Cooperation and collaboration survey January 2018 – some gains and some way still to go

‘My experience is that when workers across the systems work collaboratively and cooperatively with each other the outcomes for the child and carers can be positive in numerous ways and is heart-warming.’ – survey respondent

Compared to 2017

Compared to the June 2017 results, the January 2018 respondents award modest improvements in some areas. Cooperation between the Department for Child Protection (DCP) workers and foster and kinship carers occurs frequently or always according to 23% and 28% of respondents respectively, both significant improvements.  It is up by 15% to a survey-best of 31% among organisations when there is an investigation of child sexual abuse.

The poorest performers

Cooperative relationships that occurred least frequently were between

  • DCP staff and the National Disability Insurance Agency
  • disability services and DCP workers
  • heads of government on child protection matters
  • organisations, NGOs, universities and other training organisations on workforce planning

Overall

Even for the best performing relationships, the survey revealed how far we are from a situation in which cooperation and collaboration occurs frequently or always with only six of the nineteen relationships surveyed exceeding 20% and none exceeding 31%.

Strategic relationships were among the worst rated.  Cooperation between heads of government departments, workforce planning and service planning were given ‘never’ or ‘not normal’ ratings by 49%, 60% and 47% of respondents respectively.

Comments

Our special thanks to the many respondents who made extensive comments and they mostly agree with the general direction of the statistics.  They also illuminate specific issues and, apart from a few excisions, we reproduce them in full in the report.

Download the January 2018 Cooperation and collaboration survey report.

A Training Centre Visitor for young people in detention

Penny Wright is Training Centre Visitor in addition to being Guardian for Children and Young People. Work is well underway to set up the new Training Centre Visitor (TCV) Program established by the Youth Justice Administration Act, 2016.

At the heart of the new program is the obligation to listen to and promote the best interests of children and young people in the youth justice system. A major milestone is the commencement of Travis Thomas, the first Advocate to start developing relationships with residents at the two Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) sites.

The role of the TCV

The TCV will provide the South Australian community with independent scrutiny of the conditions and rights of children and young people in detention.  This is just the sort of independent oversight body’ proposed in recommendation 15.10 of the recent report of the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The TCV will promote the best interests of AYTC residents by mechanisms such as an advocacy service and ongoing visiting and formal inspection programs.  As is usual with independent positions of this sort, the TCV also can conduct inquiries about any matters referred by the Minister and can initiate an own motion inquiry about systemic reform.

Progress

With the recruitment of Advocate Travis Thomas to the team, work will prioritise dialogue with AYTC residents to advise them about the new TCV role and to build the relationship necessary to elicit and express their views, aspirations and needs.  Dialogue with other stakeholders will continue or be established, particularly AYTC staff and management, and the community and government agencies with an interest in youth justice.

The detailed work necessary to create an operational framework for the TCV Program is underway including the development of appropriate standards, guidelines and policies.  This will be done, as much as possible, to ensure that the TCV Program will work in line with international standards such as those that will come into force following Australia’s recent ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT)

Special groups

Importantly, the Youth Justice Administration Act directs the TCV to respond to the needs of three particular groups of children and young people . They are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are significantly over-represented, those who are under guardianship in the child protection system and those who have a physical, psychological or intellectual disability.

The TCV program will provide accessible, credible and culturally appropriate services that reflects and promote the views of AYTC residents about  their care, conditions, treatment and opportunities for development.  The program also will identify opportunities for improvements and promote systemic change in the youth justice sector.

The program will comply with Parliament’s requirement that all state authorities protect, respect and seek to give effect to rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international human rights instruments affecting children and young people.  A focus for this will be reference to entitlements enshrined in the Charter of Rights for Youth Detained in Training Centres, also endorsed by Parliament.

Information sessions

The TCV Program team will host a series of information sessions in the coming months to provide further information to interested stakeholders.  If you would like further information or to attend, please email or phone Belinda Lorek or Alan Fairley on 8226 8570.

This story first appeared in the Guardian’s Newsletter for February 2018, downloadable here.

Collaboration survey results – The views of Government and NGOs

This week we look at how perceptions of collaboration and cooperation in child protection differ between government organisations and NGOs.

Given that collaboration should occur ‘frequently’ or ‘always’  in no areas did more than half of Government or non-Government respondents report that this was the case.

Differences

Government respondents almost always perceived much higher levels of collaboration and cooperation than NGO respondents.  Averaging all areas, 23 percent of Government versus 7 percent of NGO respondents rated collaboration and cooperation as occurring ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ .

