Child victims behind doors of Rocky's 15 dysfunctional homes
THERE is a largely hidden and uncomfortable truth linking our ongoing child safety crisis with juvenile crime.
Right now in the Rockhampton district there are 10 to 15 families under heavy daily scrutiny of more than 20 government departments and agencies all trying to manage the tragic chaos of severely dysfunctional households.
This involves police looking for and finding groups of out-of-control kids aged as young as 10 running around the city streets at all hours of the night causing mischief and carrying out opportunistic property theft, including burglary and car theft.
Maybe you have seen them in the dark of your yard, or perhaps a shadowy small figure in your house or maybe even running down your street yelling at 2am - it actually sounds like they are having fun.
If officers find them roaming, they take them home - but there is little respite there from the hectic background that is their version of normal.
They are confronted by the ongoing threat and exposure to sex, violence, domestic violence, drugs and alcohol - these kids are right off the rails of a conventional upbringing.
Their prospects of growing up as young, responsible human beings are slim.
Most are products of families that are a complete disaster - with no education, no discipline, no respect, no self-esteem and no hope.
There are multiple children of all ages in most of these families and there are more babies and therefore more social train wrecks on the way.
There are eight or nine kids in these households - siblings and cousins - and their "families" are in intensive care.
These are the families that specially trained professionals and teams are trying to save. They are part of a generational cycle that no one has managed to stop, or even stem, over decades.
The dysfunctional parents they are dealing with today are often the kids they dealt with 15 and 20 years ago.
These agencies (there are more than 20) can involve youth justice, communities, police, Centrelink, various Federal agencies, employment agencies, under privileged employment agencies, health, cultural, financial, social - all addressing the same issue of families in crisis.
I said earlier child safety is linked with juvenile crime.
The numbers speak for themselves - 1350 children in the Central Queensland region are deemed not safe to be at home and state-wide more than 6000 individual children are going through the juvenile court system every year.
The courts may place many of the more serious cases of abused kids into foster homes.
But the foster parents can't always control them.
They can't force them to stay at home.
When they go before the courts, they get a 20 minute sermon from the magistrate who mostly sends them back home to the same foster home or dysfunctional/destructive family situation they were in yesterday.
This is not just a Rockhampton problem, it is nationwide.
There needs to be a change in how authorities deal with the complex issues faced by at-risk children and their families. That reform is underway here with the Every Child Central Queensland project (see story Page 4) but it will be a long road that will require strong and committed government support.
This program offers a pathway to real and effective change. This newspaper is committed to supporting the Every Child CQ program and today we launch the Our Kids Our Future campaign.
We will be running a series of reports looking at the problems confronting our community and the solutions that the ECCQ is investigating.