Felicity Kime is a parent leader of Family Inclusion Strategies in the Hunter. She is the mother of four children including two daughters now restored to her care, a son who was never removed and one son who remains in care. Felicity is a regular speaker and facilitator with groups, and at events about family inclusion and relational permanence, and is dedicated to systemic change in the interests of children.
More than a court order: building relational permanence when children enter the care system. (Policy Think Space)
Much of the policy discussion in Australia has focused on the use of legislation, early decision-making and the courts as pathways to achieve permanence for children in the care system. This has led to a narrow interpretation of permanence as a legal outcome or goal and has become conflated in the policy discourse with particular court orders such as adoption. Such an approach tends to problematise family and may fuel family distrust in the system. It distracts us from properly understanding safe and permanent reunification. It may also exclude a significant number of children who do not want, or need, an alternative family but do need a lived experience of permanency that gives them every opportunity to do well.
We will explore the concept of relational permanence as a better approach to policy development to build stability and felt security for children. Drawing on a Churchill Fellowship completed in 2018, the lived experiences of parents with children in care and from the research evidence, it will be argued that we need a broader approach to permanence that is concerned with how children feel and experience their lives over time. The presentation will conceptualize a relational permanence approach in which children have the opportunity to maintain and strengthen their family relationships and an appropriate legal order is just one consideration.