundries.   During the period between the 1950s-1980s a significant number of babies taken from their perfectly healthy unwed mothers were placed with strangers who abused them – some of their accounts are in the submissions to the Senate Inquiry into Forced Adoptions. The Forgotten Australians shared brutal accounts of being taken from loving parents only to be placed in institutions run by non government organisations.  Yet Minister Goward is presently transferring the administration of the out-of-home care system to many of these same NGOs and that once again are operating without transparency or accountability.[18]  This is unsurprising as not one individual was ever made accountable for the shocking abuses perpetrated on mothers and their stolen children in either government or non-government institutions. 

The Carers

At present there are 500 NSW foster carers under investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour.[19] More than 300 cases were classified as being part of a “backlog” as they had been running for nine months or more, and some as long as two years.[20] 50% of the allegations under investigation are deemed serious.[21]   A man accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour was allowed to continue fostering children and later confessed to raping a child in his care.[22] The man had come to the  attention of the Ombudsman in 2010, but nothing was done and he was allowed to continue fostering until 2012, when he was accused by another teenager of sexual assault. It was then that the other children in his care were removed.[23]  The Opposition’s family and community services spokeswoman, Linda Burney, states:

“With the outsourcing of foster care to the non-government sector, the question has to be asked, ‘What is the department doing to make sure that carers going into the non-government sector are properly being screened”?[24]

This is not the first time there has been concern about adequate screening of foster carers.  In 2010 Adele Horin exposed problems with the quality of carers and abuse of children in foster care during an investigation by the Herald.  Horin revealed that the state’s biggest foster care agency, Life Without Barriers (LWB), was being investigated by the NSW Ombudsman’s office over concerns it failed to properly check the background of its carers.[25] Concern was raised when a man with a history of sexual abuse was authorised as one of their foster carers and was given the care of an abused teenage boy. Two more allegations of sexual abuse emerged about its carers during the same year. LWB at the time, had federal and state contracts worth $200 million a year.[26]  It outsourced recruitment to independent contractors who were paid to find and assess prospective carers.  It paid contractors a weekly fee for each child placed with their carers.  The Supporters of Carers, as the contractors are known, or SOCs, do not need relevant welfare qualifications.  The system presents a financial disincentive to report problems because a SOC’s income is dependent on the number of children who are placed –and remain – with carers. There was a great deal of concern about the lack of “rigour of the agency’s system for recruiting foster carers in NSW”.[27]

At the time the alarm was raised by former staff when it was revealed that a coalition of NGO’s were pressuring the State Government to shift foster care entirely on to the non-government sector.  Community Services was responsible for 85% of foster carers, with the remainder contracted by NGO’s.[28]   LWB was responsible for more than 1000 children and received $140 million a year in State contracts alone for foster care. According to Horin, “it had a phenomenal growth in the past decade.  Critics believe the growth in foster care is due to a recruitment model that is good for business expansion, but not for children”. When the Herald newspaper viewed some internal documents they revealed that in October 2010, 14% of the 573 foster carers in the Sydney area did not have the legally mandated Working With Children Check, which includes a check of the relevant criminal records.  63% did not have the more extensive Criminal Record Check as required by LWB policy.  The recruitment of foster carers was outsourced by LWB to 30 contractors with no special qualifications.  The contractors were paid $350 to access potential carers.  For providing 24 hour support, they were paid a continuing fee of between $150 and $200 per child placed with carers.  The system provided a financial incentive for contractors to support their carers and to minimise problems.  The contractors or SOCs, earned up to $300,000 a year.  The SOCs were only supposed to employ 20 carers, but one had nearly double that amount. In addition some SOCs had subcontracted the carers they were supposed to monitor. Poorly screen carers proved a recipe for disaster:

Former and current staff told the Herald that last year there was a backlog of 180 allegations about carers some two years old and serious.  Former and current staff told the Herald that many foster carers lived in tough Housing Department areas and “are raking in thousands tax-free”.[29]

Appallingly there was a financial incentive to break up sibling groups as the second and subsequent siblings were paid at a lower rate compared with unrelated groups of children. According to former staff: “There are many cases where siblings were split up”.  An LWB spokeswoman said more than 97% of LWB’s children had only one or two placements in a year compared with a 47.5% rate for the whole sector.[30] One must ask is that because they have a financial interest to protect rather than the child?

So it seems the warnings were there in 2010, but with the rush to get part of the financial pie now available in child protection, they were not heeded. Caroline Overington, warned of the risks of shifting the management of foster care and adoption to NGOs in 2008:  “There are close to 13,000 children in state care in NSW, and the numbers are rising rapidly … An increasing number of foster homes are being managed by private corporations, which have stormed into NSW as tens of millions of dollars become available for those providing welfare services … The Australian spent several weeks visiting foster children in their homes, some which were overcrowded and dirty”.

The Create Foundation, an advocate for young people in care, warned that “children are removed to readily and that there were already too many in care”.[31]  Hence the warnings were there in 2008, 2010 and yet again in 2013. Unfortunately it seems that Minister Goward did not listen.

