In March CREATE released our powerful new report, Out-of-Home Care in Australia: Children and Young People’s Views after 5 Years of National Standards. This report is based on CREATE’s research with over 1200 children and young people about their experiences in care.
It was clear from the results that there were some areas in the system that were working well, but lots of areas that needed improvement. In every state and territory it was clear that young people are not being engaged in case planning processes and they want more of a say in decision making.
CREATE and the report author Dr Joseph McDowall travelled around every state and territory to showcase the results to young people, caseworkers, carers and politicians.
New South Wales
We launched our report in Sydney on March 20th. National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell opened the event with a focus on young people’s rights to be heard and participate in decisions about their lives.
“The right to be heard is a gateway to claiming all other rights… and like CREATE I want to make sure young people’s views are taken into account when making decisions about their lives”- Megan Mitchell.
Our Young Consultants spoke very powerfully about the need to involve them in decision making, and the need to #snapthatstigma relating to young people in residential care.
“We need to start looking at the quality of relationships young people in out home care have, and we need to have meaningful conversations about their experiences.” – YC Emily
“Sometimes kids in resi are seen as undesirable… but in resi we were each other’s family, our own little team.” – YC David
In our report 16% of young people reported they rarely or never got to have a say about important life decisions, and compared to other placements young people in residential care were less likely to feel listened to.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Jacqui Reed, spoke to ABC Radio National on the morning of the report launch, click on the play button below to listen to this interview.
Australian Capital Territory
Next up was Canberra! Our report results found that young people in the ACT were the least likely to feel safe and secure, and had relatively high levels of placement instability. However, the ACT had the highest level of involvement by carers in teaching young people about their culture and community and birth parents also rated highly.
Listening to young people was a major theme for the Young Consultant’s in the ACT:
“If you want to know what is best for the child, ASK them. If a decision is needed to be made, INCLUDE them. If you want them to come to you (about their feelings and what not), RESPECT them. Always CARE for them. And of course, just LOVE them.” – YC Tahllea
"I am tired. Please. Actually do something useful with this information"
An article by @canberratimes highlights findings from CREATE's report that those in care in ACT are least happy, and shines a light on young people's pleas to change the system https://t.co/R80I0IsONH
— CREATE Foundation (@CREATEfnd) April 3, 2019
And it’s good to know that the politicians are starting to listen: The report got mentioned in ACT parliament!
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that their voices are heard, and heard better, both in their individual circumstances and in relation to building a stronger system to keep young people strong, safe and connected.” ACT Minister Minister for Children, Youth and Families, Rachel Stephen-Smith
Another major concern arising from the report was that a lot of the young people aged 15 and older were unaware of their leaving care plan. Nationally, only 24% could say they had a leaving care plan. These plans help young people to access needed supports, like financial assistance, and take away some of the uncertainty of what is going to happen when they transition to independence. Compared to other states, more young people in WA knew about their leaving care plan (40%).
At the briefing in WA, Young Consultant Chris talked about how important it was having ongoing support past 18 years:
“I was very fortunate during my leaving care to have really supportive Foster Carers who helped me a lot. I didn’t leave ‘til I was around 20, and the main part they helped me with was getting my first car. They helped me find out what supports were available and taught me about budgeting so I could get a car and travel.” – YC Chris
Last time we did this survey (back in 2013) young people in WA were unable to participate, so it’s great that we were able to work with the Department and have their voices heard this time.
When CREATE hosted our report briefing in Tasmania, it was clear that case planning was a key issue for our Young Consultants, not only in terms of ensuring young people were involved, but also questioning the language we use to describe case plans, and the need to make sure workers use child friendly terminology.
“I am honestly shocked knowing that in 2019, 45% of children and young people in care in Tasmania still do not know what a case plan is. I think we still need to bring more support for caseworkers, who are overloaded, and they can then sit and talk to us about what a plan is.” – YC Nicola
Our Tasmanian State Coordinator Danni and Young Consultant Nicola were interviewed by ABC Hobart about the report. You can listen to that interview below:
In Queensland issues of placement instability and the high rates on caseworker turnover were some of the big issues discussed. In Queensland, about 20% of children and young people surveyed had more than 15 caseworkers during their time in care!
