The Minister for Families and Children requested the Commission for Children and Young People complete an independent inquiry into the permanency changes following the first six months of their operation to examine if the stated objectives were being met and whether they were having any unintended consequences.
The permanency changes were passed by the Victorian Parliament in September 2014 and commenced in March 2016.
In 2015 the Victorian Government acted to reinstate the power of the Children’s Court to refuse to make a protection order if it was not satisfied that the Department of Health and Human Services had provided the necessary services to families.
The Victorian Government thanks the Commission for Children and Young People for its inquiry into the implementation of the permanency changes. The Victorian Government has adopted the majority of the recommendations relating to additional resourcing, training and workforce, improving policy and practice, and is committed to monitoring the impact of the changes.
Importantly the Victorian Government recognises that all parties involved in the permanency process must recognise and act to uphold the rights of the child.
The intent of permanency is to provide children with a sense of security and belonging by driving timely, clear and consistent decision making. This ensures that where possible, children do not drift in or between placements without clear planning for their developmental needs.
Early indications are that some children who would previously have remained on shorter-term orders are now on orders that provide certainty about their future care. The Government’s view is that this is a positive outcome.
The Commission’s report has been considered alongside a report from the Victorian Law Reform Commission, examining the state’s adoption laws. The Commission for Children and Young People acknowledged the short time frame from this Inquiry limited its ability to draw conclusions about the long-term impact of the amendments. For this reason, the Government has decided not to progress legislative changes at this time.
As recommended by the Commission, the Victorian Government is committing to a longitudinal study to ensure there are no unintended consequences to this legislation. The Department of Health and Human Services (department) is in discussions with academic institutions and agencies who may be placed to carry out an longitudinal study into the outcomes for children as a result of the permanency changes.