A child with no functional long-term relationships is a child headed for serious trouble.

Children need stability to enable learning, social development and self-esteem. Essentially they need stable relationships, including enduring relationships with primary carers, other significant adults, siblings and peers. Preferably they also need stable surroundings.

The reality is that children in care often have no stable relationships.

  • Family relationships are most likely to be fractured and erratic.
  • The case workers responsible for their care plans may meet them rarely or never and be changed at any time.
  • Children in care may be moved from placement to placement, including changes of location requiring a change of school: the few peer friendships they may have made can easily be wiped out.
  • Children in care may end a day with no access to any human being they knew the day before. With such scant personal resources, they will have to make their place in whatever existing social structure they have been thrust into.

The reasons for these failures are complex and difficult to resolve.

The Alliance believes that much greater attention should be paid to stability for children in care, with resources committed to helping the child develop and maintain long term relationships with adults and peers.

Resources might include permanency planning, a long term mentoring program, travel access to maintain peer relationships or continue established sports or team involvements, managed family contact programs and social skills training.

Appointments to case management roles should emphasise long-term commitment and changing case managers should be a last resort.

The Alliance believes that disruptive change in a child's position, even when it is done for the best of reasons, should be a flag for high-level intervention and intensive support – before any problems emerge.