On 1st June 2022, a groundbreaking development in the history of child protection within our State took place – the launch of the Charter of Rights for parents involved with the child protection system in Queensland.

It was very apt that the Charter’s launch was held on the Global Day for Parents. As fate would have it, the launch also coincided with PeakCare’s Awards Ceremony during which the Family Inclusion Network (FIN) South East Queensland received the 2022 SIC Award for innovative and exemplary design and delivery of services to Queensland children, young people and families. FINtastic!

It is noteworthy that Queensland is the only Australian State or Territory to have a Parent Advisory Committee able to engage in direct dialogue with the Minister, and is the second State to have produced a Charter of Rights for Parents with Western Australia having released their Charter earlier this year. Another FINtastic!

There can be no better commentary provided about the significance of the Charter than the words expressed by parents themselves:

  • … surrendering my son did not surrender my worries, my fears, my love or my fight to keep my child safe. My fight to reunite and protect my family now gives me my voice back – to stand up for what is not right.
  • I am a beautiful broken-hearted mother… To the decision-makers here today, please please, we are all individuals with a positive purpose and aren’t all textbook material families. You really, really need to hear us each time we speak.
  • No parent – NO PARENT – should ever experience the level of inconsistencies in reunifying with their children as I – and many other parents – have had experiences of.
  • …. the support for and signing of the Charter is so, so important… And here we are Global Day of Parents 2022! Fantastic!
  • Everyone, yes everyone, should be treated as equals. I believe the Charter is a great tool moving forward to equality and accountability.
  • Six important points to remind you all – wherever you are, whoever you are, wherever you come from:
  1. You’re always a voice for a child
  2. Be accountable
  3. Best not assume
  4. You’re not alone or disadvantaged
  5. You can be stronger than ever before, in the shadows, as you DO have a purpose
  6. We are always here to offer positive solutions 24/7 for any child in care
  • The Parent Charter journey will continue to assist, continue to develop, even after our children, my children, are no longer involved in care – for the next generation, and the one after. Hoping and praying that their lives will be a little more secure in the knowledge that this Charter will help them understand what mission is ahead for themselves and their children, with a little more clarity and confidence. Thank you for listening.
  • The experience of asking for support cost my family two years of our lives, and so much more trauma than we began with. If you had asked me back then if I’d encourage other STRONG mums and dads who are JUST fighting for their kids whether to go and seek support from the services that you’ve offered – I would have hidden my tears while I shook my head. Now however upon viewing the Charter, I am so thankful for the comfort of being able to turn to other struggling parents and say ‘Yes, it is ok to ask for support. It is available to you. And your family’s rights WILL be protected. There is hope. You are not alone. And in THIS village, you matter!’
  • I’m studying my second undergraduate degree in social work at the moment. So, I’m in a position of really being able to look at both sides of the situation, both as a parent who still has some of their children in long-term care and also an emerging child safety practitioner myself. Everyone here today, I imagine, is wondering how the charter will affect them as well as the people they work with…We’ve heard a lot today about how this charter will support and benefit parents. I just want to add to that, and just really introduce and reinforce the concept that, enforcing and upholding the rights of parent does not and will not diminish the rights of workers or carers; nor is that the desire of any member of FIN or QPAC. And I feel confident to affirm that on behalf of all the parents here today. It’s been my personal experience that children in care do better when all the stakeholders surrounding them are given a voice, are treated with equal and mutual respect, and are allowed to feel safe carrying out their particular role in that child’s life. I think it can be argued that, historically, parents of children in care have not been given equitable access to these entitlements. So, what will this charter do – allow for parents to have greater support in having their rights upheld, but at the same time there will be benefits for workers and carers as well.
  • As an emerging practitioner, one thing I can really see as an advantage for department workers is that it will assist workers when making difficult decisions about the best way to move forward in specific situations, and also to defend decisions on which they may be challenged. And for carers, presuming that a good relationship exists between them and the parents, we as parents can use the charter to advocate for their needs as well. In my personal situation, my daughter’s carer and I have struggled with communication from the CSO and team leader which means that my daughter has gone months without medication that was prescribed by her paediatrician, as neither myself nor her carer can legally consent. And so, under the charter I would be able to advocate for the carer to receive a timely response which would then have the effect of better health outcomes for the child.
  • Basically, the aim of this charter is not to cause further division between parents, carers, and workers, but ideally to cement the idea of collaboration and alliance in a formal way. Under the charter we all know what we need to prioritise in these situations where there are so many competing interests and demands on our time and resources.

PeakCare joins FIN in acknowledging the Hon Leanne Linard MP, Minister for Children and Youth Justice and Minister for Multicultural Affairs and staff of the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs for the safe and respectful opportunity provided to parents in the process of developing the Charter, the Queensland Human Rights Commission for its support and the Family Inclusion Network, Townsville.

PeakCare Members and Supporters are encouraged to fully reflect on the words of the Charter and the ways in which you can go about ensuring that these words ring true in all you do. Please feel free to enter your thoughts about the Charter below, anonymously if you prefer.