CREATE celebrates 20 years

This year CREATE Foundation turns 20 and is celebrating with a number of birthday parties across Australia.

Earlier this month, Guardian Penny Wright attended the festivities in Adelaide, which included a lunch provided by the Rapid Relief Team, along with face painting and balloon twisting.

‘It was great to attend CREATE’s 20th birthday at beautiful old Brocas House in Woodville and celebrate their crucial role in the lives of many children and young people in care,’ Penny said.

‘Young people often tell me CREATE is there for them and how connected, supported and genuinely respected they feel,’ she said.

CREATE is the national body representing the voices of children and young people with a care experience. They offer programs, services and support across Australia for children and young people in foster care, kinship care and residential care.

CREATE can also be a strong and stable influence and connection for young people in care when everything else is changing at 18.

Sonja Brown is one of the young people whose life has been influenced as a result of CREATE.

‘I first had contact with CREATE when I was about 13. But I really got involved with them at 16. I went to every camp and helped plan some of them,’ she said.

‘They were the first people I contacted when I was kicked out at 18. They referred me to some youth housing services. When I told them the other services wouldn’t help me because I had a pet they still tried to help me find emergency housing,’ she said.

Sonja Brown has gone on to become a Young Consultant through CREATE’s Speak Up training, working to help other children and young people in care.

Our Office would like to say a big happy birthday to CREATE, and congratulations on the support you have given to the children and young people in care over the last 20 years. We echo what young people tell us: You really are awesome!!

CREATE SA State Coordinator Amy Duke, our Community Advocate Karina-Michelle Yeend and Guardian Penny Wright, and CREATE Youth Consultant Lisa Hoggard

Sonja Brown and Guardian Penny Wright

Guardian Penny Wright all smiles with other party guests

Clowning around

Education of young people in care

For children and young people in care, the benefits of education go far beyond grades—it’s an opportunity to meet friends, learn new things and find a sense of stability. The Guardian’s report, Children and Young People in State Care in South Australian Government Schools 2008-2018 looks at how well the system serves their needs and identifies a number of ongoing trends.

In 2018, 60.9 per cent of all students in care were enrolled in South Australian Department for Education (DE) schools, up from 57 per cent in 2017. The remainder may be enrolled in non-government schools, below school age or not enrolled for other reasons.

In the same period, 34.7 per cent of children and young people in care in DE schools identified as Aboriginal, which compared to 6.4 per cent of all students in the DE population.

Absence and attendance

Children and young people in care enrolled in DE schools show a higher rate of absence at 13 per cent, compared to 9.5 per cent for the general school population. Absence rates are higher for students in secondary school than for those in primary school.

The report also finds Aboriginal children in care are more likely to be attending school than Aboriginal children not in care.

Suspension and exclusion

According to the report, suspension and exclusion rates are consistently higher for children and young people in care than the broader cohort. The DE defines suspension as times when the student does not attend school for one to five days and exclusion as when the student does not attend for four to ten weeks, or the rest of the term or semester for students over 16.

Students in care in DE schools are suspended at a rate four times higher than DE students not in care and the report identifies violence and the main reason for suspension.

Learning and intellectual disability

The proportion of children and young people with an identified disability continues to be significantly higher for those in care than the broader school population.

In 2018, 30.3 per cent of students in care in DE schools were classified as having a disability, compared to the state average of 9.8 per cent.

NAPLAN results

Data consistently indicates children and young people in care in DE schools achieve poorer outcomes in NAPLAN in relation to meeting the National Minimum Standard.

Participation rates in NAPLAN testing are low for students in care in DE schools. While many have valid reasons for not participating, this makes tracking the experience of young people in care difficult. For example, only around half of eligible Year 9 students participated in NAPLAN testing in 2018.

Check out the Guardian’s report Children and young people in state care in South Australian Government Schools 2008-18 for further analysis, available below.

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.

Changes to the Charter of Rights – results of the Charter Champions’ Survey

words chater of rights in a speech bubbleAs well as speaking with over 30 children and many adult stakeholders about necessary changes to the Charter of Rights, the Guardian invited Charter Champions to have a say via an online survey.  There were many specific observations made by respondents to the survey which you can read in the survey report at the link below. The general thrust of comments was very similar to those from other sources, such as:

  • the content of the Charter and the way it was expressed were pretty much OK with some minor wording changes
  • there was need for more age/literacy level relevant material explaining rights to children
  • there was a great need for tools and materials for workers, carers and others to discuss rights with children
  • there was a need for more education material to assist individuals to learn and organisations to inform staff how to make use of the rights in their work with children.

Many thanks to the Charter Champions who were able to contribute and especially to those who offered to be beta testers for future Charter materials.  We will be in touch!

Download the Charter champions Survey results.

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Annual Reviews – the most important thing we do?


picture of Pam Simmons

Pam Simmons Guardian

I write this letter fresh from the celebration of a new year which, for many of us, is a short holiday and time to take stock.  The brave among us make resolutions. Some people are good far-sighted life planners, others are good at setting bite-sized goals with or without a life plan.
Planning for children is usually in the hope of giving them the best start for a secure and fulfilled life.  It is usually wrapped up in planning for the family and is done as and when big (and small) decisions crop up.

