It is our experience with the statutory child protection departments across Australia that parents and caregivers who are represented by an independent voice are more likely to have appropriate outcomes than those who are unrepresented. This is especially true if the involvement by a family advocate occurs early in the intervention.
As family advocates we partner with the client to evaluate what they need to do in order to have their child/children returned to them. A clear analysis of the risk factors provides a guide for the parents/caregivers as to what steps they need to take in order to have their child/children returned to them.
A family advocate responds to those risk factors by highlighting to the child protection department social workers how or in what ways the parent/caregivers are working towards addressing those risk factors.
There are many cases where we have represented parents and/or caregivers (for example grandparents) and through that representation have been able to negotiate with the child protection department pathways, so that the child/children can be returned.
Often parents and caregivers are in conflict with social workers within the child protection department and this can create a toxic working relationship. Our role as family advocates is to find ways of working collaboratively with the social workers. A family advocate has a different relationship with the parents/caregivers than the parents/caregivers have with the child protection department social workers. A client does not view a family advocate as the ‘enemy’ and is seen as someone who can help to facilitate change for them.
The Reily Foundation is a not for profit community service founded in South Australia. As the demand across Australia increases for an independent voice for families navigating the child protection system, the team of family advocates will continue to expand.
It is important to understand that the battle to secure a more equitable child protection system has been raging for a very long time across Australia. Social justice is a driver in everything we do and because of this principle we are critical of a system which devalues parents, carers and children themselves and produces poor outcomes for children.
The Reily Foundation works with around 15 to 20 families every week who have had their children removed. The work we do is currently done entirely on a voluntary basis and clients are not charged. Every day we receive phone calls from all around Australia seeking assistance from caregivers who are trapped in the child protection system and don’t know what to do. It is the goal of The Reily Foundation to secure grants and donations to pay for an office, staff and legal fees to support the plight of parents and caregivers entwined in the mesh of the child protection system.
The Reily Foundation team reads countless court documents, attend meetings, when possible, with the child protection departments, meet with parents and caregivers to understand the risk factors and to ensure that families are able to meet the requirements of the Department, and write reports for the Youth/Children’s Court. We also provide contacts with lawyers who are prepared to manage the complexities of the issues and who do not judge the parents.
In seeking to fulfill our objects and purposes, the Reily Foundation does not discriminate on the grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation etc.