National standards for out of home care

In March 2010 the Office of the Guardian provided a response to the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ (FaHCSIA) consultation on national standards for out of home care.

A copy of the submission to FaHCSIA re OOHC National Standards is available as a PDF file.

[ddownload id=”5319″ style=”button” button=”black” text=”Download the Guardian’s paper”]

The Office was also party to the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians response to the FaHCSIA consultation.  The ACCG response to consultation paper on national standards for out of home care is available as a PDF file.

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link to GCYP twitter

Monitoring visits to residential care facilities fact sheet

The Guardian has a statutory obligation to monitor the wellbeing of children and young people under guardianship or in the custody of the Minister.  One way the Office does this this is for it’s advocates to visit young people in their residential units.

This new fact sheet talks about the purpose of the visits and how they are usually conducted.  It is hoped that it will help residential care workers to most effectively integrate the visits into the house routine, to understand what the advocates will be doing and to prepare young people for the visit.

Download and read the Monitoring visits to residential care fact sheet, also available in a graphic free version for reproduction on black and white printers.

The Guardian’s Monitoring Framework fact sheet

The Guardian has a statutory obligation to monitor the wellbeing of children and young people under guardianship or in the custody of the Minister.  The Office of the Guardian collects and reports information using 12 quality statements which were distilled from the priorities of children and young people in care as expressed by them in the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care.

The 12 statements are set out and the information gathering process is explained in the Monitoring Framework 12 statements and data collection fact sheet, also available in a graphic free version more suitable for reproduction on black and white printers.

Statistics about children in care – December 2009

At 31 December 2009, 2,198 children and young people were in the custody and guardianship of the Minister for Families and Communities under 12 month or guardianship to 18 years orders. An additional 34 were on Investigaton and Assessment Orders. They had the following characteristics:

Type of guardianship (of those on 18 year and 12 month orders)

  • Order to 18 years – 83.2%
  • 12 month Order – 16.2%

Ages (of those on 18 year and 12 month orders)

  • 0 to 1 – 6.4%
  • 2 to 4 – 16.0%
  • 5 to 9 – 29.0%
  • 10 to 14 – 28.7%
  • 15 to 17 – 20.1%

Gender (of those on 18 year and 12 month orders)

  • Male – 53.8%
  • Female – 46.0%
  • Undetermined – 0.2%

Aboriginality (of those on 18 year and 12 month orders)

  • Indigenous – 23.9%
  • Non-Indigenous – 75.5%
  • Undetermined – 0.6 %

Disability

At the end of 2008 there were a total of 244 children under guardianship receiving a service from Disability SA and Novita, 12 per cent of the total. (Disability SA)

At Term 3 2009, of the 1310 children in care located in the DECS enrolment system, 34 per cent were classified as having a disability. Their primary disabilities were

  • Autism/ Asperger’s Disorder – 1.8%
  • Language Communication – 46.4%
  • Global Developmental Delay – 5.9%
  • Sensory Disability Hearing – 1.1%
  • Intellectual Disability – 24.3%
  • Physical Disability – 2.0%
  • Speech and/or Language – 17.8%
  • Sensory Disability (Vision) – 0%

(Department for Education and Children’s Services)

Accommodation arrangements

Of the 2,098 children and young people in alternative care at 31 December 2009, the care arrangements were as follows:

  • Foster care – 47.0%
  • Relative and kinship care – 38.3%
  • Financially assisted adoption – 0.1%
  • Families SA residential care – 4.2%
  • NGO residential care – 2.1%
  • Emergency and short term accommodation – 8.2%

Placement stability

In their passage through the care system, children will generally change placement a number of times. Of the 2,198 children and young people in alternative care at 31 December 2009, their experiences were:

  • First placement – 3.7%
  • One – 18.3%
  • Two to five – 43.4%
  • Six to ten – 19.9%
  • More than ten – 14.7%

The number of children and young people in the care of the Minister has grown steadily from 1,441 in June 2005 to 2,198 at 31 December 2009.

Secure detention

Children and young people in secure detention in South Australia are housed in either the Magill or Cavan Youth Training Centres.

In 2008-09 there were 1,097 admissions to secure care and the average daily occupancy of the two secure training centres was 72.34.

For more information contact us at [email protected] or 08 8226 8570.

*The statistics on this page are mainly drawn from Families SA figures on children and young people under the guardianship of the Minister and Australian Insitute of Health and Welfare data on children and young people in alternative care. Those under guardianship and those under alternative care are overlapping populations; that is most,but not all, children in alternative care are on a custody or guardianship order, and similarly, most, but not all, children under the guardianship of the Minister are in alternative care. However, the numbers of these two populations are different, and exact comparisons should not be made.

Sara presents rights book to PM

Youth Advisor Sara Bann presents ‘How Australian Kids See the World’ to the Prime Minister as part of this year’s Australia Day celebrations.  The book, produced by the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians,  commemorates  20 years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with quotations and artwork gathered from children around Australia.

Charter of Rights gets legal status

Pam Simmons Guardian

In late 2009 the Children’s Protection Amendment Bill passed both Houses of Parliament. Most of the attention leading up to this had understandably been on the extension of child safety practices to a wider range of organisations.

In one relatively small part of the amendment bill something important to children in care passed into law, that is that there will be a Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care. The Charter has served us well in promoting rights and raising awareness of needs but it has not, until now, been required by law.

