Foster care group stripped of funds

Caroline Overington | December 18, 2008

Article from:  The Australian

A CORPORATION run by Aboriginal women from the Wiradjiri clan was stripped of federal and state funding after the foster children in its care were deemed to be at serious risk of harm.

A review of the Aboriginal Children's Service, which has headquarters in Sydney's Redfern, found the children in its care were living in overcrowded homes across NSW, with foster parents that were neither registered nor trained.

One girl had fled her foster home to live with a boyfriend, who killed her.

The elders who manage the corporation say the decision to cut the funding is racist.

They are mostly members of the Coe and Weldon families, some of the best-known Aboriginal people in NSW.

The clan includes Paul Coe, a barrister who was paid $1.2 million for work with the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern and who was later stripped of a $100,000-a-year position at the Metropolitan Land Council, after being accused of misappropriating funds.

His sister Isabelle Coe was

a founder of the Redfern tent embassy.

Other clan members Bev and Betsie Coe managed the Aboriginal Children's Service at different times. Bev Coe also served on the board.

The Coes say they are fighting to have the funding reinstated because otherwise another generation of Aboriginal children will end up in white foster homes.

But NSW Children's Guardian Kerryn Boland told The Australian yesterday that the Coes had not responded to a registered letter, dated September 8, that sought to clarify their intentions.

"We haven't been able to talk to them about the future. In fact, the other day we were thinking we might just go over and talk to them, and see whether they want to continue or not," she said.

It may be they have looked elsewhere for business opportunities. Documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that two of the group -- Val Weldon and her son-in-law, Hewitt Whyman, have formed a new company, Gannambarra.

It received $1.29 million in funding last year and $450,000 this year to help "alleviate poverty". The bulk of the money went on wages.

In a statement to The Australian, the NSW Department of Community Services said the Aboriginal Children's Service had lost its funding because it had failed in almost every aspect of its operation, despite receiving more than $1.1 million a year since the early 1990s.

A review of the service was conducted in 2006. The corporation has since gradually wound down, receiving its final cheque, worth $92,688, in the 2007-08 financial year; this year, the group got nothing.

Ann Weldon, who remains on the board, said the children's service had its problems that could have been solved by more money, not less.

She has been backed by an anthropologist from Sydney University, Gaynor Macdonald, who said yesterday that DOCS had shown no understanding of the way Aboriginal kinship relationships work.

"They got accused of nepotism but of course they are all related," she said. "Aboriginal culture is a kinship culture. They are required to work together and support each other."

The company admitted that its foster children were living in homes with too few bedrooms, and in poor condition, but so too did many Aboriginal people.

"The review is not an accurate reflection of (our) operation," it said. "We have the common goal of making things better for Aboriginal children.

"We were shocked by the lack of acknowledgment in the review of the skills, knowledge and expertise which our board and workers have to offer.",25197,24816556-5006784,00.html



Down with the natives?

I'll admit, only recently have I been noticing how preserving Native Culture (lineage and legend) is quite a big issue in Australia, Canada and America, especially when it comes to child placement issues.  [See:  Adoption Counseling]   I believe this is the very reason why we have Jewish adoption agencies, Christian adoption agencies, Islamic adoption agencies -- they exist because some people take their culture, heritage, language and history very seriously.  Had I been told the truth about my own heritage, I would have taken that very seriously, too.  Instead, I got an Americanized version of what it means to be an Italian/Irish Catholic in the United States.  <Whoopee! >

Racial/cultural issues aside, I love when one child placement agency decides to criticize another child placement agency, especially when the complaints center around money, corruption, and failure to care for the children. 

In this particular pot-calling-the-kettle-black article, I can't help but think the reader is supposed to believe the Aboriginal Children's Services has failed every way possible, making their "special foster-family projects" (keeping Aboriginal children within their culture, and out of white foster homes) a complete waste of money.   

Meanwhile, how is the NSW Department of Community Services doing with their foster-care?  

THE NSW Department of Community Services regularly places children in homes it has never seen, with foster parents its own army of welfare workers has never met.

The department admitted yesterday that it depended on the staff of the 39 private companies and non-government agencies that supplied foster care services to provide updates on the standard of care they offered.

The business of providing foster care is worth more than $600million a year in NSW alone. Some agencies, such as Life Without Barriers, which was established by lawyers and businessmen in the Hunter Valley in the late 1990s, last year received tens of millions of dollars in funding from DOCS.

The admission by DOCS that it does not do any kind of spot checks on the foster homes operated by private companies and non-government agencies comes after The Weekend Australian revealed that increasing numbers of children were living in filthy, crowded foster homes.

The more children in the house, the more money the foster parents can make. [ From:  "Department admits it's in the dark on foster homes", ]

Kinda makes me wonder -- who's in foster care for the out-placed child's well-being, and who is in foster care for the money?

Pound Pup Legacy