One of the biggest providers of non-government residential care has announced it will be closing its homes in New South Wales within six months following an independent review, ABC News reports.
The Uniting Church’s NSW and ACT synod runs two agencies, Uniting and Wesley Mission, which together house two dozen of society’s most vulnerable children and employ more than 50 residential staff.
Uniting’s director of Resilient Families Bob Mulcahy said the residential care model needed to be changed in order to meet every child’s needs.
“At the moment, most of these residential programs are provided in a house where you have multiple young people living together, all with multiple issues, and that’s not working,” he said.
The closures come after an independent review into the Uniting Church’s out-of-home-care services recommended “urgently” replacing its residential care system.
“Whilst these children and young people may have been removed from the harm and abuse they have experienced in their families of origin, they remain highly vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation,” a report arising from the review said.
“Residential care facilities are often not suitable for children and young people, or they are not designed for safe, therapeutic care that balances privacy with firm but empathic care boundaries.”
In 2014, a 15-year-old girl, referred to as “Girl X” or “MK”, fatally overdosed after taking both heroin and ice while living at Uniting’s now-closed Gordon House at Pennant Hills, in Sydney’s north.
Two male youth workers also allegedly sexually assaulted the girl while she lived in residential care at a different home.
A coronial inquest into her death sparked the independent review, led by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon.
While Mr Mulcahy said an alternative solution was still being researched, it would offer individualised care rather than group care.
“The model needs to become much more personalised, much more timely in its delivery,” he said.
Large image: Girl X