There is a focus on protecting the interest of children. Such focus is specifically outlined with children with disabilities. The Child Protection policy, governed by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) indicates the process and the procedures required for supporting and protecting children from. The policy and a corresponding government plan – Keep them Safe, which address the same areas of concern, are argued to be beneficial for Non Governmental Organisations providing services to children with disabilities. The present paper analysed the application of the policy and the government plan to the case of Down Syndrome NSW association. The report found out that the policy was positively reflected through the activities and the goals of the association. The report concluded with a recommendation of extending the activities of the associations to problem families who have children with disabilities.
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There is a significant emphasis on protecting the rights of children, in which the government takes the leading roles. In that regard, the social policies taken in such direction reflect the recognition of the government to the various threats and risks putting children at harm. One group of children whose interests can be specifically outlined are children with disabilities. In Australia, Child Protection Policy can be seen as the framework that articulates the way child interests are recognised and protected.
Overview of Policy
The general guiding principle of the policy is providing clear direction for employees who have concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children during the course of their work. Although the principles of the policy are directed toward children in general, specific focus is given to children with disabilities, considering the focus of the governing body of such policy – Department of Ageing, Disability, and Home Care (DADHC) (ADHC & Department of Human Services NSW, 2010). One of the guiding principles of the policy is supporting the right of children to be safe from harm, putting children first, and supporting them within their families and communities (ADHC & Department of Human Services NSW, 2010). Additionally, one organisation that can be stated to be directly connected to the policy is Down Syndrome NSW Association.
Overview of Organisation
Down Syndrome NSW is a “community based, not-for-profit organisation established by the families of people with Down syndrome in 1980” (Down Syndrome NSW, 2011a). Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that occurs once in “approximately every 860 babies born throughout the world” (Down Syndrome NSW, 2011b). Additionally, such condition is one of the most common causes of intellectual disabilities, albeit, the degree to which he syndrome affects children’s intellectual capacity might vary. The main aim of the organisation is providing information to people with Down syndrome, their families, service providers, and other stakeholders, in order to promote the interests of people with Down syndrome and help them realise their full potential. Although the aims of the Association are targeted toward people with Down syndrome of all ages, children are specifically outlined, considering that Down syndrome is a condition that can be identified at birth, the care of children with such disability and the recognition of their needs can direct the way they will lead their lives in the future (Down Syndrome NSW, 2011b). The current paper will attempt to outline the impact of the Child Protection policy on the functioning of the Down Syndrome NSW Association and their client group.
Child Protection policies can be implemented and devised in a range of contexts and accordingly regulated by different government bodies. An example of such differentiation can be seen through another Child Protection policy regulated by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), in which the policy although focusing on the same purpose, i.e. protecting children’s interests, the context differs. In this case the context is protection “in the delivery of Australia’s overseas aid program” (AusAID, 2009). Accordingly, with differences in the context and the overall aims, there are differences in the components of the policy. Governed by DADHC, the Child Protection policy is comprised of several documents that provide the framework of the policies competencies and objectives.
The policy provide a framework for employees of the DADHC and all Home Care employees to report in cases when a child in a risk of harm. Thus, one of the components of the policy is the legislative framework of the policy, which is provided by the Children and Young Person’s (Care & Protection) Act (1998) (the Care Act) and the Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) Act (2009) (the Wood Inquiry Act) (ADHC & Department of Human Services NSW, 2010). Such legal documents provide the statutory framework for the collaboration across different agencies in NSW. Another guiding framework in the policy is the “Child Wellbeing and Child Protection – NSW Interagency Guidelines”, a framework that establishes the guidelines on the way agencies should respond to a child concern.
The main government response to the policy can be seen through the development and the implementation of Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing 2009-2014, a government five year program plan to change “the way children and families are supported and protected” (NSW Government, 2011). When analysing the government response, it can be seen that the main aim of the Child Protection policy can be summarised as a step-by-step approach to report problem cases and cases off concern. There are different policies governing the interaction of people and children in need and thus, it can be seen that there are many agencies involved. The latter is specifically true for children with disabilities. The plan as proposed by the government of NSW is targeting for the intervention to be as early as possible. Thus, the purpose of the plan is ensuring the delivery of community based services (NSW Government, 2009). The development of the plan came into realisation after the publishing of the report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services by the Honourable James Wood.
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The findings of the report outlined the fact that the protection of children is the responsibility of the government, as well as the need to consider the conditions of parents of children with disabilities, e.g. offering respite (Wood, 2008). Additionally, the recommendations of the report are the use of common assessment methods, regardless of the agency involved (Wood, 2008). Other recommendations in the report outlined the necessity of mutual training between DADHC and the Department of Community Service (DoCS). The “Keep them Safe” plan considered the recommendations on sae3veral levels. For the case of people children with disabilities, one of the important consideration of the plan is the plan is improvement of the skills of the staff providing the support for children with disability, either within the government sector or in the sector of Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) (Wood, 2008, p. 15). Finally, the plans outlines the need for supporting NGOs with sufficient funding to develop the infrastructure needed to attract experienced staff, and be assisted in providing uniform training for caseworkers and carers” (NSW Government, 2009, p. 69).
The impact of the policy on the Down Syndrome NSW Association can be seen on many levels, related to the Child Protection policy, the government plan, and the recommendations of Wood Inquiry. The most apparent influence can be seen through the indication of the responsibility of the government in protecting the children and the recommendations for funding the initiatives of NGOs. In that regard, the DADHC is responsible for funding many of the initiatives of the association, among which is the Independent Living Support Initiative, as a partnership with other two disability service providers (Down Syndrome NSW, 2011a, p. 12).