NGO respondents rated collaboration and cooperation much lower that Government respondents most significantly:

  • between organisations working with children in the courts on child protection matters
  • between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations on matters related to individual Aboriginal children
  • between organisations supporting children after sexual abuse

Areas of agreement

Government and NGO respondents agreed on a number of areas where levels of cooperation and collaboration never occurred or were not normal.  These included:

  • between government organisations, NGOs and universities and other training organisations on workforce planning
  • between heads of government departments on child protection matters
  • between government and Aboriginal organisations on policy about Aboriginal children in care
  • between DCP staff and the National Disability Insurance Agency

Comments from Government respondents

Communication between stakeholders is paramount in finding workable support and solutions… we just need to drop the walls and get on with the job holisicly!

We have excellent support from CAMHS staff and Residential care, also fabulous support from My Youth Health Nurse who visits regularly to assist young people. There has been an improved interaction between agencies and DCP to assist Aboriginal young people in care.

There is extreme variation of quality and quantity of collaboration and coordination between individuals and agencies involved in the care and protection of children and young people. In my area, it is of particular concern that there is such poor communication between DCP and other government agencies (principally DECD), as well as the NGO sector with regard to the training and development of DCP staff, workforce planning and aligning practice between DCP and non DCP workers who are charged with similar roles in the child protection system. Not only in this poor management and support of the workforce, it contributes to inconsistencies in knowledge, skills and practice and thus poorer outcomes for children and young people.

I work in child and adolescent mental health and part of my role is to work across the system for the purpose of creating or strengthening scaffolding for the child or adolescent and their carers. My experience is that when workers across the systems work collaboratively and cooperatively with each other the outcomes for the child ?? and carers can be positive in numerous ways and is heartwarming. Obviously this doesn’t always happen for many reasons, much of which I believe is work overload and insufficient supports for many workers leading to a stressed system and a lack of education and deep understanding of the effects of trauma and abuse on young people. However the system also has a band of many experienced and dedicated workers in all areas who support the strengthening of the system in the course of doing their jobs. Thanks for the work and role your organisation plays ??

Comments from non-Government respondents

This to me is still a huge area for practice development. It is too often the case that the systems around the child are the ongoing contributor to the complexities and anxiety placed on the child in care. It is clear through the many commissions that change is critical in collaboration and coordination, however I fear that the changes occurring are a result of a tick-boxing exercise and are not occurring in the spirit of collaboration and coordination across the sector.

Government departments frequently consult with stakeholders but it’s often shallow and doesn’t appear to have impact on decisions and policy. At the most basic level, care team planning for children in OOHC doesn’t have happen. Carers and NGOs are not respected and asked for input once decisions are made.  DCP have no idea of, or commitment to, real co-design or partnership.

**Comments have had minor proofing changes. Some comments have been edited for brevity and to minimise repetition.

Secure Therapeutic Care – Framing Principles

In October 2017, the Guardian provided advice to the Minister for Education and Child Development with reference to bills before State Parliament.  In it she discussed tensions between the child’s right to freedom and self-determination and the need to take appropriate steps to protect a child from danger and to aid their psychological recovery.

This advice is now available for download.

Collaboration survey results – staff of Government schools and the DCP

 

 

 

 

 

The results from the survey completed in January 2018 show little change from the June 2017 survey in the rate of collaboration and cooperation between workers in Government schools (DECD) and those in the Department for Child Protection (DCP).  However, DCP and DECD workers see things quite differently with DCP workers consistently rating levels of collaboration and cooperation as higher than their education colleagues.

Collaboration between between staff of Government schools and DCP workers
nevernot normalsometimesfrequentlyalwaysn*
June 2017 – all responses71855201246
Jan. 2018 – all responses52058152105
Jan. 2018 – DCP employees0176711618
Jan. 2018 – DECD employees15224122027

*n is the number of respondents who felt competent to comment on this aspect of collaboration and cooperation. Where the numbers are small, one should be careful of drawing more than general conclusions.

Comments by DCP workers**

January is not a normal month as a lot of agencies slow down during the Christmas break and school holidays. Otherwise there is a lot of dialogue with schools and DCP.

There is extreme variation of quality and quantity of collaboration and coordination between individuals and agencies involved in the care and protection of children and young people. In my area, it is of particular concern that there is such poor communication between DCP and other government agencies (principally DECD), as well as the NGO sector with regard to the training and development of DCP staff, workforce planning and aligning practice between DCP and non DCP workers who are charged with similar roles in the child protection system. Not only is this poor management and support of the workforce, it contributes to inconsistencies in knowledge, skills and practice and thus poorer outcomes for children and young people.

Comments by DECD workers**

I feel that DCP needs to open up the lines of communication with DECD/schools. Education needs to be given a greater importance then DCP often give it. Connection to education is linked to future outcomes for students.

