This week in Australia, a television program called Insight was screened on one of our free to air channels. Insight has a forum style format where a moderator/journalist directs the discussion of the invited live audience of about 50 people representing a diverse range of opinions and experience. It really is a great program that has been successful now for many years.
The format works well and each week topics relevant to what is happening in our world, our country and our communities are explored in what is usually a compelling and deftly handled conversation.
This week the topic was ‘Removing Children’ The format was changed slightly so that the four special guests were sitting on the podium with the presenter. They were two young adults who had been removed from their families during their childhood, a foster carer and a father (appearing anonymously) whose children had been removed and who had worked successfully to be reunited with them.
Of course this topic is one very close to my heart. So, along with my many foster carer colleagues, child protection workers and the many people who work in support of children and families, we were all glued to the screen. Finally the issue that dominates our personal or working life (or both), our hearts and our homes was being given some air time.
I came away from watching the program feeling quite disappointed. I realise that one hour is simply not enough time to explore such a complex issue in great depth. However there were gaping holes in the discussion that left the television audience no wiser as to the decision making process that leads to removal of children or even the key issues we face as a community when it comes to child protection.
There were no representatives from the ‘Dept’, not a single politician and though there may have been people who work to support families & children in care in the audience, they did not get the opportunity to speak.
The main discussion centered around the young people and their experiences of trauma and abuse from both their birth families and from the system that was supposed to be protecting them. It was painful to see the young woman being questioned when she was not comfortable or equipped. The young man was more worldly and at 30, was older and better able to discuss his experiences.
The dad was brave and honest. His acknowledgement that it was the right thing for the department to remove his kids at that time was telling. The foster carer did not get a chance to say anything of much value, though I’m certain he would have had a lot to say given the appropriate questioning.
I do believe there was enormous value in the discussion that took place. Most people are lucky enough to never need to darken the doorstep of the child protection system. For them, it’s mysterious, dangerous and unspoken. This program did shed some light for those people.
As a foster carer though, this is the world I inhabit. The department may be the ones during urine tests and going to court, but I’m the one (of many) working to help children live through and heal from their trauma, to build positive relationships with their bio families and the important people in their lives, to help mums & dads and extended family learn about good parenting and supporting them in their efforts to reunify.
When that is not an option we are the people in your communities who step up to raise your children, whether it’s for a week end or a lifetime. Foster carers play a pivotal role in helping our communities. We’re volunteers who live our values out in real time. Kids are the product of our community values, not just of a mother and father. So what is that saying about us as Australians right now? What is that saying about you?
Insight: Removing Kids