The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2013) show that as of 30 June 2012, there were 39,621 Australian children living in out-of-home care. In all jurisdictions, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on placement orders was higher than that for other children. As of 30 June 2012, there were 13,299 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care in Australia - a placement rate of 55.1 per 1,000 children. In contrast, the rate for non-Indigenous children was 5.4 per 1,000. This indicates that the national rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care was more than 10 times the rate for non-Indigenous children (AIHW, 2013). http://www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/index.php
Under international law children have the right to protection. This means that there are times when children may need to live away from their parents because they have experienced deliberate harm and abuse. The state has the power to intervene in these cases. However, children are often removed because their parent/s experience mental illness, have a disability, are homeless or incarcerated, have a drug and/or alcohol misuse problem, or their children are exposed to domestic violence. Many parents who have children in out-of-home care have themselves been removed from their families (Community Affairs References Committee 2004, Morgan Disney 2006, Harries 2008, Hamilton 2010, Ivec, Braithwaite &Harris 2011). The trauma of removal becomes trans-generational.
It was due to the growing concern amidst community members including academics, professionals and community workers that actively joined with parents affected by child removal to form the Family Inclusion Network across Australia. Drawing on national and international research (which continues to grow), FINs are concerned about the processes within the statutory child protection system which exclude birth parents and extended family members from the lives of their children. FIN members are also concerned about the rising number of children entering the statutory child protection system and the poor outcomes children and young people have when they come out of care, including homelessness, mental illness, unemployment, poorer educational outcomes and incarceration.
In October 2007, the first National Roundtable of Family Inclusion Networks occurred in Brisbane, Queensland. The Focus Question for the Roundtable was: “How can Parents be included as Legitimate Stakeholders in the Best Interest of Children”. A national vision and plan was developed at this event. This was further expanded in 2008 in Perth, Western Australia following the first national FIN conference followed by national gatherings 2009 and 2011.
FINA proposes to undertake a National Response to child protection systems with the aim of better meeting the needs of children and young people in care through including their parents, extended families, and significant others in the decision making processes of complex and often closed or adversarial child protection systems. Based on what we know from research, parents and family members are an important part of children’s outcomes when in the child protection system.
In 2008 Fin WA were the recipients of State based funding to provide a support service for parents; they were the first state or territory to receive such funding and to date remains the only funded service throughout Australia.