Lack of communication from DCP with schools and DECD Student Support services; difficult to get DCP workers to attend case meetings; difficult to get a DCP worker to talk to on the phone about one of their clients (e.g. a guardianship child). DCP don’t always put the required consideration in to what school to enrol a guardianship child. (Please note these are general statements, there can be DCP workers who communicate and interact well).

There are times when there is good information sharing and planning between agencies, but other times not so. Seems somewhat dependent on staff involved.

I am as social worker in a Children’s Centre and we work very well with the Department of Child Protection and other government and non-government agencies in relation to supporting children at risk. I believe the only reason why collaboration is not always available is due to lack of resources in relation to the Department of Child Protection given on the ground workers are always operating at full capacity.

DECD Support Services often makes contact with DCP caseworkers regarding children already in care – often without return contact or reply… I make lots of recommendations in my reports and I rarely hear if any of these have been followed up by DCP. Personally have found DCP staff very difficult to contact. Staffing vacancies in the country most likely contribute to this.

Comment by an NGO worker**

In my limited experience of working with young people in care in the public school system, there is very limited communication between DCP and schools. Incidents such as missing person reports, lack of attendance, mental health and physical health, suicide and self harm risks and many other factors that impact upon a young person’s ability to attend and engage in education have not been clearly communicated with the school. This means that we as educators and school support staff are unable to provide the required support to ensure that the young person’s right to an education is upheld.

**Comments have had minor proofing changes. Some comments have been edited for brevity and to minimise repetition.

Analysis and commentary

Although the number of respondents was fewer than in the 2017 survey, there is little change from the June 2018 survey in the rate of collaboration and cooperation between workers in Government schools (DECD) and those in the the Department for Child Protection (DCP). The comments left identify similar issues to those identified in the June 2017 survey.

It is reasonable to expect that cooperation and collaboration should occur ‘always’ or ‘frequently’. By this criterion, DCP respondents, DECD respondents and respondents as a whole give the Government schools-DCP collaboration a substantial ‘fail’.

The  respondents’ comments generally suggest that, as the most significant decision makers and holders of information, DCP should be taking the initiative in promoting this collaboration.

Collaboration survey results – foster carers and the DCP

The results from the Collaboration and Cooperation Survey completed last week show little change in the rate of collaboration and cooperation between foster carers and the Department for Child Protection, with percentages in each category being similar to those in June 2017.  Responses from those identifying as foster carers varied significantly from the overall result but the number of foster carers who responded is small.

Collaboration and cooperation between foster carers and  (DCP) workers

nevernot normalsometimesfrequentlyalwaysn*
June 2017 – all responses (%)

2

1557214

235

Jan. 2018 – all responses (%)

22154184

92

Jan. 2018 – foster carers  (%)81742330

12

*n is the number of respondents who felt competent to comment on this aspect of collaboration and cooperation. Where the numbers are small, one should be careful of drawing more than broad general conclusions.

Foster carer comments

Five of the foster carers who responded left comments.  Some comments have been edited for brevity and to minimise repetition.

Cooperation and collaboration between Foster Carers, Kinship Carers and the Department remains sub-standard… Examples of this are an absence of communicating with carers about a child’s access to biological parents which is only known after the access has occurred or material decisions being made with no regard to the best interests of the child.

I am more than disappointed that DCP don’t involve carers in case planning [and] reunification planning…

Carers are being excluded from children’s annual reviews including meetings, copies of their own annual reviews, case planning [and] financial agreements…  Meetings are taking place without carers … decisions are being made by staff, both NGO and DCP, who have never met the children nor the carer and with no knowledge at all…

There is no or very little effective communication … in working WITH foster (carers) parents…

NGO’s are failing to support foster carers who are left to advocate for their children alone. No one has ever checked to see if foster carers are receiving the support NGO’s are paid to provide them. Foster carers are leaving the system and only few are joining!

Comments from other than foster carers

Communication between DCP and Carers (foster and kinship carers caring for children in the statutory care system) can be improved. Many issues that arise for carers are due to lack of communication, miscommunication or poor communication. (NGO Manager)

DCP workers do not have the attitude and skills to work respectfully and collaboratively with families and other professionals….The message about respect and collaboration is not breaking through. (child protection worker – area not identified)

I think communication can be excellent and it can be really poor. I believe it is person-led and not necessarily because any organisation applies quality assurance measures across the agency consistently. (DCP worker)

I’ve not noticed any significant change as recommended by the Royal Commission, in particular foster carers are provided with next to no information on the children residing in their homes. (DCP Worker)

Analysis and commentary

Although the number of respondents was fewer than in the 2017 survey, the responses indicate that there has been little change in the frequency of coordination and collaboration between foster carers and the DCP.  The comments left by foster carers highlight similar issues to those raised in the June 2017 survey and are supported by respondents elsewhere within the system.

