There is no current accreditation system for Child Contact Service agencies operating within Australia. Child Contact Service agencies provide services for separated families by means of supervised contact and supervised handovers for those experiencing conflict or have safety issues.
Those services that are funded by the Government under the Family Support Program are required to comply with obligations under their funding agreements, which include meeting strict guidelines and providing a feedback service in order to deal with complaints. The Department for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is responsible for these services which receive funding from the Government. All funded Child Contact Service agencies are also members of the industry representative body, the Australian Children's Contact Service Association which provides standards of practice and a code of ethics for the agencies to work within.
Although funded Child Contact Services are required to provide an appropriate professional service for the community, alarmingly unfunded agencies that are privately run are not required to meet such criteria. In fact, private unfunded Child Contact Service agencies are not within the jurisdiction of the Federal or State Governments, and are free to do whatever they wish in the operations of their business as a Child Contact Service. As these private services are not controlled by the State Government, apparently the State child welfare department cannot intervene or investigate risks of harm to the child, so essentially the service is beyond reproach. These private agencies therefore are not accountable to anyone for the actions they undertake, yet they are dealing with other people's children and should be expected to uphold the duty of care towards the children using their service.
The only way to ensure that standards are being met by ALL Child Contact Services and that ALL Child Contact Services will be held responsible for their actions is to establish a national accreditation system. This would ensure that what has happened to my child may be prevented in the future.
If such issues as mine did arise in the future with a national accreditation system in place, then at least the unfunded service would be held accountable and perhaps the situation could be resolved. This would alleviate the impact on the child and the families involved, as the safety and well-being of the child should be of paramount concern to the service at all times. Children should have the right to be safe, including during supervised contact visits and supervised handovers with a private unfunded service.
I hereby ask that a national accreditation system for Child Contact Service agencies be established as soon as possible to increase professionalism within the industry, to provide guidelines and standards for operation, and to increase safety for the children using such services.
On behalf of these children, I thank you.
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