 


[1] NSW Family & Community Services. (2012).  Negotiation Update: Interim Business Rules for Exception Supports in OOHC cases where an NGO has all-inclusive funding  February  22;  Hanna, B. (2013).  Agents, Stewards and Co-Producers: Using theory to examine the outsourcing of out-of-home care in NSW, Unpublished Masters of Politics and Public Policy, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, MacquarieUniversity

[2] Dorothy Roberts, Professor of Law, Excerpts from Shattered BondsThe Color of Child Welfare (2002) New York: Basic Civitas Books cited  on Frontline, ‘An Assault on Family Preservation, 7 December 2013 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fostercare/inside/roberts.html

[3] The Australian, ‘Queensland inquiry recommends pulling back on child abuse reporting’, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/queensland-inquiry-recommends-pulling-back-on-child-abuse-reporting/story-e6frgczx-1226672542882

[4] See Commissioner Carmody’s scathing report of the failure of the Queensland out-of-home industry – Carmody, T. (2013). Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry: Taking Responsibility: A Roadmap for Queensland Child Protection, Queensland: Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry http://www.childprotectioninquiry.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/175248/QCPCI_Discussion_paper.pdf

[5] Frontiera, D. (2011). Fighting CPS : Guilty until proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges, Houston: The ABC’s Press

[6] Scott, D. (2007, Dec 18). ‘Children need protection from the grassroots up’, SMH, http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/children-need-protection-from-the-grassroots-up/2007/12/17/1197740178867.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1 ; Scott, D. (2002).  ‘A promise unfulfilled on child abuse’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 26(5),  pp. 415-416.

[7] Carangelo, L. (2003). Chosen Children: Billion Dollar Babies in America’s Foster Care, Adoption and Prison Systems, Electronic Edition http://www.parentsinaction.net/english/Adoption/chosen.pdf

[8] Clair Weaver, (2013, Nov 11). ‘Debora-Lee Furness launches fight for Australia’s ‘critical’ adoption situation’, Women’s Weekly, http://www.aww.com.au/news-features/news-stories/2013/11/deborra-lee-furness-launches-fight-for-australias-critical-adoption-situation/ ; National Press Club: Adoption Crisis Forum, (2013, Nov 13). Speakers Deborra-Lee furness, Dr. Jane Aronson, Dr Karyn Purvis and Louise Voigt http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-13/national-press-club-adoption-crisis-forum/5089322

[9] Peter Lloyd (2013, Dec 19). ‘New taskforce to make adoption easier’, ABC PM, http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2013/s3914933.htmhttp://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2013/s391493 Emma Griffiths. (2013, Dec 19). ‘Tony Abbott announces new measures to simplify adoption within a year’, ABC Newshttp://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-19/tony-abbott-vows-measures-easier-adoption/5167098

[10] With respect  to family preservation Louse Voigt states: “there is … a consistent, but often unreasoned, belief that social welfare professionals can bring about significant change in entrenched behaviour of parents which is highly questionable” see Voigt, L. (2013). ‘Social Impact Bond Schemes & Service Providers’,  Social Finance Forum – 7-8 August, A presentation by Louise Voigt, CEO and Director of Welfare, Barnardos Australia on 8 August, at p. 6 http://www.barnardos.org.au/media/39157/louise-voigts-speech-to-social-finance-forum-8-aug-2013.pdf

[11] Sammut cites extensively eugenicist Charles Murray in his Centre for Independent Studies  Issue Analysis (‘The Fraught Politics of Saying sorry for Forced Adoption, Implications for Child Protection Policy’ (2012, p. 8))  to support his argument that giving welfare to single mothers will create  “an underclass”. Sammut states: “The tragic reality is that there is a growing underclass of inadequate parents who are not fit to care for children, which includes disproportionate numbers of single-mother families”. Murray in a widely discussed 1993 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal (‘The Coming White Underclass’), described illegitimacy as “the single most important social problem of our time, more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else”. The heart of this problem, according to Murray, who also spoke in November 1994 on This Week with David Brinkley, is that “we have too many babies living in communities without fathers … [white illegitimacy] is overwhelmingly a lower-class phenomenon” Murray cited in  Barbara Yngvesson, (1997).  ‘Negotiating Motherhood: Identity and Difference in “Open” Adoptions’, Law & Society Review, 31(1), pp. 31-80 at p. 39.  Prime Minister Tony Abbott clearly influenced by the above 2 eugenicists stated that adoption should be promoted for the children of “parents who are not effective” see Emma Griffiths. (2013, Dec 19). ‘Tony Abbott announces new measures to simplify adoption within a year’, ABC Newshttp://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-19/tony-abbott-vows-measures-easier-adoption/5167098

[12] Barnardos Australia Submission to Queensland Child Protection Inquiry September 2012, http://www.childprotectioninquiry.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/162384/Barnardos_Australia_Voigt_Louise.pdf

[13] Silva, K. (2013, Dec 16). ‘Govt adopts child safety measures’, Brisbane Times, http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/govt-adopts-child-safety-measures-20131216-2zfxl.html

