Unfortunately, there was nothing that shocked me about the revelations in The Age regarding the abuse of a child in the care of the state.
Admittedly, the accusation that the abuser in this scenario is an employee of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) does make it somewhat more shocking.
Having worked in child protection for many years and as a foster carer, I have become accustomed to the reality that children have little protection within our system.
Many of the children that have come through my door have been abused whilst in the system; at times by more than one carer.
To date, I am yet to see these carers held accountable for what, I perceive to be, gross acts of human indecency.
The vile act of preying on a child who has no one to protect them except, supposedly you, is beyond measure.
I was asked by a friend yesterday why there is such a high rate of abused children within the system and my answer is two- fold.
Firstly, there is simply a massive shortage of carers available.
Therefore, those who put their hand up, irrespective of their, shall I say, ‘shortcomings’ are accepted.
Secondly, the fact that carers are not being held to account over their poor behaviour sends a clear message to those about what is acceptable.
The DHHS ‘whistleblower’ in the aforementioned case made reference to the prevalence of such a culture.
In my experience, the thinking goes along the lines of “Well, these kids are lucky I put a roof over their heads when no one else would”.
This I have heard said on more than one occasion. The suggestion that these kids are ‘lucky’ is the first misconception.
The notion that you have the right to treat a child however you chose because of your ‘saintly’ act of service is the second. It would shock people to know how widespread this thinking is. On that note, I must say that there are also some wonderful carers and workers out there motivated to improve the lives of these beautiful kids.
So how do we address this rather complex issue? The first thing that needs addressing is the amount of carers.
We can carry on about a culture of cover-up and a dysfunctional government, all of which I agree with but change in that area will take time.
In the meantime we have 50,000 children in our backyards that desperately need us.
As individuals and as a community we must start putting our hands up to help. The improvement of care for these children in the system starts with the quality of the person providing that care.
It’s really that simple!