Interrelate's Julie Leete says
Interrelate's Julie Leete says "it looks as though we have a lot of services, but the services don't meet the current demand".

Govt seizes 663 kids from families

LAST financial year 663 children across northern NSW were removed from their families by the Family and Community Services department.

The region has the second largest number of children removed in the state, according to figures obtained by The Northern Star.

That took the number of children in the department's care across the region at the end of June last year to 2950 - again the second highest in the state behind the Hunter/Central Coast region.

FACS used to be known ad DOCS.

A FACS spokesperson said the children were removed as a "last resort" after it was determined they had been abused, neglected or were at risk of serious harm.

Most reporting to the department's helpline related to domestic violence, physical abuse, neglect and drug/alcohol abuse.

However, a person familiar with the situation said most local children were taken from their parents because of substance abuse.

The FACS spokesperson said the children were found various alternative accommodations, including foster, relative or kinship care.

Area manager of Lismore's Interrelate service Julie Leete said she was not surprised by the large number removed in the region.

"In our region the Family and Community Services are very high volume - they get lots and lots of notifications," she said.

"We are quite a diverse region and we have a high level of unemployment and low housing stocks and that means families are under stress."

Ms Leete said while there were numerous programs in the Northern Rivers to assist families in need before they reached the point of intervention by the department, there were not enough to meet demand.

"Lismore does attract funding, so on the face of it, it looks as though we have a lot of services, but the services don't meet the current demand," she said.

Ms Leete said there was an eight-week wait for Interrelate's counselling service and a three to four-week wait for the Child Contact Centre offered by the Family Relationship Centre.

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell said there needed to be a "whole-of-government approach" rather than just leaving the problems to Family and Community Services.

"The children who are in care are in care for a reason and the foster families out there do an amazing job, but the children would rather be with their biological parents."



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