The report by Justice Wood into problems facing the NSW child welfare system has now been released. Those interested can find the report here.
I have written on this topic for personal and professional reasons. Posts include:
- 3 October 2006. David Henry Drummond and the Importance of Compassion is a family story about the boy who became a ward of the state and then, twenty six years later, minister in charge of the NSW education and child welfare systems. It includes some historical material on the NSW system.
- 11 November 2007. NSW - Problems in Child Welfare provides a more detailed history of the early evolution of the NSW child welfare system.
- 2 January 2008. Australia - failures in public policy points to some of the reasons why child welfare had become a mess.
- 12 February 2008. Musings - Inflation, Volunteering, Child Welfare and Educational Standards includes a discussion of child welfare issues.
- 4 October 2008. Child abuse in Australia - a case of misused numbers? looks at the abuse of child protection statistics.
These posts form a sub-set of a broader set of posts looking at the evolution of and weaknesses in public policy and public administration in Australia. There are too many to list.
One of my central arguments has been the way in which current obsessions with measurement, risk avoidance, compliance and control create increasingly unworkable systems. In the case of child welfare in NSW, I pointed to the way mandatory reporting had placed strains upon the child welfare system that essentially made it unworkable.
I have yet to read the detail of Justice Wood's report. However, it appears to centre on the problems I have talked about.
I take no pleasure in this. It is tragic that it should take the death of children to force a change in approach. Further, I see no evidence that the broader lessons have been accepted in any real way within the community. We may improve child welfare in NSW, an important gain, while leaving broader systemic problems untouched.
The biggest problem lies in ourselves. We continue to think that Governments can and should do more than they can. So long as this continues, our systems will fail.