'Encourage disadvantaged families to have fewer children'

AUSTRALIA needs to consider whether policies should be developed to encourage disadvantaged families to have fewer children, a Queensland academic says.

Writing in the latest Medical Journal of Australia, Bond University's dean of medicine, Peter Jones, who is also a practising paediatrician, said far too many Australian children were being placed in out-of-home care, with little evidence that it made them safer.

He said that during the past 18 years, rates of indigenous children placed in care had more than tripled, and for non-indigenous children, they had more than doubled.

In June 2015, 43,399 children were in out-of-home care, each costing about $70,000 a year.

"Children in care experience significantly poorer health outcomes than children who have never been in care, with one study recording up to 60 per cent having a current mental health diagnosis, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, depression, and attachment and conduct disorders," Professor Jones wrote.

He said Australia should challenge the assumption that out-of-home care was the safest option for vulnerable children.

Do you agree or disagree with Prof Peter Jones?

This poll ended on 22 August 2017.

Current Results

Strongly agree


Agree, more needs to be done to keep kids out of out-of-home-care


I agree more needs to be done but don't think this is the answer


Disagree, there are other options


Strongly disagree, this is taking away peoples' rights


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"There is evidence that children in out-of-home care in Australia may experience an increased risk of harm while in care compared with children who have never been in care," he said. "We must incrementally reduce our reliance on out-of-home care as a key goal in overcoming the complex problem of child abuse, neglect and increasing inequity.

"If foster care was a drug and had to be approved as treatment for child abuse and neglect, I think there's a very high chance it would not be funded by the Government because it's highly expensive, doesn't show any benefit, and winds up doing real harm."

Professor Jones said more needed to be done to strengthen and support the families into which vulnerable children were born.

"We need to aggressively invest in young vulnerable mothers when they have their first child in disadvantaged circumstances and not wait until there have been documented problems with child neglect before the child protection and social services systems react," he said.

But he also said "politically charged" questions had to be asked about whether Australia should be developing policies that encourage disadvantaged families to have fewer children.

"The focus should be on prevention," he said.

Professor Jones said the Australian experience of rapidly rising numbers of children in out-of-home care during the past two decades had not occurred in the US or New Zealand.

Should Australia develop policies that encourage disadvantaged families to have fewer children?

Join today's conversation by leaving a comment below.

What you're saying on Facebook:

Duja Petrovic: "I definitely think that if they are known to child safety or docs or have had their children taken off them. They should be have to prove that they can look after their children before they are allowed to have anymore. If that means they either lose anymore children it have a percentage of their welfare put directly onto necessities. Then so be it. They should only be allowed to a small amount in cash. To stop them selling any store cards or gift cards they get, they have to prove their identities to be able to use them with some sort of photo id. I wouldn't have had an issue doing this when I was on benefits or when I was a single mum. My kids have always been with me and never went without what they needed. I don't think it's just people on Centrelink that have this issue of their kids removed. Working people do to. There are many on Centrelink that do the right thing and don't abuse the system. I have met people from all walks of life, who shouldn't have ever had kids. That one is not just an issue to do with where you sit on the poverty line. Whether you are financially well off or disadvantaged. The financially well off just seem to fly below the radar that's the only difference. This is going to be a tough on to fix."

Linda Flor: "Everyone all over the world needs to stop breeding so many kids,our Earth can not sustain a population that just keeps breeding so much!"

Tarah Wall: "If you need centrelink to live you shouldn't have a baby."

Briony Garlick: "Why dont "advantaged" people be prevented from having as many children as they want then. I know many families who have nothing but a brass razu & they make it work with love and affection & beautiful children. I also know highly advantaged families who have spoilt brats with a massive sense of entitlement...i know who id prefer my children to relate to in society. Also u can be a multimillionaire one day,have a bunch of kids, disaster strikes & ur broke with that same bunch of kids. Maybe no one should ever have any..."

Clayton York: "Of course you should only have the number of children that YOU can AFFORD to have.
People shouldn't have to rely on welfare to raise their children. If you don't have adequate work or income, you should only have a family size that you can support."

Adam Herd: "If you're on benefits you shouldn't get paid by the government to have more . But if youre working and can afford it have as many as you want."

Ina Smail: "Some of the best adults has come from the biggest families."

Marlie Lovelock: "If you don't want people to "breed" make things like, the contraception pill more affordable. I have paid a lot of money for that little pill and I don't get any assistance from the government."

Darren Townsend: "If we had a population like china then yes but we are not so leave people alone to do what ever they want and stop thinking yoi habe a right to tell people what they can and cant do, drop mic moment!"

Paul Enniss" If your disadvantage is financial and you are relying on centrelink for your own financial support then YES."