Random drug tests of parents begin but Child Protection can’t reveal results



Updated

November 07, 2018 15:58:08

South Australia’s Department for Child Protection has conducted eight random drug tests on carers of at-risk children since a law change that aims to reduce abuse.

Key points:

  • Random drug testing of parents and carers of vulnerable children is now underway
  • It follows a law change recommended by 2016 royal commission into SA’s child protection system
  • The drug test results are used to make assessments of the ability of carers to look after children

The reforms, introduced on October 22, aim to streamline testing by giving the department’s chief executive the power to approve tests requested by caseworkers of parents or carers suspected of taking drugs.

In the past, the department had to apply for a court order or ask for a parent or carer for voluntary test.

The department has revealed in the past two weeks it has conducted eight drug and alcohol assessments, which are interviews about drug and alcohol use, and eight random drug and alcohol tests.

The department was unable to provide data on how many tests returned positive results, due to its IT system.

Until the department upgrades its IT system to allow its data collection system to report statistics automatically, it has “committed” to doing a manual sample audit every six months of its drug and alcohol testing.

Earlier this week, it released data from a sample audit of drug testing recorded from July 1, 2017 to July 30, 2018.

Of the 190 records extracted from the system for the manual case file review, 143 of them were tests obtained under a court order.

A sample involving 30 parents or carers who underwent 70 tests found 18.84 per cent of the tests returned a positive result.

Of the positive tests about 60 per cent related to cannabinoids and about 20 per cent related to methamphetamine use.

Department for Child Protection chief executive Cathy Taylor said caseworkers used drug and alcohol assessments, testing and rehabilitation to assess a person’s “willingness and capacity to prioritise the safety of wellbeing of a child”.

“Findings of drug testing are used within the context of a broader assessment and ultimately in a caseworker’s determination of whether a child can be considered safe in their parent or care providers’ care,” Ms Taylor said.

She said the test results would also help to determine “what services might be made available to support family members, where and with whom the child should live, and the contact arrangements that should be in place if the child is not with parents”.

Days before the changes came into practice Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said they were the most significant changes to the state’s child protection system in 25 years.

The reform was recommended by former judge Margaret Nyland in her 2016 royal commission into child protection systems, with drug and alcohol abuse identified as a major contributor to abuse or neglect of children.

Results ‘a bit of a surprise’

Opposition child protection spokeswoman Jayne Stinson yesterday described the reforms as a “good thing”.

“Obviously we need to do everything we can to protect kids,” she said.

“Looking at the audit of previous drug tests and that audit was of last financial year so before these reforms came in — seeing that only 18 per cent of the court-ordered drug tests came up as positive, I have to say it is a bit of a surprise.

“We really don’t know the reason for that but possibly it was the time taken to get court orders, because I imagine staff wouldn’t be trying to get drug tests unless they formed a pretty reasonable suspicion that a parent was exposed to or taking drugs.”

Topics:

child-abuse,

community-and-society,

drug-offences,

drugs-and-substance-abuse,

adelaide-5000,

sa

First posted

November 07, 2018 15:45:51



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