Government silent on unsupervised street kids in its care


p2358-foster-payBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Dozens of kids roaming the streets of Alice Springs during the night are believed to be in the care of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) but it will give no details.
Enquiries by the Alice Springs News Online over several weeks have revealed that there are about 250 individual children, some as young as eight, who wonder the streets at night unsupervised, with detailed figures given for the period of August 18 to September 5.
That data came from the Youth Patrol which gives kids lifts home or to a place of care and is run by the Town Council and Congress, with funding from the NT Government.
p2353-ken-daviesOn September 12 we asked DCF – since Labor came to power headed up by former Alice Springs headmaster Ken Davies (pictured) – for how many of these children the department has responsibility.
On September 29 we received the following non-answer from the department – now apparently re-named: “Territory Families takes appropriate action whenever we receive a report that a young person is at risk of harm.
“Territory Families has a close working relationship with the patrollers of the After Hours Youth Service who report any concerns regarding the welfare of  any young person to the Child Abuse Hotline on 1800 700 250.
“The Department responds to all notifications and investigates any matters that warrant further investigation.”
We have asked again for an answer to our question of how many of these children are the responsibility of the NT Government – in vain so far.
We have also sought details about payments received by carers which range up to $995.85 per child per week, with some carers looking after several children.
We requested the number of children in Central Australia in ‘out of home care’, and into which category in the table (pictured at top) they fall.
The department’s website explains that the department “provides a higher rate of reimbursement for children assessed as having more complex needs.
“The care needs of each child are regularly assessed to ensure that the necessary services are provided and an appropriate level of payment is paid.”
UPDATE 11:35am
A spokeswoman for Territory Families has supplied the following information:-
The numbers of children in care of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Territory Families who may utilise the after-hours youth patrol services can vary greatly. For example, on August 13, of the 76 children transported, 11 were in the care of the CEO and on August 20, of the 64 children transported, four were in the care of the CEO.
The after-hours youth patrol service operating in Alice Springs is a community service available to all children and young people. It is not exclusively for those in the care of the CEO.
These after-hours youth patrol services ensure that children who attend events such as the Alice Springs Youth and Community Centre Friday night discos are transported to a place of safety after the event.
Territory Families has a close working relationship with the after-hours youth patrollers and not all children who utilise the service are considered to be at risk of harm, however service providers receive appropriate training to ensure that mandatory reports are made in accordance with the Care and Protection of Children Act (2007) if there are concerns for a child’s safety or wellbeing.
Some of the children who frequently utilise the after-hours youth patrol services are in the care of the CEO. Response plans have been developed between involved stakeholders (the agencies vary depending on the child’s needs but this could include Territory Families Family Responsibilities Program, Department of Education, Department of Health and Police) to ensure a consistent approach is adopted to ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of these young people.
The spokesperson apologised for the delay with the provision of information and pointed out that the department is undergoing major restructuring following the change of government.
The Alice Springs News Online is continuing its discussion with the department about the number of children in care in Central Australia, and into which category of need they are falling.


  1. $995.85 per child per week!
    How any mothers would love to be able to stay home caring for their children for even less money?

  2. And there are homes out there who have and would happily care for these kids instead of leaving them in group homes. Go out to pick the kids up off the street when they call but Territory Families (DCF) won’t tell these carers why they are banned from officially caring?

  3. Evelyne, the money paid by DCF/TF/Whoever they are this week is paid to foster carers to be spent on the needs of the child so that the foster carer isn’t out of pocket for providing this vital service.
    Unfortunately, not all foster carers are created equal, but for the most part they are people with big hearts who want to see the kids in their care do their very best and get what they deserve – not just what society deems suitable for them.

  4. Tony, I can understand that carers must not be out of pocket, but could we have a better understanding / breakdown of what can be the needs of the child for this amount of money? Of course minus the salary of the carer.

  5. I am not sure this article has accurately explained the levels and the payments received. Most children that come through a foster carer’s door are rated at a level one and stay that way for the duration of their time in that placement.
    A foster carer receives $39 dollars a night on respite emergency care for a child 0-5. If you do not already have supplies or a child that same age at your house you will need to go buy nappies, formula, bottles, clothes – potentially for just a 12 hour period. More than a $100 can easily be spent just for the basics. And $39 is $6 more than what it was not long ago.
    For a child to be a Level 4 they are at the most extreme / high care needs – e.g. wheelchair, respiratory problems, peg feed, brain injuries and other such disabilities. Many Level 4 children require more care than one carer or a couple can provide in a normal home environment. Most Level 4s are in residential units.
    A Level 3 child may have trouble toileting, FASD, ADHD, blindness, hearing impairments, violent and destructive behaviours, failure to thrive, sexualised behaviours. Those are only a few examples. Many of the Level 3s have more than one of these and basically must have more than one of the aforementioned to become a Level 3.
    Level 2 can be lower versions of all of the above mentioned. Again they must have more than one issue to be a Level 2.
    Level 1 – don’t be thinking that if a foster child is a level 1 they don’t have the above issues … plus the trauma, neglect and behaviours that you get when they first arrive plus the behaviours that surface when they feel like they can be themselves because they may have attached or finally feel some level of safety in their environment.
    Imagine now that there are not enough foster carers to care for all the children so you have overloaded foster carers – four is the maximum but at least a couple times a year you can have more than four.
    Now if you have, let’s say, three to four children of Level 2 or above. Can you continue to work full time? With the sleepless nights, with sick babies, anxious toddlers / children with post traumatic stress, runaway teenagers.
    The phone ringing a couple times a week if not a day from childcare / preschool / school about destructive / violent / troubled behaviours.
    The many appointments that a child needs when they enter care and over the time of their placement – dentists, eye tests, counselling and the long list goes on and on.
    Many of these appointments are the same as children not in care, however if you get a new child or a sick one you can find yourself repeating this list multiple times a year.
    The money covers the children’s needs. However, in some cases the levels are not high enough and it doesn’t cover everything.
    Not all foster carers are made equal. However, I would hope most are doing it for the right reasons. I feel this article has generalised the foster carers without knowing what needs the children have which then effects the level.


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