Mentored and led by experienced Youth Parliamentarian David Wilkins, they sat up late into the night preparing their arguments. They presented their Bill to the two Houses of Youth Parliament and won overwhelming support for it. They met with the Minister to argue their case. And just three years on they have made history.

Thank you David Wilkins, Mellita Kimber, Bryston Scarsbrook, Jessica Parker, Nathanael Jefferies, Casey Sheppard, Ed King and Bianca North. You have done good.

What’s been done – December 2009 to February 2010

Implementation of the Information Sharing Guidelines is going well with Nunkuwarrin Yunti, DECS, DFC, SA Health and UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide in the training and induction phase for staff.  The second stage agencies, Australian Red Cross, Centacare and the government agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Justice, are preparing their procedures.

The Guardian’s 2008-09 Annual Report was tabled in Parliament in late October and the report of the inquiry into the use of physical restraint was released to the public on 13 January.  The restraint report and a report summary are available on the Guardian’s website.

A brochure to encourage young people under guardianship to consider applying to attend university was distributed to all Families SA offices, secondary schools and major universities.

The Office’s Child-sensitive records checklist,is now available as a PDF download

The Being in Care products for children are in demand and some items are now out of stock.  We are delighted that so many children have the products and hear the message that they have the right to be safe.

Sara Bann, one of our Youth Advisors, met the Prime Minister on 20 January and gave him a copy of the book, How Australian Kids See the World, commemorating the 20thanniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We welcome to our team Benita Brinkworth, 15, our newest Youth Advisor.

Universities reach out to young people in care

South Australia’s three universities have combined with DFEEST and the Office of the Guardian to design a brochure to encourage young people under, or recently under, guardianship to actively consider university study.

‘For some time now South Australia’s universities have been attempting to extend the benefits of university study to groups who may not previously have had the opportunity,’ said University of South Australia’s Consultant: Student Equity, Deb Tranter, who coordinated the three universities’ work on the brochure.

‘Following the Bradley Review into Higher Education, government policy is encouraging further effort into attracting and retaining students from diverse backgrounds and this brochure is an important first step in reaching young people in care.’

The brochure describes a range of options for uni entry, ways of funding study, the variety of courses available as well as telling some real-life stories of young people under guardianship who have made the journey to university.

While targeted to young people in their later years at high school, it also aims to influence the attitudes of adults who might support and encourage them.

‘We know that the positive attitudes and active support of foster carers, teachers, school counsellors, social workers and other adults are vital in promoting the educational success of young people in care,’  says Guardian Pam Simmons.

‘Getting the right information into the hands of these significant adults will be an important use of the brochure.’

Contributor to the booklet, Jessica Parker, recalls her route to qualifying for university.

‘Nobody from my immediate family had continued onto further study or considered getting a degree at university… The majority of my friends left about year 10 and only then I became serious about my future.  Support from my Aboriginal Support Worker was great and kept me focussed on success,’ she said.

The brochure will also highlight the different ways young people can access university study.

‘Some people in care will come to uni directly from school but there other routes.  Options after they have left school and even into their adult lives include TAFE, adult re-entry colleges, foundation studies at one of the unis or the Special Tertiary Admission Test,’ says Deb Tranter.

‘Many young people may not know that they are eligible for bonus points to help them qualify if they are on Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY or a Health Care Card, have studied certain subjects or come from some under-represented schools.’

The brochure is distributed to DECS school counsellors, through universities and can be downloaded as a PDF from the Guardian’s website (big file, might take a while!).

A new era for the Charter of Rights

With the Charter of Rights getting recognition in legislation at the end of last year and with its progressive inclusion in service contracts and practice guidelines, the Charter is operating in a changed world.

Since 2006, when the Charter was officially launched, the Office of the Guardian and the Charter of Rights Implementation Committee have worked in partnership with many agencies that serve young people in care to promote and implement the Charter.  To date, 43 agencies have chosen to endorse the Charter, committing to recognise it in their policies and apply it in their day-to-day practice.  These agencies provide a broad range of support to children in care such as alternative care, advocacy, cultural identity, disability, education and health services.

At its last meeting, the Charter  Implementation Committee decided on a major shift of emphasis. Over time, the need to promote the Charter has reduced.  Many young people, carers and workers are now very aware of it. While promotion will continue, the new focus will be on working with agencies to review and measure how well the Charter is being implemented and assess the benefits to young people.

In our statutory role of monitoring the wellbeing of children and young people in care, we already gather some information about the application of the Charter but this applies to a relatively small number of the endorsing agencies.  As agencies increasingly need to identify and measure how the Charter affects the services they provide, there is a great opportunity for the Committee and the Guardian’s Office to work with them.

Understanding how the Charter can most benefit young people in care can only be done in cooperation with those who deliver the services and building this relationship is vital.

Anticipating this new relationship with agencies, the Implementation Committee and the Guardian’s Office has set out some principles to guide its work.  We will:

  • where possible, use already existing processes to gather information
  • gather information from a variety of sources, including managers, workers and young people
  • make information gathering simple and user friendly
  • gather information consistently so that comparisons can be made over time.

We will be engaging with the agencies’ Charter Champions as planning gets under way over the next few months. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to discuss ways to use and promote the Charter within your agency, please email or call Lisa Firth on (08) 8226 8571.