Analysing the financial statement of the Association, it can e seen that the 100% increase in the expenditures for staff training can be seen as one of the impacts of the policy in which the focus of staff expertise is specifically emphasised. In 2009, the expenditures associated with seminars and staff training were A$7,095, while the 2010 the expenditures for the same aspects were A$18,853 (Down Syndrome NSW, 2011a, p. 27). Another manifestation of the implementation of the policy can be seen through the proposed use of case management model, outlined in both the Child Protection policy and the Keep them Safe program is the case management approach to handle cases of concern.
The policy outlined that the child-centred approach focuses on the safety of the child, where “ADHC works in collaboration with Community Services and its funded case management services and other key agencies to achieve good outcomes for the child and young person with a disability“(ADHC & Department of Human Services NSW, 2010, p. 10). The strategy of the association reflects such approach through indicating the need for more use of case management for those who are in crisis (SVA Consulting, 2009, p. 24). Partnership and collaboration as an important element of the Child Protection policy can be seen as an important element of the Down Syndrome NSW Association’s strategic plan, in which the development of a partnership with the government and key community organisations is represented as a key initiative that should be developed in order to achieve the goals of the association. Among the key partners are different careers, DADHC, National Disability Services (NDS), and others (SVA Consulting, 2009, p. 49).
The main aim of the policy is putting the children and their interest at the focus of service delivery, and thus, it can be understood that children with Down syndrome are the beneficiaries of the policy in the Association. In that regard, the development of a code of Joint Practice guidelines can be seen as an important manifestation of the policy’s main goal, i.e. child protection, where the code states that putting the child’s needs at the centre of a joint practice implies that the mandate is child protection for community services, and the well being of people with disability for DADHC (NSW Government, 2010a). The commitment toward people with disabilities can be seen through providi9ng individualised funding packages, within the activities of the program stronger together. As stated by the Minister for Disability Services, Peter Primrose, “people with a disability should be “front and centre” in making their own life choices” (NSW Government, 2010b). Thus, the increase of government support and funding to people with disabilities in general can be seen as an important benefit to the client group of the association.
Improvements in data on abuse and/or areas of concern might be seen relevant to the case of Child Protection policy, but nevertheless, such comparative data is absent. The inclusion of the types of events held to support children and their parents in the report of the association is a sufficient indication of the implementation of child-centred approach (Down Syndrome NSW, 2011a). In that regard, the services of the association are delivered to more than 1600 members who can be considered among its client group (SVA Consulting, 2009). which In terms of addressing areas of concern in the treatment of children with disabilities, the association published guidelines in their quarterly journal – Voice, where parents were educated on how to react if there areas of concern in schools with their children (Voice, 2010).
An important element of the policy which little emphasis is given for in the strategy of the association is problem families with children with disabilities. It can be stated that the main aim of the Child Protection policy is specifically aiming at identifying situations when children are at risk. The association however targets families who are willing to cooperate and be informed about the Down syndrome related topic. In that regard, the guidelines of joint practice specifically indicate families who are withdrawing care of a child or a person with disability as a specific situation that raise concern. Nevertheless, such situations are omitted through the activities of Down Syndrome NSW Association. Thus, it might be recommended that the association aim toward including initiatives targeted toward problem families, in which not only the child will focused on, but also the parents. Establishing a centre for research that will address the factors that can be seen as providing risk for the child in families, and the way such factors can be eliminated. It can be assumed that such initiative will be also collaborative and will involve several agencies..
Protecting children it can be stated that children with disabilities are among the most vulnerable groups in the society. In that regard, the government have the responsibility of protecting the interests of such group. The Child Protection Policy governed by the Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care sets the framework, the responsibilities, and the main stakeholders in protecting children. Such policy is related to the government initiative, Keep them Safe program, which aims at changing the way children are protected and supported. The influence of the policy and the program can be related to the activities of the Down Syndrome NSW Association which goal is providing support to people with Down syndrome. The present report outlined how increased funding, collaboration, and staff training were influenced in the association or with its strategic plans. The report concludes with a recommendation of targeting problem families with disability children, and developing inter-agency activities, to identify the factors that put such families at risk.
ADHC, & Department of Human Services NSW. (2010). Child Protection: Responding to Risk of Harm to Children and Young People Policy: Department of Human Services NSW.
AusAID. (2009). Child Protection Policy. Australian Agency for International Development. Web.
Down Syndrome NSW. (2011a). Annual Report 2009 – 2010. Down Syndrome NSW Association. Web.
Down Syndrome NSW. (2011b). What is Down syndrome? Down Syndrome NSW Association. Web.
NSW Government. (2009). Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing. NSW Government. Web.
NSW Government. (2010a). Joint Practice Guidelines: For joint work with children and young people with a disability. NSW Government. Web.
NSW Government. (2010b). NSW Government reaffirms commitment to person centred approach to disability services. NSW Government. Web.
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NSW Government. (2011). Keep Them Safe. NSW Government. Web.
SVA Consulting. (2009). DS NSW Strategic Plan 2010 – 2014. Down Syndrome NSW Association. Web.
Voice. (2010). When you need to raise a concern. Down Syndrome Victoria and Down Syndrome NSW Members Journal, 10. Web.
Wood, J. (2008). Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW. Department of Premier and Cabinet. Web.