The Guardian’s Newsletter – August 2019

In our August 2019 newsletter we explore the importance of education for children and young people in care by reflecting on:

• the importance of individual support in their education
• their rights to education
• the quantity of education provided by state schools.

Plus we celebrate the launch of our office’s artwork murals and share the work that our staff have been involved in over the last few months.

Stability and certainty in care

3 November, 2016

Themes from Nyland  #9

The team from the Guardian’s office have analysed the 850 pages and 260 recommendations from The life they deserve: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Report[1].  We have extracted some themes and priorities to allow us to critique the government’s response, judge the improvements over time and to shape our own work.  Following is a description of the issues and a short list of things to watch for in the reform process.  The first eight in the series are available.[2] We will post the rest over the next few weeks. [3]

We would hope for all children that they are safe and settled in a care situation that fulfils all of their needs.  Commissioner Nyland describes how this is not always the case for South Australia’s children even from the point at which they enter care.

Once removed, the child’s need for stability and certainty is given insufficient weight. Attempts to reunify children with their parents drag on for far too long, causing instability as well as denying young children the certainty of the attachment relationships crucial for their development…many children taken into care are subsequently reunified with their parents when the issues that undermined their safety in the first place have not been sustainably addressed.

She recommends that formal permanency planning should start with the imposition of the court order that places the child into care and that time limits be set for reunification efforts after which long-term orders should be sought.

The current system fails to assign to every child in care a social worker who regularly visits and this failure raises stability and safety issues for children.  Annual reviews of the circumstances of each child in care, also required by legislation, are sometimes not done or done poorly,  which removes another level of safety and continuity that should be in place.

South Australia has an extraordinarily high rate of placement instability compared to other Australian jurisdictions…Placements that appear to be in danger of breaking down should be promptly identified. Early therapeutic support would help carers who may be having difficulty in coping with the challenges of caring for children with high or complex needs.

Each time a child changes placement it can inhibit the formation of attachments to people, place and community, undermine formation of healthy identity and disrupt schooling.  Children can be further distressed by having little or no say in the decision making, timing and destination of new placements.

A young person’s need for stability and support does not cease when they turn 18. In a later post we will consider how they can be assisted to make a smooth transition to independence and the support they need to continue through further education, entry into the workforce and beyond.

As reform progresses we look forward to seeing:

  • Permanency planning for children that commences at the time of an order bringing a child into care.
  • Concurrent  planning being given greater emphasis in case planning, especially for children while they are forming attachments.
  • Annual reviews being universal, independently chaired and subject to revised and more rigorously enforced standards.
  • A review of the reasons for the low level of Other Person Guardianship in South Australia.
  • All children currently receiving a differential response be assessed for eligibility for Other Person Guardianship.
  • Every child in care being allocated a social worker who visits them at regular intervals determined by an assessment of the circumstances and the child’s preference.
  • Involvement of the child in discussion about the need for placement change and how and when it will occur.
  • The inclusion of the voice of the child in all discussions at which decisions are made about significant matters that affect them.

Please join the discussion via the reply box leaving a name and an email address in the spaces provided.  We will remove them from the published post if you request in your reply.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all quotes are from The life they deserve: Child Protection Systems Royal Commission Report,
[2] See also posts on Coordination and Collaboration, The voice of the child , Emergency care , Residential care, Home-based care, Therapeutic care – everywhere. Aboriginal children and Education.
[3] This is not intended to be a précis of Commissioner Nyland’s report which provides a very clear and readable summary.  Because of the Guardian’s mandate, this analysis will tend to focus on issues for children in out-of-home-care.

Young people in care got talent

Richard Chew and bandThe power of music to draw young people out of themselves and to draw them together was never more evident than at the Clayton Wesley Church Hall on the afternoon of 30 May.  The musical performances by twelve young people and Richard Chew’s band Working Dog Union were the culmination of eight hours of intensive rehearsal over two weekends.

