There’s still time to register to be part of the Charter of Rights review!

cartoon circle of children

Have you registered the children and young people in your care to have a say about their rights? As part of the review of the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care, we want to know what matters most to these young people.

We have a bunch of activities for all ages, from being part of a workshop, chatting to one of our advocates, to sharing their thoughts on our online survey. We also have a fun activity book – filled with colouring-in sheets and puzzles to solve – to educate young children about their rights, and to ask them what makes them feel happy and cared for.

If you would like a copy of the activity book, or to register for any of our other activities, just complete the online Youth participation form by 5pm on Friday 3 July.

Don’t miss the opportunity for the young people in your care to have a say about what matters most to them!

If you would like any more information about the activities or the review project please contact Mardy McDonald at [email protected].

Register for children and young people to have a say about their rights

We need your help! We are asking all children and young people in care, or with a care experience to have a say about their rights. What they tell us will help shape the revised Charter of Rights for Children and Young People.

Watch the video of Oog and friends asking for everyone’s help. (Please share this video with the children and young people in your care.)

How can children and young people have their say?

Children and young people can have their say by…

  • being part of a workshop*
  • having fun with an activity book
  • telling us what they think in an online survey
  • speaking to one of our advocates.

What you need to do

To help us determine what activity would best suit the children and young people in your care please complete the Youth participation form. Based on the information you give us, we will help you in deciding the most suitable activity. Please register by completing the form by Friday 3 July.

*If you are interested in running a workshop, an existing relationship with the group of young people or experience as a group facilitator with kids in care would be required. If you are unable to facilitate a workshop but think this would suit your group of children and young people, please let us know and we might be able to assist.​

What happens next?

Once we have received your Youth participation form, we will confirm what activity best suits the children and young people in your care. We will then provide you with the materials needed for the chosen activity. Consultation for feedback of the revised Charter closes on Friday 7 August 2020.

Want more information?

If you would like any more information about the activities or the review project please contact Mardy McDonald at [email protected].

Young care leavers tell their story straight up in new podcast

A new podcast made by young care leavers is giving them a space to talk about their life’s experiences and to guide other young people about navigating the world upon leaving care.

With candid conversations covering a variety of topics, from what life has been like during COVID-19, having a child while in care, to a wrap-up of last year’s CREATE Conference, the podcast is aimed at breaking down the social stigma of being in care and creating a community where young people can openly share their stories.

The podcast is part of the GOM Central Project and is led by Relationships Australia South Australia Communication and Development Project Officer Eleanor Goodbourn, backed up by a team of young care leavers.

The podcast team have spent countless hours working through topic ideas, and then finding other young people who are happy to share their stories. With the help of an external consultant, the team has also been getting hands-on learning about the art of making a podcast, from the basic principles of storytelling, to the editing and publishing of the final audio.

Young care leaver Jamie-Lee who has played a large role in the making the podcast said the name Straight Up comes from being as up front as they can be.

“There’s nothing people can’t talk about it. It’s about being real and giving young people the respect to talk about things without being judged,” Jamie-Lee said.

“It’s about young people knowing their rights and us providing resources, breaking down topics, and making the information accessible for them,” Jamie-Lee said.

Jamie-Lee said the podcast enables young people to access information, advice and firsthand stories no matter where they are, especially those people who would prefer to just sit back and listen in the comfort of their own home.

“The podcast is aimed at filling in the information gaps for young people. There was so much we [young people in care] wished we knew,” Jamie-Lee said.

Eleanor agreed that young people often felt they are not provided with enough information to fully understand things, and as a result feel lost and disempowered.

“In care young people are often not given full explanations of things. They feel like they are treated as children with certain topics being avoided [like that of pregnancy and drug use],” Eleanor added.

Eleanor and Jamie-Lee said the project has been a big learning curve, with so much more to learn and explore.

“It’s been great learning about other people’s stories and looking at things from a different perspective,” Eleanor said. “And of course, the process of making podcasts has been a huge lesson.”

Jamie-Lee said the team has only just touched the tip of the iceberg of topics that they can delve into and is looking forwarding to the podcast’s future.

