Shocking rise in Gympie child protection orders
A QUEENSLAND child protection expert wants the system overhauled as the number of court orders surge in the Gympie region and across the state.
Professor Tamara Walsh said "more creativity" is needed to protect children as the figures continue heading the wrong direction.
The Gympie Magistrates Court issued 299 court orders on child protection applications in 2018-19, a jump of 23 per cent from the year before.
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And that 2017-18 figure itself was up 11 per cent from 2016-17.
The biggest rise was in interim orders; 207 were made in 2018-19 compared to 168 in 2017-18.
These orders are made during the course of proceedings in the Children's Court.
They can include granting temporary custody to Child Safety or a "suitable family member".
There were 80 child protection orders issued, up from 67 in 2017-18 and 60 in 2016-17.
Applications recorded in the Reports on Government Services in Gympie has also jumped from 38 to 62 in those three years.
The numbers reflect a wider increase in applications and orders in Queensland.
In 2018-19 23,771 child protection applications were lodged in the state's Magistrates courts, up 24 per cent from 2016-17 (where there were 19,138 applications).
The number of child protection orders made ballooned from 4236 in 2016-17 to 6069 in 2018-19, and interim orders also soared across the three years from 14,514 to 17,096.
Prof Walsh said a rethink of the system was needed if the state wanted those numbers to drop.
The University of Queensland Law School researcher said the most common orders made in Queensland were for a child's removal.
But that risked creating more problems than it fixed.
"It's a false assumption," she said.
"It's not always going to make the child safer or improve their outcomes.
"We don't take it seriously enough, when we remove a child … (that) we're not doing the best thing for (them).
"My research leads me to believes no child should ever be put in a residential care unit."
Prof Walsh said when a child was put in residential care they were "significantly more likely to be criminalised".
This was backed by Royal Commissions into the systems.
And this was to say nothing of the impact on mothers (and it was predominantly women who were affected) of taking their children away.
But Child Safety officers were also caught between a rock and a hard place, Prof Walsh said.
They are given the blame if they do not take a child away and something happens, but also if they are seen to be overreacting.
"They're damned if they do and damned if they don't," she said.
Hypervigilance driven by media reports - which can miss the nuance of some situations - contributed to the problem.
She said the public needed to become more aware of the nuance and what "really goes on behind the scenes".
A spokeswoman for the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women said there was an "an increase in the complexity of families that become known to the department, often presenting with multiple challenges".
"Across the state, 66 per cent of families of children in care are affected by drugs or alcohol, up from 62 per cent five years ago," she said.
"Mental illness is a factor in 54 four per cent of cases, up from 45 per cent over the same period.
"Approximately half of families with children in care are dealing with domestic and family violence, up from 44 per cent five years ago with domestic violence order applications also increasing by 13 per cent in the last five years.
"Seventy-five per cent of families are presenting with multiple challenges.
"Ice use is a major factor in 37 per cent of cases where Child Safety assessed the child require protection, which is up from 31 per cent two years ago and virtually unknown in reports five years ago."
She said the State Government had implemented a $100 million Ice Prevention Strategy to "cut the supply of the drug and assist users to recover from their addiction".
"Over the last year, the department received more than 124,000 concern notifications, or one call every four minutes about a child suspected of being at risk of harm."