Planning for children under guardianship of the Minister is complicated by the number of adults involved and the procedures required of public administration.  In many ways though, it is the same.  The decisions range from the day-to-day care to the critical ones about moving house or changing school.  Less frequent is the time to dream, aspire, and hope for what we want for the child.

The Children’s Protection Act requires an annual review of a child’s circumstances when the child is under the long-term guardianship of the Minister. Administration of an annual review checks off on the ‘life domains’ for a child, such as physical and mental health, education, family contact, and placement. More significantly though, it is a ‘pause’ in the day to day business of parenting a child who is in care. It is a time for reflecting on the goals and ambitions, achievements and challenges for each child or young person. It is sometimes the one time in a year when the many adults in a child’s life can confer on whether they can ‘parent’ better.

A high standard of annual review is one where the focus is on the quality of the child or young person’s care arrangements with consideration given to their stability, sense of belonging, connectedness to carer and birth families, cultural identity, physical safety, emotional security, development opportunities, academic achievement and the child’s wishes now and for the future. It is not an administrative process. The child, their carers, relevant agencies, and where appropriate, the birth family, should be included.

In the very busy and demanding work of child protection agencies, the reasonable response to a non-urgent task that requires a heap of coordination, is to defer or ration it by doing the minimum.

But if we shift our way of thinking about this, it is possible that an annual review could become the most important thing to do, and the most enjoyable.

Just for a moment, if I stop being ‘the worker’ and become ‘the parent’ I want to know how she (the child) is, what she thinks, what brings meaning to her life and what she finds funny or misses or hopes for.  I look forward to asking about her and to sharing what I hear with others who want the best by her too. I listen closely to what others say about her because they see parts of her life I don’t. I want to prevent the hurts and disappointments, and if I can’t do that I want to be sure that she has someone to help her through.

Workers aren’t parents of the children in care. However, to a greater or lesser extent, they have parenting responsibilities, together with a bunch of others and especially the carers. There lies the joy. In our new way of thinking, this is the one chance in a hectic year to acknowledge the parenting achievements and challenges, and those of the child.

Senior Advocate Amanda Shaw joins annual review panels for the purpose of auditing.  She tells me of reviews that are joyous or wretched, and sometimes both. The reviews done well are heavily influenced by the Manager’s attention, the panel chair’s skill, the social worker’s knowledge of the child, the information from others such as the school teacher, the carers’ input and the child’s presence, in person or ‘voice’. A good review takes an hour and balances heavy topics with light, and has both detail and open discussion. Everyone leaves the review knowing what is to be done by whom and by when, and with a good sense of this child and how they are faring.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the annual review is mandatory because it must feel imposed. If instead it was triggered by an anniversary or a celebration, like the start of a new year, then everyone would approach it with enthusiasm and anticipation. In the real world of too much to be done and too little time, if not approached with enthusiasm, at least with knowledge of the significance of the discussion to this child’s future.

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Young people from CREATE talk to adults about respectful relationships

picture of Oog with sign saying respectSix young people from CREATE in Adelaide were joined by two in a phone link-up from Whyalla to discuss the topic of respect.  This was the second in a series of six consultations that the Guardian’s Office will do with young people across the state during 2014.

The group was asked as part of the consultation to develop a ‘tips sheet’ for professionals or social workers.  What should they consider when working with young people?

Ask young people their view

They get you to talk but it’s still what they want therefore, take young people’s views into account in a meaningful way.

Be clear from the outset about what decisions the young person can make and what decisions will be made by others.

Talk about what has been written down in notes or minutes and why.

Ask my permission to take notes in meetings.

Offer for young people to write their own notes to add to their file, from their perspective.

Remember we are still people not a file.

We don’t choose them’ (social workers) but it would be good if we could get properly matched to the right worker, including gender preferences.

Get to know us’ not just reading the file.

Young people want to get to know their social worker.

Know my interests…who we are.

Spend time with the young person.  Case notes and logging in diaries takes time away from spending time with you.

Make sure you enjoy your job because if you do not, that comes across.

More communication always helps to build relationships.

Listen to me everyday, what I have to say

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Building identity and belonging with children in care

forum badging revised 600pxThe final activity at the Charter Champions Forum on November 14 invited groups of Charter Champions to propose a plan to build a sense of identity and belonging with a hypothetical young person.  The scenarios varied widely from group to group but the action plans they produced were very similar in the opportunities and issues they addressed and the kinds of actions they proposed.
A summary of the session content is available in PDF.

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The impact and experience of moving while in care – a review of the literature

moving in care logoThe story of a child in care will include at least one move from birth family to carer family, and usually subsequent moves.  Of the 2,546 children in out-of-home care in South Australia at 30 June 2012, almost one in every five children had had between six and ten placement moves and another one in seven had had more than ten placement moves.

As the number of young people in care has grown, researchers and practitioners have wondered how it must feel for children to be removed from their birth family and ‘adopted’ by another, or several others, in turn.  The literature has much to tell about the likely impact, and something to say about how children view these events.

The The impact and experience of moving while in care literature review conducted as part of the Guardian’s inquiry, is now available in PDF.  It summarises international and national research and opinion about stability in care, the impact on children and children’s views.

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The report of the inquiry, which brings together the voice of children, case file evidence and public consultation, will be published later in 2013.

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