By ERWIN CHLANDA
Pregnant girls and women who abuse alcohol and drugs will become a focus for the Office of Children and Families (OCF), says its Minister, Alison Anderson.
She recently announced that pre-natal child protection will be part of legislation being drawn up.
“If you see a young pregnant girl here in Alice Springs or at Papunya consuming alcohol and drugs, that legislation change gives a health worker or a teacher, anybody out there, the opportunity to report it. It’s about protection of the child, inside the tummy.
“We then come in and give support to that young woman, talk to her about foetal alcohol syndrome, the effects of drugs and alcohol on an unborn child,” said Ms Anderson in an interview with the Alice Springs News Online.
“So we’re taking care of the unborn child before the baby is born, and we, as a society, are getting fewer children with foetal alcohol syndrome if we help at the very beginning.”
What if the young woman does not respond to that advice?
“The legislation will allow the OCF to make sure we engage properly with that person.”
What are the measures that will be available to OCF?
“We will continue to intensify our contact with that person, and I don’t think that person would really walk away from something that gives them the tools to protect a child.”
Will there be the possibility of taking the mother into some form of custody or care?
“We are still talking about the nitty gritty,” says Ms Anderson. “I have yet to consult with the Children’s Commissioner, the Human Rights Commission and others.” She said she would have further news “in a couple of weeks”.
A spokesman for her said the pre-natal protection part of the legislation currently being formulated will not be dealt with until next year.
Ms Anderson is pictured at the opening this morning of the new administrative section of the local OCF, in Minerals House, Hartley Street, next-door to the OCF’s service centre in Mwerre House.
The new office, servicing the southern region and accommodating 25 staff, will be “ensuring compliance with policy and management of all foster and kinship carers,” said Ms Anderson. “I have made frontline service a priority for OCF. In this year’s budget we redirected $25.1m to that area.”
Pregnant drinkers to be a focus of govt. child protection
By ERWIN CHLANDA