The workshops were funded with a  grant from the newly-created Karen Fitzgerald Fund which provides young people in care with experiences that would not normally be available to them.

Sue Nicholls who is spokesperson for the fund said ‘We approached the Southern Guardianship Hub at Marion with the idea of a music workshop for young people in care and Manager Adam Reilly was very supportive.

‘Two workers from Marion Meredith DuCain and Tony Satanek helped with finding interested young people and with the organisation and transportation.

‘Our starting group of 15 participants for the first workshop only dropped to 12 for the second one which is a tribute to the respectful and supportive way that Richard and the band members worked with them.

‘Really though, it is a tribute to the young people themselves, not only their talent but also the courage and resilience it takes for some to just get up and perform.’

In the words of some of the young musicians:
“I had a great time. I enjoyed the singing.”
“It was nice to meet new people and join in.”
“I had a wonderful day and it was awesome.  Thank you for letting me come.”

Girl playing guitarThe Fund celebrates the life and work of the late Karen Fitzgerald by, among other things, providing grants of up to $5,000 to support projects that assist the healing and development of individuals or groups of young people under the guardianship of the Minister.

Says Sue Nicholls, ‘We are keen to hear about  projects, especially those that involve cooperation and co-funding so please give me a call on 0432 594 833 so we can talk and provide you with the guidelines and application form.’

If you’d like to comment on this, please join the discussion in the panel below.

LJ and the Chish

Aerosol painting of a combination of a chicken and a fishAs you walk into the Regency Park Community Unit you can’t help but notice the ‘Chish’.  This large painting showing a combination chicken and fish is the work of young aerosol artist and resident LJ.

‘I’ve been drawing since I was about seven,’ explains LJ, ‘but I really got interested when I saw my brother doing it when I was nine.

‘I was going to the Aerosol Art program at Twelve25  til last term and they showed me like new techniques.

‘Sometimes we work on our own stuff but sometimes we do community projects like the Rec. Centre wall.’

LJ’s worker Dave Platt explains that aerosol art is not LJ’s only talent.

‘When we saw LJ perform his music in Elizabeth recently, we recorded it and the rest of the staff were blown away.’

‘His songs are amazing, really creative and based on things that he has seen in his life.’

The only thing holding back LJs music is his lack of the right equipment.

‘All that equipment costs a lot, microphones and stuff, and then I could do it in my room.’

LJ attends a hiphop school at Northern Sound System.

‘It’s been great to see LJ so committed to music and art.  He is always working on a drawing or new songs,’ says Dave.

‘ Right now we are looking everywhere to get some funding to buy him the laptop and software and the tuition that could turn this into something really important in his life.’

LJ remains modest about his artistic skills.

‘Of all my [graffiti] crew, I reckon I’m about the worst.’

link to GCYP twitter

The Youth Advisors talk serious fun

The Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care affirms children and young people’s right to develop their talents and interests, like sport or art.

When there are lots of other important things to sort out or when everyone is busy, remembering to help a young person to either start or maintain their recreational interests can be really tricky.

So for this edition, some of our Youth Advisors have their say about recreation and why it is so important.

It can offer a huge variety of different experiences and can allow young people to develop and follow their passions. For example, following a favourite sporting team may lead to becoming actively involved at school or with the local team.

It is about having fun and it can allow you to express your feelings and emotions. This can mean having some regular ‘quality’ time just for yourself – something of your own, outside of the family.

Oog with a soccer ballIt can not only help you to remain fit and healthy but it can also help you emotionally by improving your interactions with others, help you to learn strategies to deal with different types of situations and therefore help boost your confidence and self esteem.

It is a big part of most people’s lives and that should be just the same for children and young people in care.

Being involved in new activities can put you outside your comfort zone which can help you to challenge your abilities and to develop your skills.

Oog reading a bookBy having something regular to do just for yourself, can give you something to concentrate on or to look forward to.

