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Independent survey reveals VIC young people are happy in care placements but need more say in care plans

Written on April 17, 2019

Melbourne, 17th April, 2019, today CREATE Foundation will hold a state briefing on findings from the largest independent survey of Victorian children and young people with an out-of-home care experience. The results indicate that half of young people surveyed remain unaware of their care plan (31%), experience placement instability and lack the appropriate channels to have input into the plan for their own life.

Key findings indicate that 31% of respondents knew about a case plan (which is lower than the national figure of 43.6%) and of that, only 40% were involved in making the plan for their life. Nationally, 92.7% of respondents agreed with the statement that they “felt safe and secure” in their placement, 78% of VIC respondents strongly agreed with the statement. 25.8% of respondents had been moved from a placement they didn’t want to leave. When it came to leaving care, 25% knew about their leaving care plan. 39% of respondents were aware of their Cultural Support Plan which is the highest proportion across all states.

The latest survey is the only one of its kind being via direct consultation with children and young people about their care experience under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020. The lack of access to those who are currently living in care presents a significant challenge for giving a voice to children and young people about their direct experience and needs.

The highly anticipated report, titled: Out-of-Home Care in Australia: Children and Young People’s Views After 5 Years of National Standards1 is a follow up from CREATE’s 2013 independent Report: Experiencing Out-of-Home Care in Australia: The Views of Children and Young People. This study concentrated on placement issues and levels of participation, and dealt with all life domains including education, health, relationships (family and friends), identity, and culture.

In the latest survey, over 1,275 children and young people between 10-17 years old, shared invaluable insights into what is working well and what still needs to be improved in the child protection system. The survey focussed on these key areas: knowledge about care planning, having a say in their plan for their life, if young people feel safe and secure in their placement, and feeling prepared to transition to independence (leave care).

24-year-old Victorian male, Victor, said: “I was staggered at the number of young people who said they didn’t know about their care plan. That such a high number of kids didn’t know, I feel like that is almost of an indicator of the care system that young people are floating through and being kept in the dark and not having control of having a say in their plan. Birth to 18 years is a small part of your life, but it is the building blocks to further on in your life,” commented Victor.

“What is needed is better communication and not just communicating with people when it is crisis point,” he added. Victor is currently studying youth work at University.

 

The survey found that children and young people clearly indicated it was important to them to have a say about decisions affecting their care experience, particularly concerning their daily activities, where they lived, and their contact with family members.

 A comprehensive set of findings will be revealed at the briefing, with key insights for VIC shown below:

  • 54% of young people had lived in only 1-2 placements.
  • 42% of children and young people did not live with their siblings also in care, (split sibling placements), the highest number across Australia. Only 14% were placed with all their siblings.
  • Overall score for department/agency indicating how well young people felt they were cared for, was the second lowest nationally at 62/100.
  • Almost 40% said they had no caseworker at present (highest across all states) and only half reported they could see their caseworker when needed; and rated comfort in talking to their caseworker at 55/100 (second lowest nationally).
  • Young people had the highest rankings on both knowledge about their family story (rating knowledge at 70%); and saw grandparents more often than young people in other states.
  • 25% had awareness of the charter of rights for children and young people; and 25% had wanted to make a complaint but changed their mind (second lowest nationally).
  • Children and young people in home-based care tended to have a more stable care experience than in Residential Care or Independent Living; Kinship Care respondents reported the most stable placements, with three quarters of these meeting the Standard.

CREATE’s Executive Director of Research and survey author, Dr Joseph McDowall spoke about how the reports, over the past five years, addressing the national standards clearly show where to direct focus to improve the out-of-home care system in Australia.

“Children and young people want more meaningful participation in the decision-making that affects them directly. They need to be more involved in all aspects of life-course planning, particularly when considering their future as autonomous members of the community.”

“Relationships with carers are recognised as critically important, however, more resources, encouraging reflective practice and team building, must be directed to enabling caseworkers to perform their role effectively in addressing the needs of those for whom they are responsible.”

“Finally, greater effort must be expended by governments to ensure that staff in all residential care facilities are trauma-informed and trained in providing essential therapeutic support.”

Ms Jacqui Reed, CREATE Foundation Chief Executive shared that the results overall clearly illustrated the importance of meaningfully including children and young people in care and cultural support planning, through to transition planning for their entry to adulthood.

“The new survey found that most children and young people have little awareness of planning processes or plans about them, even when workers maintain that plans exist”, commented Ms Reed.

“Child friendly processes reflect a respect for the basic rights of a child or young person to know about and inform decisions impacting them and their care journey. To develop plans in isolation discounts young people and in turn their links to information, supportive adults and cultural connections that could all be part of ongoing supports. It is vital to see the system establish robust training and tools for workers to strengthen connection – potentially also strengthening placement stability for young people”.

The results have revealed a wide range of domains which require focus and attention to strengthen a system under strain. What remains disheartening for CREATE Foundation is to continually see that not only are young people growing up with the extreme challenges of placement instability, there remains a profound lack of opportunities for young people to have a say in important decisions that affect their lives and to feel they are heard (68%).

 

Event Information: CREATE’s state briefing event is taking place at the Chapel, 237 Cecil Street, South Melbourne, 2-4.30pm, Wednesday 17th April, 2019. Presenters include Executive Director of Research and survey author, Dr Joseph McDowall, sector and government representatives, as well as hearing powerful stories shared by CREATE’s young people on their experiences, followed by a lively discussion around how the child protection sector can work together to improve the lives of children and young people in out-of-home care.  RSVP to attend the event by phoning CREATE VIC on (03) 9918 0002 email createreport.eventbrite.com.au

CREATE Foundation is the national consumer body representing the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience (including kinship care, foster care and residential care). CREATE develops policy and research to report on and advocate for a better care system. For more information please visit www.create.org.au or 1800 655 105

Media Enquiries: To discuss a story idea regarding the new survey findings, arrange an interview with CREATE Chief Executive, Ms Jacqui Reed, survey author, Dr Joseph McDowall or a young person with a care experience contact Leigh White via 0431 932 122 or hello@leighwhite.com.au ; or Andrea Doney via 0402 050 418 or andrea@admarcoms.com.au

View CREATE’s standard and young person’s reports via this link:

https://create.org.au/publications/2018-create-report/

 

download media release

 

 

Source: 1. McDowall, J. J. (2018). Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards. Sydney: CREATE Foundation.

Source 2: Child protection Australia 2017–18 report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 8/3/19.