It is reasonable to expect that cooperation and collaboration should occur ‘always’ or ‘frequently’. Only 25 percent of respondents to the June 2017 survey and 22 percent of the 2018 survey gave a ‘pass mark’ to the DCP/foster carer collaboration by this standard.  The bulk of the commentators suggested or implied that the DCP should take the initiative in improving the collaborative relationship. Numbers of commentators suggested that workload for DCP workers limited opportunities to develop collaborative practice.

Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) Meeting

photo of commissioners and guardians in a group

Pictured are the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians who met in Melbourne in November 2017.

14 December 2017

The Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) met on 15 and 16 November in Melbourne. The ACCG comprises national, state and territory children and young peoples’ commissioners, guardians and advocates.

The ACCG is currently focusing on achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, promoting children and young people’s engagement and participation, upholding the rights of children and young people in youth justice detention and promoting the safety and well-being of children and young people.

Download the ACCG November meeting communique now.

What is therapeutic residential care?

21 November 2017

In June 2017, 550 of the 3,484 children and young people in out of home care in South Australia lived in either residential or emergency care rather than home-based care such as foster, relative or kinship care.

We know that residential care should do more than just warehouse vulnerable children and young people, that what they experience there will have a profound effect on their future health, emotional and social adjustment, identity and life prospects. The children and young people who find themselves in residential care have experienced the same or more of the trauma and dislocation in their lives as others coming into care and need the same or more care and nurture to be able to heal.  Commissioner Nyland made the call that all residential care in our state should be ‘therapeutic’.

But what is therapeutic residential care?

This is a question for all child protection jurisdictions across Australia. The Guardian’s Office is leading a national policy development process to articulate what constitutes therapeutic residential care for the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) group.  The statement will identify the essential elements that a service will need to provide to warrant the designation as ‘therapeutic residential care’.

These are some of the themes that emerged during its development.

Children and young people in therapeutic residential care are at the centre of the care model and live in an environment that emphasises their wellbeing and safety.  They are informed about and can influence decisions that affect their lives, are empowered to know and enjoy their rights. They have access to formal and informal mechanisms for resolving concerns, including through access to independent monitoring and grievance mechanisms.

Those from diverse cultural backgrounds have access to culturally appropriate care, in particular those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Children and young people who have disabilities or are experiencing psychosocial issues have an environment that responds to their needs, as do those in regional areas. Wrapped around the children and young people in therapeutic residential care are comprehensive and coordinated services to meet the full range of their needs, including access to appropriate external or mainstream services.

Restabilising a sense of stability is important to traumatised children and young people so when changes of care placement are made, they are done with particular care and sensitivity to the needs and wishes of the one being moved and also the peers who share their space and their lives.  Where it is safe to do so, priority will be given to maintaining links with the child or young person’s family and significant others.

These are all necessary conditions for therapeutic residential care but could equally be what we aspire to in all residential care.

What is unique and critical to therapeutic care is that the residential care house is staffed with appropriately trained people who develop therapeutic relationships that respond to attachment-related and developmental needs.  Staff will be trauma-informed and, in turn, build the capacity of children and young people to form positive relationships with others.  Each child or young person will have an individual therapeutic care plan which is regularly reviewed.  Staff will have the training, supervision and support to understand and respond to the challenging behaviours that sometimes accompany trauma.  Personal relationships are key and staff need to be retained for a long time to provide a secure, stable and consistent base for recovery.

Guardian Penny Wright will present a draft proposal defining therapeutic residential care to the national ACCG meeting in mid-November.  The Australian Human Rights Commission and Commissioners/Guardians from the Northern Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia have provided feedback on earlier drafts.

We will provide you with updates as the national conversation continues.

For an introduction to the practice of therapeutic care, see our article Healing Developmental Trauma from February 2015.
This item first appeared in the November 2017 Guardian’s Newsletter which you can download now.

The Guardian’s Newsletter – November 2017

picture of the november 2017 guardians newsletter

14 November 2017

In this edition of the Guardian’s Quarterly Newsletter:

  • Two bills that would profoundly affect young people encountering the youth justice system
  • A scheme to visit young people in residential and emergency care
  • What is therapeutic residential care
  • The Charter of Rights and one major NGO
  • Some lyrics from a young song writer

Plus what the Office has been up over the last few months.

Download the November 2017 Newsletter.

We plan – you tell us what

17 October, 2017

In less than two weeks the Guardian and her team will be setting out the direction of the Office for the next three years.

How well have we worked with you?  How could we have done better?  Where should we direct our energies in the future?

Real friends can be honest.  We ask just five minutes of your time to help us learn the lessons of the past and how to do our work in the future..

Follow the link to Performance and direction of the Guardian’s Office – 2017

Many thanks.