Being involved with other young people in your local area can help you to build strong links with your community. These links can give a sense of fitting in and belonging.

Having someone to help you can also help you to remain focussed. A little success can go a long way.

It is about friendships and having the opportunity to make more friends. Having more friends can mean having a wider support network which can be really helpful.

The art of wellbeing

art therapy artworkArt is an enjoyable, entertaining and enriching part of the lives of young people everywhere. For the young men and women who participate in the X-Streams art therapy program, it is a powerful tool to help them regain lost ground and deal with troubling mental health issues.

As trained art therapist Ellen Sallows explains, ‘It is the process of producing art that is the key to art therapy, rather than the product.

‘Each piece of art is a developmental journey that parallels the journeys our young people are taking in their lives.

‘To start, to anticipate and plan progress, to control yourself and the medium, to encounter difficulties and deal with them appropriately and to persevere until something is completed – these are developmental experiences that many of our young people, with their turbulent pasts, may not have had the chance to practice.’

Ellen explains how each aspect of an art therapy program can be tailored to the developmental stage of young people, how photography can be a way to experience the world through the security of a viewfinder, how puppetry can be a safe vehicle for role play and how drawing can be a journey starting with representing inanimate objects, then animals and finally to re-engaging with people.

Along with the input from the X-Streams case workers, the support workers and carers, in the houses and the psychologist, feedback from art therapy provides a fuller understanding of a young person’s current progress and issues at the weekly team meetings.

‘We have had some of our young people for nearly two years now,’ says Ellen.

art therapy artwork‘When they first came to art therapy, many were in pure survival mode, completely reactive, isolated, frantic and destructive. The same young people today are much more comfortable within themselves with the confidence to plan and undertake art projects, the resilience to meet the inevitable setbacks and the perseverance to see them through.’

And though the changes in the young people and their behaviour is the real product of art therapy and the other care and supports that are provided at X-Streams, it is hard to look past the remarkable quality of work on display and documented in the recently published book, Keys.

‘Certainly, the recognition and praise the artists have had from their peers and from the community has benefited their self-esteem,’ says Ellen.

X-Streams is a residential care program proved by Baptist Care (SA) for young people 14-17 years.

Magill photo expo

This photo is just one of the dozens of remarkable images created by the residents of Magill Youth Training Centre in September.

Photographer and tutor Jeremy Watson said the images, produced after only a few hours of tuition and practice, were as good as those produced by some of his other students over many days and weeks.

‘We started out by getting the young people to pick out a couple of photos from a collection I brought and asking them to say why they had picked them and how they made them feel.

‘From the start the interest and enthusiasm were great.’

Very soon the discussion progressed to the genres of portraiture, landscape and close- up and then onto mastering the controls of the digital cameras newly purchased for the project.

‘After shooting we brought all the kids back and they had the chance to look at and evaluate their work on the monitor.’

In the words of some of the young people involved:

Taking pictures, it was fun.

I learnt how to hold steady the camera and how to use macro.

It’s not always about a front on photo, you can take them in all different ways.

It felt like we had freedom and fun with the photos.

I learnt how you can find good photos anywhere.

Program Coordinator at Magill, Julie Wright, said that it was great to be able to introduce a new activity for the residents and one which was so interesting and accessible to all of them.

‘Everything went off without a hitch, and since we bought the cameras staff are finding other ways to use them as part of unit activity and to document events.’

At the end of Child Protection Week, a photo exhibition of prints of selected pictures was staged for all residents, some staff and guests from the Office of the Guardian.

Viewers were very impressed by the originality and technical quality of the images produced by the young photographers while the residents were enthusiastic.

‘Now that it has gone so well’, says Julie, ‘we’ll be trying to organise more photography activities in the future and we are already looking for opportunities for some residents who’ve shown a real interest to continue their photography when they leave juvenile detention..’

View the Magill residents pictures collage in PDF.