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ACT government beefs up support for children living out of home care

The ACT government will boost spending on care for children living out of home by $16 million as part of a five-year strategy to deal with increasing demand and fewer foster carers in the community.

Designed to break intergenerational disadvantage, the Step Up for Our Kids plan will see non-profit  agencies take over some government coordination of children living in care and will prioritise providing children with one foster family throughout their childhood years.

The strategy aims to return children to their parents as soon as possible or seek to finalise secure and permanent foster care or adoption options where a return cannot be achieved. 

More autonomy for non-government agencies will be measured through performance-based government contracts. 

All children in the care of the ACT Government Community Services Directorate will receive trauma-informed care after the completion of an individualised care plan and assessment process.

Foster and kinship carers will be given specialised training for  dealing with child trauma. Carers will receive funding for new placements through age-related standards with additional funds based on the child's need. 


This week, there are 605 children in care, and 2012-13 data showed 128 children were admitted to care and protection orders in the ACT.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr joined Children and Young People Minister Mick Gentleman and Community Services chief Natalie Howson to announce the strategy on Thursday, set to come into force from January 2016. 

Some children will receive ongoing financial support past the age of 18, including money for emotional and practical support until the age of 21.

The strategy will also see the establishment of a family advocacy service to benefit birth parents, designed to support family members with independent advice and support for dealing with children protection and out of home care officials. 

Special focus will be given to the about 25 per cent of children in care in the ACT who are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, helping children stay in their family units and providing cultural advisers to assist with planning and implementation of care.

Services as part of the strategy will be rolled out from next year.

Mr Barr said the success of the new whole-of-government strategy was critical to supporting vulnerable people in the Canberra community and came after an extensive period of consultation with stakeholder groups.

"We are all stepping up here to do more for these kids so that over time we have fewer kids in care," he said.

"What was critical for me was not only was it evidence based, but that we had consulted with leading researchers and practitioners in this field, but that we had a way forward that was going to achieve better outcomes over the longer term."

The new strategy will see an expansion of Karinya House for mothers and babies, as well as the creation of a new oversight council to be chaired by foster care advocate Bev Orr.

Ms Orr said out-of-home care provided the opportunity for vulnerable children to grow confidently and securely. 

"We can see this strategy quite overtly places the needs of children and young people in the centre. That often does not happen in other child protection contexts.

Ms Orr said the strategy seeks to significantly reduce the number of children in need of care. 

"To put it bluntly, the current system has not been able to meet the needs of children and young people in care on many occasions in the past," she said. 

The new funding will be on top of annual ACT government budget allocations of about $31 million.