A request made by The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath in state parliament has resulted in the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, Lizzie Blandthorn agreeing to meet with A Better Life for Foster Kids, founder Heather Baird.
In addressing the parliament on children living out of home care, Ms Bath highlighted identified gaps in mental health services as outlined by Ms Baird.
“Ms Baird has been lobbying for the implementation of comprehensive treatment plans to cover a child’s mental wellbeing when they enter out of home care for some time.
“With a revolving door of five Andrews Government Child Protection and Family Services Ministers over the past 18 months, being heard and getting action has been a battle.
“When experienced advocates like Heather Baird are saying Victoria’s out of home care system is inadequate and it’s failing to support the children, the Andrews Government has a responsibility to listen.”
Research, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found only one in 130 children had attended all recommended health services within 12 months of entering out of home care.
Murdoch Children’s Professor Sharon Goldfeld said, “these children have more physical, developmental and mental health needs given their experiences of abuse, neglect and/or trauma and increased likelihood of living in adverse socio-economic circumstances.”
Ms Bath said it’s shocking that these children are not getting the services they need – when they need them.
“The glaring gaps in the provision of mental health support at the entry point of in Victoria must be addressed.
“Heather Baird has sensibly been calling for the introduction of a youth-specific mental health triage within the first six weeks of a care arrangement.”
In Minister Blandthorn’s response to Ms Bath received this week she wrote – “I would be pleased to meet with Ms Baird when my schedule permits.”
Ms Bath said given the criticality of supporting our most vulnerable citizens, I expect Minister Blandthorn will make this meeting a priority.
“Children entering out-of-home care do so in a highly traumatised state – their emotional and psychological wellbeing must be supported.
“I’ve been working with Heather Baird for many years and I’ll continue to advocate for Victoria’s most vulnerable children and the dedicated people who nurture and care for them.”