WA child protection staff asked to take in children in COVID-19 last resort

by Annabelle Hennessy for The West Australian

WA child protection staff have been asked if they would be willing to take kids in care home with them as the department prepares for a crisis scenario where wards of the state could be left without placements due to COVID-19.

The West Australian has obtained emails in which WA Communities employees were told children in state care may need to be placed in the homes of staff members in a "last resort scenario".

"In planning for the future months, there are scenarios where there are children in care that may not have care arrangements as a result of the impact of Coronavirus," the email which was sent to staff earlier this month said.

"There may come a time where we need to plan for children NOT infected with Coronavirus to be placed with staff members. This is a last resort and a time-limited scenario."

The email asked staff to consider if they had enough space for a child at their home and whether everyone in their family would be able to receive a Working With Children Check and meeting screening requirements.

Those interested were asked to contact their line manager and let them know how many children they could care for.

CPSU/CSA Branch Secretary Rikki Hendon said relying on staff to bring children in care home with them was unsustainable.

“It creates risk that child protection workers will receive no respite from their emotionally challenging work, suffer burnout and leave the Department, which ultimately places the system under even more strain," Ms Hendon said.

“It also poses a risk to children in care, who need to be in stable, ongoing care placements where their often-complex needs can be met.

“We need more carers to provide a secure and stable home for vulnerable children. We also need to support the excellent carers we do have by reinstating support through a dedicated foster carers unit.”

WA Minister for Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk, however, defended the plan stressing that the placements were voluntary.

“The Department of Communities has advised that staff were surveyed to ascertain if they would be in a position to care for a child on a time-limited basis," Ms McGurk said.

“These are extraordinary circumstances and the Department is exploring a range of options to plan for all possible scenarios that may arise due to the ongoing challenge of COVID-19.

“These placements are voluntary. If people do not wish to participate, then they do not have to.

“The health and safety of children in care has always been and remains the priority of the Department.”

Read the original article on The West Australian by Annabelle Hennessy 

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