25 August 2008: Australian Catholic University (ACU) Head of Social Work Dr Patricia Hansen believes that children are potentially being removed from their parents too early.
Dr Hansen, who spoke recently at the Australian Child Welfare Association conference, argues that children who are abused or neglected by their parents should only be removed in the most extreme of cases.
“Parents who neglect their children aren't evil or malicious people. They might be mentally ill or have drug addictions, or they might be young and with no support. But they are losing their children when they could be given a second chance."
Professor Hansen understands her comments, which were featured recently in The Australian, may represented a "controversial position, but it's something that needs to be said.”
"With the best of intentions, and everybody involved has the very best intentions, they have started to be punitive to parents who are doing the best they know how," she said.
"Often there's not even a strong likelihood that a child is at risk but the child will be reported (to the Department of Community Services). It used to be the case that parents who were in trouble could contact the department and receive some assistance. No sensible parents would do that now. They know they might lose the children."
Professor Hansen said most parents often did not understand that unless their behaviour changed, they would lose their children forever. "A whole lot more could be done to keep the families going and keep the children in the family home, but all the money is going on reporting," she said.
Australian Catholic University (ACU) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.