Shock findings: Abused kids taken from bad to worse
Child safety officers are struggling to find homes for neglected and abused children who sometimes end up in environments "worse than where they had come from" because of a desperate lack of foster carers.
Children are being forced to sleep in police stations and departmental offices because there's nowhere to send them, while the government is ignoring its own guidelines and placing hundreds of young children in "unsuitable" residential care homes.
The shock findings are contained in an auditor-general's report that again exposes a child safety system struggling to look after Queensland's most vulnerable children.
It found children are being flung between homes up to 30 times because authorities can't find permanent placings as foster carers complain of arduous rules, like having to seek departmental permission to take a child for a haircut.
And despite the government maintaining that residential care facilities are primarily for young people aged 12 to 17 years with complex and extreme support needs, nearly a third of children placed there are under 12.
The report found many shift workers there don't have appropriate qualifications, training and experience and that child safety workers were concerned that "children were placed into environments that were unsuitable and sometimes worse than where they had come from".
It said placing children in inappropriate care can damage their schooling, employment, social, behavioural and emotional outcomes.
Children's complex behaviour, the cost of caring, increasing numbers of two-working-parent families and "arduous" requirements placed on carers were all reasons there were fewer foster carers, the report said.
"For example, it requires some home-based carers to seek permission before taking a child on a family holiday or going to the hairdresser," it said.
"These requirements impact on the willingness of people to become foster carers and the ability for children to integrate into a stable family environment."
Child safety officers reported having to work late to keep at a child at the service centre until they could find a place for them to stay.
Five examples were found in which young teenagers slept overnight at a police station because nowhere could be found or carers refused to take them back due to "complex behavioural needs".
Meanwhile, half of the families that have had children taken away and need support for serious social problems, like drugs, mental health, and family violence, aren't getting any because they refuse it and organisations are too stretched to follow up.
But the report found support agencies wouldn't be able to meet demand even if all offers were taken up.
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer welcomed the audit and accepted all 9 recommendations for improvement.