ICE CRISIS: Two children rescued per day from parents in Qld
CHILD Safety officers are rescuing more than two Queensland children every day from parents using ice, which has overtaken alcohol as the most used drug in problem households.
Child Safety Department Deputy Director-General Merrilyn Strohfeldt has warned the problem is getting "exponentially" worse. "Ice has become the No.1 issue that is driving our concerns in child protection and it's continuing to climb," Ms Strohfeldt said.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, who yesterday launched a statewide series of regional ice forums, slammed the State Government for failing to deliver any follow-up to a draft action plan released last year.
Ms Frecklington said the ice scourge was ripping families apart and tearing at the fabric of small communities around the state.
"Their plan came out in February of last year and we've heard nothing more," she said.
"There's been, as far as I can see, no extra acknowledgment that there's an issue and no money for any further services."
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her Goverment would deliver a final plan "very shortly".
"This is a big issue for communities and my government has made a very clear commitment to invest in a rehab centre which is needed in Rockhampton and Cabinet is finalising our final plan to tackle ice in the communities," she said.
An investigation by The Courier-Mail late last year highlighted how the ongoing surge of ice-related problems had placed police, the courts, hospitals and community services under severe stress, with many reporting ice as the number one problem they faced.
The Child Safety Department figures show that the youngest children are facing the worst neglect and abuse from parents, with more than half of those placed under protection aged under five, including unborns.
Ms Strohfeldt, from the department, said ice use was often associated with other issues such as mental health disorders and family and domestic violence.
"It is the most vulnerable little people who get hurt in all of this, but I do want to say that our staff do a tremendous job in keeping them safe," she said.
In the 12 months to March last year, 782 children were placed under "ongoing intervention" after child safety officers identified at least one of their parents using ice.
In some of the most harrowing cases, child safety officers have issued unborn child alerts after discovering pregnant mothers were using ice.
A source said a handful of newborn babies had been immediately removed from mothers who had failed to get clean during pregnancy, despite warnings from the department.
"If they are heavy users of ice, it's highly unlikely that they are going to be able to look after that newborn and that's when we would follow that unborn child alert and potentially take that child at the hospital," the source said.
Ms Strohfeldt said the most serious harm done to children in ice households was neglect.