The papers published in this special issue of Children Australia were originally presented at a two day symposium held in Melbourne on 26 and 27 November 2009. The symposium, Adoption, fostering, permanent care and beyond: Re-thinking policy and practice on out-of-home care for children in Australia, was jointly convened by the Department of Human Services (DHS), Victoria and the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University in conjunction with the History of Adoption in Australia project (Monash University 2009).
The event was a partnership between professionals working in this area and university researchers. Each group brought different perspectives and imperatives to the table. For DHS and the sector, the immediate frame of the symposium was the major policy statement Directions for out-of-home care, announced in May 2009 by the Victorian Minister for Community Services after consultation with community service organisations and young people living in care (DHS 2009a). It announces a framework for change which incorporates action on seven fronts or ‘reform directions’. These are to support children to remain at home with their families; to provide a better choice of care placement; to promote wellbeing; to prepare young people who are leaving care to make the transition into adult life; to improve the education of children in care; to develop effective and culturally appropriate responses to the high numbers of Aboriginal children in our care; and to create a child-focused system and processes (DHS 2009a). The driving principle informing the reforms is to ensure that policy and service provision are centred on the needs and interests of children and young people, and to ensure that young people are consulted as to what their needs are (rather than assumptions being made by adults as to their needs).