Child Protection Inquiry chief accuses child protection officers of 'over-reacting' and seeks review of children in care

SOME children would be better off in an inadequate or even risky home where they were loved rather than being sent to foster care, according to the man behind Queensland's child protection inquiry.

Commissioner Tim Carmody is set to recommend every one of the state's 8000 children in care be individually checked to see if they can return to their families.

He accused some child protection officers of "over-reacting" by taking children away from dysfunctional parents, instead of giving families the help they need.

Comment: Thankless task facing Inquiry chief

 "There are some children in very dysfunctional homes but the answer is not to just take them out," he told The Courier-Mailyesterday.

"Removing a child at any age from a loved environment - even if it is inadequate or even risky - can give long term problems to that child.

"The impact on some children will be the same as the stolen generation."

Commissioner Carmody's comments coincide with a shocking surge in the number of abused and neglected children across Australia last year.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare will today publish new data showing a record 39,621 kids in foster care nationally.

In Queensland alone, the number of children who were victims of substantiated abuse and neglect jumped 17 per cent to 6974 during 2011/12.

And 2671 Queensland children were taken from their families - including 473 babies.

The total number of children in care has reached 7999 - or 7.4 in every 1000 children.

Mr Carmody, a retired Family Court judge and former Queensland Crime Commissioner, blamed a "malfunction of the system".

"I'm considering an audit of the 8000 children in care in Queensland, to see what their protective needs currently are, whether they still need to be cared for by the state," he said.

"If a prisoner on parole can get reviewed, and mental health patients get reviewed, then if I'm a child who once needed protection, why don't I get reviewed?

"You might have a child in care for five years and all of a sudden mum changes partner from a violent one to a good guy, or dad gets clean from alcohol and drugs, and they want their child back."

Mr Carmody said some children were being placed in 35 different homes - and changing school each time - over 10 years.

"Surely the state has to be able to say, 'Hang on, if we can't place a child better than changing residences 35 times, why did we take the child from its parents in the first place?" he said.

"There would be some children who are worse off from having been removed than they would have been if they'd been left alone.

"Kids are going into foster homes where each sibling is a fostered child - that's not a normal family at all, it is a boarding house."

Mr Carmody criticised an "over-reaction" in reporting cases of neglect and abuse

and said the child protection system should not be about "social engineering and giving them a better chance in life".

"It's about meeting their needs, and unless that need is protection and care, they shouldn't get a protection and care service," he said.

"The system is over-responding to over-estimated risks."

Mr Carmody said children must be removed if they are "in danger at home" but criticised removals on the grounds of "emotional abuse".

He said 70 per cent of children in Queensland were put into care for neglect or emotional harm.

Mothers with violent partners were having their children taken away, even if the children had not been physically harmed.

"They do blame the victim of domestic violence sometimes for staying with the violent partner, as a sign of incapacity and unwillingness to protect the children," he said.

"That's not how it is defined in the law, that is how it's reported in practice."

Mr Carmody said the definition of emotional harm was subjective, and there was no consensus even among child welfare professionals.

"If the answer is taking that child away from a loved parent, even if it's a violent home, and putting them with someone they don't know in someone else's home, how is that the right answer?"

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