Our Young Consultants lead an engaging panel answering questions from the audience. The need for improved cultural support planning was identified, especially for young people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“What they define as culture is different to how an individual sees it. Just having a plan does not mean that you’ve sat down with a child and asked that child about what that culture means to them. “More research and representation of people who are from a non-English speaking background is crucial. We are still important.” – YC Miriel.
Just before Easter CREATE hosted the report card briefing in South Australia. There were some standout findings discussed at the briefing, such as the high number of young people who are separated from their siblings when taken into care. Another key focus at the event was the important role that caseworkers play in supporting young people to reach their full potential.
I’m passionate about breaking the cycle and making them [young people] know that at the end of the day they are worth it and not just a statistic. They need to give the kids control of their life back, have choices and options to choose their life and dignity of safe risk. There needs to be more funding and support and awareness so workers can sit down with children and young people, give validation and consistency that is key for having a positive influence on young people.” – YC Brooke
It is important that caseworkers prioritise building quality relationships with the young people they work with, and that the department is appropriately resourced to allow them to do so. How can young people speak up about their concerns if they don’t trust their worker, or feel they cannot get in contact with them when needed?
— SA Guardian (@GCYP_now) April 23, 2019
The important role of caseworkers was also apparent when CREATE hosted our briefing in Victoria. One of our Young Consultants was able to speak to the Sydney Morning Herald about the uncertainty that arises when children and young people are left out of key decisions, and don’t know who their worker is. In Victoria, almost 40% of young people didn’t know if they had a caseworker!
“When you’re a young person in care you’re left out of the loop [of decisions] and you kind of float around without knowing what’s happening.” – YC Victor
My story, just published.
— Miki Perkins (@perkinsmiki) April 17, 2019
“One day I packed up my stuff to leave school – I was going to buy footy cards and a worker came, said they had all my stuff in the car & I was being moved. What do you do? You have to play ball”- YC
Last but not least, CREATE headed to the NT. Young people who participated in the NT briefing also spoke about how important it is to have placement stability and strong connections with their carers.
“Reports like this really matter to me because it shows how much young people in the care system really feel and think. Moving about can be terrible and I know how important it is to live with a family who is there for you 24/7, to care about you and having to be loved again. I think it’s sad that not all young people have this experience and would like everyone in care to have the best and know they are special and that they are loved and cared for, even if they are struggling and don’t have a family.” – YC (Name Withheld)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are overrepresented in the care system, and this overrepresentation is highest in the Northern Territory. It is vital that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who do come into care are supported to be connected to their culture and community. The cultural support plan is an important tool to facilitate this process, but only 11% of Indigenous young people in the NT knew about this plan!
“With so many inquiries, so much research.. we know what the system needs yet why are we not making the changes we’d like to see?” – Dr Joseph McDowall
So where to now?
CREATE is making sure the voices of children and young people are being heard. These briefings were just the start, and it was great to hear from the department members and ministers who attended that they are committed to improving outcomes for young people in care.
CREATE is advocating for children and young people to be more involved in case planning and decision making, for more adequate planning for young people transitioning from care, and for young people to be safe and secure regardless of what placement they are in.
How can you help?
- Read the full report here!
- Share the findings- you can find helpful infographics to share here
- Join us at our upcoming conference to hear about best practice in the sector
- Sponsor a young person to attend our conference and be inspired to become advocates
- #snapthatstigma- share positive images and stories of young people in care
At the launch of @CREATEfnd report we heard from a 17 year old who had 35 placements in 4 years. They asked us 'is this a system you're proud to be part of?' Let's make sure all young people are safe & receive loving care & support. Contact your candidate https://t.co/7RGecVZp7u pic.twitter.com/0hI6s25swD
— Youth Action NSW (@YouthActionNSW) March 22, 2019