Foster parents blow whistle on Families SA

Gerda Juzuchowski, 7News Adelaide

FIRST ON 7: A network of former foster parents who have had children removed from their care has blown the whistle on a crisis within Families SA.

They claim the system is unjust and destroying lives - and the Minister concedes improvements need to be made.

While they can’t be identified, the foster parents have cared for hundreds of children over decades.

They are also united in the grief of having children forcibly removed.

“She was taken from our place kicking and screaming, singing out our names,” one woman told 7News.

Another said she was given a 35-minute window to pack her clothes, and described the removal as being ‘like a tragic death’.

Some of the carers had raised the children from babies.

In each case, allegations were made and the parents felt immediately labelled guilty.

“They said we were only in it for the money, and yet we weren’t only in it for the money – we loved those kids dearly with all our hearts,” one woman said.

They said they felt bullied, and don’t have an avenue to prove their innocence.

They have now formed an informal action group to try for reunification and to improve the way they and children are treated.

Children’s Guardian Pam Simmons agreed that some support systems are failing.

“I have to say, we don’t do that very well, we don’t assist people through the grief of such a loss,” Ms Simmons said.

The parents say they feel stone-walled by the minister, and say she won’t even read their response.

But Child Development Minister Jennifer Rankine said that was not true.

“I’ve received correspondence from families who have been aggrieved and I can tell you I go through the circumstances very carefully,”

But after an approach by 7News, Minsiter Rankine is now committed to making improvements.

“I’ll have a word with the department and see what would be appropriate to put in place to perhaps help families through the grieving process,” she said.

With around 2500 children in state care, the system cannot afford a bad rap.

The SA Government hopes to sign up another 100 foster families through its latest recruitment campaign.

Families SA decisions can be reviewed internally, and by the Health Complaints Commission or Children’s Guardian.