Caring Choice provides a wide range of disability support services for children and people of all ages in South Australia.
It’s over two years now since the I have the Right flashcards for young people with disabilities were first distributed. In the intervening time hundreds of packs have gone to the adults who work with young people in care in foster homes, residential care and youth justice.
Rebecca Munn, Program Coordinator – Children’s Therapeutic Accommodation Service at CARA, is one who has made use of the cards in her work with young people in CARA’s residential care facilities and emergency respite care.
‘They have been useful to me in starting conversations with young people about difficult issues like safety and personal space.
‘We refer to the rights in the Charter of Rights all the time but the written language doesn’t have much meaning for young people with limited literacy. The symbols and the faces on the cards can be cues for a good one-to-one discussion about a young person’s rights.
‘The Charter of Rights posters are displayed but sometimes we might take out a single right from the long list and make up our own poster specially for one young person, perhaps with a photo of the young person themselves.
‘We can also use the cards to talk about how to raise issues with other people. The right to nutritious food can help us talk about how they may ask for a change in the menu or the right to private space can look at ways to ask someone not to keep coming into your room.
‘Many of our young people have a good idea of their own rights but are less able to see how their behaviour can affect the rights of others. We are trying to help them live together with other people while they are with us and when they move on into other social situations. Discussing the rights of others can be a good way to tackle behaviour that is not appropriate.
‘We mix up the various ages and genders of the cards to suit our needs. Using the cards designed for older ages with the younger children can be useful to talk about their futures and what they will be doing when they are older.
‘From the ages of 14 or 15 we are talking with our young people about transitioning to the adult world or to other care situations. Issues like mobile phones, going out, social media, how you present yourself to the world, typical teenage stuff, are coming out. It would be good to have another set of cards for teenagers and young adults that we could use to start talking about these kinds of issues.
‘We use a lot of techniques like exploring social stories or enacting situations in role plays to create a space to work with our young people, but rights are often the key and the cards are a good tool for discussing rights.’
Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) today released a Model Charter of Rights for Children and Young People Detained in Youth Justice Facilities.
The model charter is based on international agreements to which Australia is a signatory, and is designed to provide children and young people in custody with an easy to understand guide to their rights, and what they are entitled to while in custody.
Further details are in the next edition of the Guardian’s Newsletter and will feature in a post in these pages in forthcoming weeks.
[ddownload id=”4912″ text=”Download the Charter now” style=”button” button=”black”]
Residential care worker Matt Smith has been having regular house meetings with the young people in his care for many years but only in the last year or so has he been making formal use of the Charter of Rights.
‘We have house meetings every month and after going through the minutes of the last meeting, the Charter of Rights is the first item.
‘Each meeting we take different group of rights, say the right to feel good about yourself, and we discuss it. Then I ask them to read out the rights and say if it true in their case. If it isn’t, then we try to work out why and put some actions in the minutes to try to get it put right.
‘It’s easy for some young people to get overlooked in the day-to-day running of the house, where perhaps one resident is demanding a lot of attention. In these meetings, everyone gets a turn and important issues get a chance to come up.
‘Some of what is discussed is house matters like the dinner menu, a change in bedtime or a request for more one-on-one time with a worker. But recently we had an example where a request in a meeting led to a young person being able to spend time with their mother over Christmas and the new year.
‘Every young person gets a chance to chair house meetings which gives them practice but can also get them respect in a house if they are younger or quieter than the others.
‘The meetings work well because we have a fairly stable group of young people and we have built up familiarity and trust with each other over a long period.
‘And we make sure that we follow up on all of our actions and report back at the next meeting.
‘Regularity and reliability is so important. We have meetings every month, we have the same agenda and we make sure the young people are reminded when a meeting is coming up and given a chance to add to the agenda.
‘I’ve found it’s essential to have the support of my supervisor. It makes the practical arrangements easier, the young people take it more seriously and so do the other staff when they see it has official support.
‘Using the Charter like this has been a real benefit. We find out and address some things that really matter to the young people. It’s great to see them actually thinking and talking about their rights and starting to become their own advocates.
‘And sure, some of them try the rights thing on – it’s my right to have a lolly machine in my room – but they are smiling while they say it and when it comes down to it they have a pretty good idea of what is fair and reasonable.’
Guardian Pam Simmons and Charter Coordinator Yvette Roberts joined staff and clients from CLASS and Kim McHugh the Mayor of Alexandrina Council to celebrate CLASS’s 30th birthday.
CLASS supports people with disabilities, the frail aged and socially isolated to become more involved in their community predominantly in rural South Australia, including the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula, the Riverland, Kangaroo Island, the South East and Southern Metropolitan areas.