Published: 26 July 2016

Strengthened response to missing children in out-of-home care

More Info: https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/resources/childsafety/practice-manual/protocol-joint-agency-response-missing-children.pdf Click Here

On 11 July 2016, the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) released 'When a child is missing: Remembering Tiahleigh – A report into Queensland’s children missing from out-of-home care.' The report was released in response to the Premier’s request for a whole-of-government review to ensure the system is working effectively when children living in out-of-home care are missing.

The review identified barriers and gaps in the systems, culture, policies and procedures, and confusion and misunderstanding across agencies that have hindered efforts to respond to missing children in out-of-home care.

The Queensland Government accepted all 29 of the QFCC’s recommendations and has already taken steps to start implementing 21 of the recommendations in partnership with peak bodies and our non-government service partners.

Some of the immediate actions we have taken include:

  • developing and releasing a new, overarching joint protocol, Queensland Government Protocol for Joint Agency Response When a Child in Care is Missing. This protocol, effective from 11 July 2016, outlines
        • the roles and responsibilities of schools, carers and members of a child’s care team and the Queensland Police Service (QPS), and
        • how agencies should communicate with all relevant parties, including carers, care services, parents and the media, to ensure there are no delays in responding when a child in care is missing from school or home
  • updating the Guidelines for approved carers and care services for reporting missing children in care, the Child Safety Practice Manual and the Foster and Kinship Carer Handbook, also effective from 11 July 2016, to align with the joint protocol
  • making changes in the QPS Operational Manual to align with the joint protocol. This includes:
        • enabling QPS to issue an amber alert for a missing child without prior permission from Child Safety
        • designating the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre as the single point of contact for QPS when deciding to issue an amber alert (including a dedicated phone line and email for QPS)
  • reviewing delegations regarding the approval for the sharing of photographs and information about children and young people in out-of-home care who are missing
  • reviewing training and advice provided to foster carers, residential care services and Child Safety staff in relation to information sharing and responding when children and young people in out-of-home care are missing.

 

We acknowledge the support of our non-government partners and peak bodies in helping communicate and raise awareness of these important changes among those affected, through their own newsletters, email networks and publications.

We are committed to commencing work on the remaining recommendations in the QFCC’s report as swiftly as possible. 

Continuing to work in partnership with peak bodies and our non-government service partners will be critical to bring about the necessary changes to policy, practice, procedures, systems and culture that will help prevent, and enable us to handle and respond to these tragic situations in the most efficient, coordinated and streamlined way possible.

We will build on the solid inter-agency and cross-sector relationships and processes established through the Supporting Families Changing Futures reform program to collaborate with everyone involved in caring for children and young people as we continue to strengthen our approach to missing children in out-of-home care.