Child Wise were very disappointed to read the news clipping below (syndicated elsewhere), which wrongly attributed its Managing Director as saying that child protection systems ‘abandon’ children. These are not words stated or implied by Natalie Siegel-Brown. In fact, Child Protection Systems are desperately seeking to do all they can in an environment that is only heightening the challenges to their job. Despite the article's insinuation, we believe Child Protection Systems do their best to address every child. But their burden has only stretched wider with COVID. The misinformation about what I have said in this article is very disappointing.
We do need articles that remind us of the people who are doing it much tougher than ourselves, and we do need to talk about what tools we need to put in place to support our kids. However, we don’t need words of experts twisted to label governments. Unfortunately this article serves to polarise the sector. There was a major missed opportunity in this article where we could have supported the reader, with knowledge about what is happening for homeless children during the pandemic, but also to give some vital tips on how to keep kids mentally healthy during COVID; something that parents of teenagers in particular, are struggling with.
Here are some of the things that the article should have focused upon:
- While we look inwards at what is happening in our own homes during the pandemic, it is important to think about the fact that even before we had heard the acronym “COVID”, 19,400 children under the age of 14 were homeless on Census night in 2016. This was similar in 2006. This includes children who were couch surfing or escaping domestic and family violence in refugees. Sadly, this is not a new issue in Australia. In these last 12 months, we have seen some unprecedented steps taken by governments all over Australia to put roofs over the heads of people who are homeless during the pandemic; a true testament to what can be achieved. But we do reinforce the statement that even if a child has a roof over their head, the need for a loving attached figure in their lives to reassure them during these times, is even more critical.
- Blaming systems won’t help. What we need is some focussed solutions. While the pandemic and its impacts are horrific, it has also shown the reset in our thinking and that governments can, and have come up with solutions that will mean we shouldn’t have to go back to the way things were.
- I applaud any media outlet that wants to equip us to support the mental health of children in lockdown. But actually this could have been an opportunity to talk about some of the mental health issues that no one is talking about. For example, while the media has focussed a little bit on very young children, - we haven't talked much about the struggle of teenagers. Let's make this the focus for a while.