The New South Wales government is set to launch an urgent review of the state’s foster care system. This decision comes in the wake of alarming revelations from the Advocate for Children and Young People, which has collected a series of distressing accounts from children living in state-funded emergency care.

Children as young as 10 have described experiences of sexual assault and exposure to widespread drug use within emergency accommodations, likening their conditions to “being a dog in a cage.” 

These distressing accounts have emerged from an interim report by the advocate’s special commission of inquiry into alternative care arrangements (ACAs), a form of emergency shelter intended for children at risk in NSW.

The inquiry has unveiled troubling first-person accounts from children during private hearings around the state, highlighting the inadequate level of care provided by mostly profit-driven service providers. 

Under the emergency care setup, children are placed in temporary lodgings such as hotels, motels, and caravan parks, often under the supervision of unaccredited staff from labour-hire companies.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, one 14-year-old disclosed being allowed to vanish for weeks without any report of their absence. Other testimonies include instances of sexual assault, rampant drug use, and neglect in motel accommodations. 

“I was in ACA from [age] 10 to 12, just in motels, caravan parks … I was put in like $99 [a] night rooms, and I’d be like in one room and then the workers would be like 10 rooms down,” shared one of the children.

Another reported being sexually assaulted while staying in emergency accommodation.

“[Not] by a worker but just by a person, another person. I was 12,” the witness said.

A third said they had been left “on my own around like full-grown adults on drugs, homeless people, people with mental illnesses, like it was disgusting”.

Despite being seen as short-term solutions, emergency accommodation frequently houses children for an average of 120 days, with some instances extending beyond 600 days. 

One 16-year-old boy, after spending over 500 days in such conditions, reported feeling like a dog being moved from “cage to cage.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald article, the Advocate for Children and Young People Zoe Robinson said that the “overwhelming weight of the evidence” showed “a detrimental impact on children and young people and “supports the proposition that the use of ACAs should cease”.

How AJB Stevens Can Help 

At AJB Stevens, we understand the profound impact this type of traumatic experience can have on children and their families. We are committed to providing compassionate and comprehensive legal support for victims of child abuse, including those impacted within the foster care and emergency accommodation systems.

Our team of experienced lawyers specialises in navigating the complex landscape of child abuse cases, working to secure the justice and compensation that survivors deserve. We believe in a client-centred approach, ensuring each case is handled with sensitivity and confidentiality.

If you or a loved one has been impacted by child abuse, AJB Stevens is here to help. Our legal experts offer personalised guidance through every step of the legal process, from initial consultation to resolution. Please contact us today for more information about how AJB Stevens can assist with child abuse cases.