Tasmania's child protection system has been improved after accepting all recommendations in an Ombudsman's report into a 2009 child protection case.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Matthew Daly said the Ombudsman had investigated the case and made recommendations for improving consideration of kinship care as a first step before foster care.
A de-identified report into the case of "Child Z" was released by the Ombudsman on 6 May 2013.
"Child Protection accepts that our actions in this case, despite best intentions, should have been better," Mr Daly said.
"Even though it is not possible for legal reasons to identify the child or the extended family, it is important to know that we have apologised to the extended family for the way the case was handled.
"We recognise that removing a child from the love and care of their extended family is not a decision to be made lightly, and that it can have significant ramifications on that child and their extended family."
Mr Daly said Child Protection had cooperated fully with the Ombudsman.
"We have already used the findings to improve our systems and undertaken additional staff training as a result."
Mr Daly said improvements put in place included:
- formal training for relevant staff on the importance of family connections and the guidelines in place that must be followed
- introducing mandatory kinship care assessments immediately after a child is taken into care
- requiring that team leaders and senior managers provide more adequate supervision to case workers and team leaders check the accuracy of the content in Case and Care Plans and affidavits
- a new process in which Crown Law officers mentor and coach staff to ensure affidavits are truthful and accurate
- staff counselling to ensure transparent decision making, sharing of information, objectivity, procedural fairness and high record-keeping standards
- development of guidelines for cases involving police to ensure there are very clear boundaries and clarity of roles
- individual counselling and training for staff on handling child protection cases in the best interests of the child, and the need to get quick referrals to therapeutic services.
Mr Daly said the Ombudsman's report was a thorough assessment of a particular case and had already been used to improve the entire system.
"Since this case we have introduced a revised Child Health and Parenting Service model of care that delivers a public health approach to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.
"We have also protected frontline staffing levels across all programs at a time when savings are being found across government.
"Child protection is about the most difficult job there is, often involving challenging decisions," Mr Daly said.
"It is absolutely paramount that we make every decision in the best interests of the child, and that is what we strive to do."Action taken by Children and Youth Services in response to the Ombudsman's report can be found at http://www.ombudsman.tas.gov.au/publications_and_media/whats_new
13 May 2013