[14] Barnardos Australia Submission to Queensland Child Protection Inquiry September 2012, http://www.childprotectioninquiry.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/162384/Barnardos_Australia_Voigt_Louise.pdf ;  Voigt, L. (2013, Feb) Submission to Queensland Child Protection Inquiry – Response to parts of discussion paper  from Barnardos Australia, http://www.barnardos.org.au/media/49946/queensland-inquiry-into-cp-parts-15-03-13.pdf

; Voigt, L. (2013). ‘Social Impact Bond Schemes & Service Providers’,  Social Finance Forum – 7-8 August, A presentation by Louise Voigt, CEO and Director of Welfare, Barnardos Australia on 8 August,  http://www.barnardos.org.au/media/39157/louise-voigts-speech-to-social-finance-forum-8-aug-2013.pdf

[15] Madigan, M. (2013, 16). ‘Child protection revolution to adopt suffering toddlers out of hell”, The Courier Mailhttp://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/child-protection-revolution-to-adopt-suffering-toddlers-out-of-hell/story-fnihsrf2-1226783634203

[16] Karen Rotabi, (2014, Jan 20). ‘‘Philomena,’ A Must See Film About the Magdalene Laundries and Forced Adoptions’’,  RH Reality Check, http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/01/20/philomena-must-see-film-magdalene-laundries-forced-adoptions/ ;  Eekelaar, J. (1994). ‘‘The Chief glory’: The Export of Children from the United Kingdom’, Journal of Law & Society, 21(4), pp. 487-504; Murdoch, L. (2006). Imagined Orphans: Poor Families, child Welfare, and Contested Citizenship in London’, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press, pp. 14-15. Sunday Mail, (1995). ‘Adoption Scam’; McCabe, B. (1997). ‘Ivy McGregor-Women with Attitude’ Jan Kashin (Ed), In Separation Reunion Reconciliation: Proceedings of the Sixth Australian Conference on Adoption,Brisbane: Janice Benson;

McCabe, B. (2000). ‘The state, adoption, and Matron Ivy McGregor’, Queensland Review, 7(2), Oct, pp. 85-98.

[17] Cole, C. (2013). Stolen Babies Broken Hearts: Forced Adoption in Australia 1881-1987, Unpublished Doctorate, School of Social Sciences and Psychology,  UWS, http://arrow.uws.edu.au:8080/vital/access/manager/Repository/uws:17555

[18] Hanna, B. (2013).  Agents, Stewards and Co-Producers: Using theory to examine the outsourcing of out-of-home care in NSW, Unpublished Masters of Politics and Public Policy, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, MacquarieUniversity

[19] Foschia, L. (2013, Sep 16). “FACS boss reveals 500 NSW foster carers are being investigated over alleged inappropriate behaviour’, ABChttp://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-16/500-nsw-foster-carers-investigated-over-behaviour/4959846

[20] NSW faces 500 foster abuse claims, (2013, Sept 13). News.com, http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/nsw-faces-500-foster-abuse-claims/story-e6frfku9-1226720164534

[21] Foschia, L. (2013, Sep 16). “FACS boss reveals 500 NSW foster carers are being investigated over alleged inappropriate behaviour’, ABC, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-16/500-nsw-foster-carers-investigated-over-behaviour/4959846

[22] ibid

[23] NSW faces 500 foster abuse claims, (2013, Sept 13). News.com, http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/nsw-faces-500-foster-abuse-claims/story-e6frfku9-1226720164534

[24] ibid

[25] Horin, A. (2010, Dec 14). ‘Child’s agency’s background checks under cloud’, SMHhttp://www.smh.com.au/nsw/child-agencys-background-checks-under-cloud-20101213-18vi0.html

[26] Adele Horin. (2010, Dec 13). ‘Foster carer linked to sex abuse slipped past the barriers’, SMH, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/foster-carer-linked-to-sex-abuse-slipped-past-the-barriers-20101212-18u1w.html

[27]Adele Horin. (2010, Dec 13). ‘Foster carer linked to sex abuse slipped past the barriers’, SMH, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/foster-carer-linked-to-sex-abuse-slipped-past-the-barriers-20101212-18u1w.html

[28] ibid

[29] Horin, A. (2010, Dec 14). ‘Child’s agency’s background checks under cloud’, SMHhttp://www.smh.com.au/nsw/child-agencys-background-checks-under-cloud-20101213-18vi0.html

[30] Horin, A. (2010, Dec 14). ‘Child’s agency’s background checks under cloud’, SMHhttp://www.smh.com.au/nsw/child-agencys-background-checks-under-cloud-20101213-18vi0.html

[31] Caroline Overington. (2008, Nov 21). ‘Former judge fails to meet children in preparing care report’, The Australian, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/archive/news/children-ignored-in-care-report/story-e6frg6o6-1111118098172?from=public_rss


[i] This is highly insulting to adoptees.  They are expected to feel grateful for being “saved”.  There is no mention of how they were used in the past to save a marriage and/or provide a family. Why doesn’t anyone suggest that adopters be grateful to adoptees for the years of joy they have provided?

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