Global Advocacy in Action: Our Interview with Dora

Dora is an officer with the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. She, alongside a group of colleagues and Hong Kong care leavers, came to Australia last year for our Voices in Action Nothing About Us, Without Us conference. We wanted to find out what inspired Dora to join us for our Melbourne conference, and what value she’s taken back to Hong Kong.

Please tell us about how you first heard about CREATE Foundation and it’s work with children and young people with a care experience?

I first heard about CREATE Foundation and it’s work through the internet. As my work involves facilitating development of residential child care service in Hong Kong, I was organizing a study tour for our NGO practitioners and looking in the internet for relevant conferences and organizations early last year. We were eager to learn about therapeutic care and efforts in empowering care leavers to have their own voice, which was lacking in Hong Kong. When I found information about the Voices in Action Conference and saw videos and quotes of Young Consultants, I knew this is what we need.

How did you hear about the Voices in Action (VIA) conference?

I think I had got it from Child Family Community Australia’s news.

What did you enjoy the most about the VIA conference?

It surely was the interaction with Young Consultants, listening to their stories, sharing of experiences, concerns, recommendations; seeing them give speeches with so much confidence, facilitate workshops participated by carers and professionals, asking bold questions in front of policy makers, etc. was just so touching and amazing.

Did you attend a conference workshop? If you did, which one was it and what did you discover?

Yes, I attended workshops on Participation and Decision Making, and Complaints and Record Keeping.

For the former, I learned that participation of users, albeit in seemingly small things like informing them beforehand how their foster home looks like, is there a room for themselves, a pet, why the carer wants to take care of them, etc. is so important to them. These are not even something that will change the “power balance” and were just not done because we did not think from their perspective.

For the latter, as I participated with young care leaver from HK, I discovered that it’s crucial for young people to find out and understand why they came into care (the circumstances, who made the decision, based on what considerations, etc.) and the records are the vehicles for them to build their life story and indeed their identity. We should really pay more attention to record keeping, facilitate users’ access to them, and support them to come into terms with their life stories.

These are three of the main themes of the conference.
  • Participation and Decision Making: Creating the best outcomes for young people by demonstrating how to break through the complexity of including their voices in the decision-making process.
  • Transitioning from Care: How we can best support young people leaving care to improve outcomes, including a focus on providing the option for young people to be supported by the care system past the age of 18.
  • Complaints and Record Keeping: Exploring how the complaints process for children and young people in care needs to be improved so that we learn from the lessons of the past.

Which of the themes interested you the most?

I’d say Participation and Decision Making, though all three themes are very important.

Participation cuts across all aspects of service design and delivery. With participation enhanced, users’ wellbeing would be safeguarded to a higher extent.  Besides, the theme was not only discussed (as in many conferences) but actually put into practice in the Conference itself at different levels. From the choice of themes, being MCs, giving speeches, facilitating workshops, giving sharings, raising questions and comments, recommendations, participation of Young Consultants was seen everywhere, with confidence and sound reasoning. The case for participation and decision making could not be made in a more convincingly way.

What did you find valuable to take back and share with your local (Hong Kong) Care sector community?

Participation of users, for sure, as mentioned above. As we had four care users/ leavers in our delegation, the inspirations they got firsthand were tremendous.  Upon return to HK, we had conducted a small scale reporting session among around 50 carers/ professional workers with their involvement as speakers and also resource persons in group discussions. We tried to model after VIA Conference and give participants a taste of their capacity and voice. The session was very well received and we would continue to engage more care users/ leavers to promote user participation.

Why do you think Care organisations like CREATE around the world should connect and network?

Like our experience in attending VIA Conference, I think such connections and networks are important for inspiring changes in mindsets and attitudes, as well as enable mutual learning on how to effect change. Though care sectors across countries may have different contexts and systems, we have a lot in common, such as care users’ complex needs, lack of voice, poor outcomes, resource limitations and various issues in service operation, outdated policies, etc. which we can share and learn from each other.

Why do you think a global voice of children and young people in care is important?

Like I said above, I believe there are a lot of commonalities in care experience across the world.  And I was so impressed by Jan Owen, CREATE’s founder, when she shared that she could not forget (at the first conference for children in care) what it meant to have that sense of shared lived experience and the empowerment it gives when the children knew they were not alone. This is so true. A global voice of children and young people in care is therefore, not only instrumental in promoting system change, but also a sense of solidarity that means a lot for them.