The team are already working on Season 2 which will have a focus on financial wellbeing, and hope that in the near future the podcast will be solely created and produced by the young people themselves.

You can listen to the latest episodes of the Straight Up podcast at the GOM Central website.

If you are a young care leaver or know someone who is and they would like to be part of the next series of the Straight Up podcast, contact the podcast team on 0491 091 702.

New virtual monitoring program is switched on

Hearing the voices of children and young people in residential care will be the focus of a new monitoring program that has kicked off this week. Our team of GCYP advocates will be conducting virtual meetings with children and young people living in residential facilities to find out what life is like for them, especially in the context of COVID-19. Face-to-face visits will follow once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

The virtual visits will enable children and young people to share their thoughts about how things are going at their placement, from what they like and don’t like about living there, to how their lives have been affected by COVID-19.

“We’re going directly to the voice of young people to find out what life is like for them in residential care,” Principal Advocate Merike Mannik said. “The real benefits of running the virtual visits with children and young people is that their voice is up front and centre.”

Principal Advocate Merike Mannik

“While these virtual meetings will give us the voice of the child, they will also help our advocates to build relationships with children and young people, as well as increasing the profile of our office and the work we do,” Merike said.

“Prior to COVID-19 we had planned to personally visit residential facilities once we had conducted a review of records and staff surveys. However, over the last few months we have re-assessed how we want the program to run, with the main focus being hearing the voices of children and young people. With the additional stresses created in young people’s lives from the pandemic we believed it was vital that we commence visits sooner rather than later and connect with children and young people online, with the plan to meet with them face-to-face in the future,” Merike said.

Choosing which residences to visit will combine a random selection and a more targeted approach based on feedback from young people, the Department for Child Protection and non-government service providers.

Children and young people will be provided with information about the visit and can decide whether or not they would like to participate. There is also the option for them to call our office, before or after the visit, to raise any private or sensitive matters.

If there are children and young people living in a residential facility who you think would particularly benefit from a virtual visit by one of our advocates, please let us know the name of the facility by emailing [email protected]

 

Happy SA Youth Week

Happy SA Youth Week! While this year’s Youth Week might look a little different, we are still celebrating the amazing contribution that young people make to our lives and community.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, we have been reflecting on how social distancing and self-isolation have made us think differently about how we live our lives, from how we spend our time, to how we stay connected to our friends and family. Our team has certainly become more creative in keeping in touch with people and how we spend our weekends!

So this Youth Week, we want to hear from the young people in your care about how they dealing with these tricky times.

We ask you to take a few minutes out of your day to have a chat to the young people in your care to talk about the positives changes and challenges they are facing. Maybe they love wearing their pjs all day or maybe they’re really missing catching up with their loved ones, or for those living in residential care who will soon turn 18, perhaps they are concerned about what this means for them in the current environment.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What is your favourite thing about being at home?
  • What do you like least about being at home?
  • How are you staying connected to family and friends?
  • Have you learned something new (maybe a new hobby)?
  • What worries you the most during this time?
  • What is the one thing you wish you could do right now?

Share the voices of the young people via Facebook or email us at [email protected]. (Please supply the child’s age and type of care they are in, and let us know if they are happy for us to publish their thoughts on our Facebook page and website.)

Together we can make sure their voices are heard.

Staying connected in the face of COVID-19

We are facing unprecedented times as the reality of COVID-19 begins to change the way we live our lives.

In our office, we are thinking carefully about the implications for the children and young people we work for, and the way we can carry out our work.

The need to limit contact with others and, in some cases, self-isolate is now becoming clear.

But while the concept of ‘social distancing’ may sound simple, we know that it will pose real risks for many vulnerable people in our community, not least children and young people in care and those who are in youth detention. Connection and belonging, human touch and social relationships are crucial for all people to thrive.

For hundreds of children and young people living in residential and commercial care and the youth detention centre, there is the risk that ‘social distancing’ will have mental health impacts. Many already experience a lack of connection to family and community, and there is a possibility that the intense period we are currently experiencing will only magnify this. It is important that we all stay connected and look out for these vulnerable young people as much as possible. That may mean an extra phone call to see how they are doing or looking to provide more positive experiences within the facility.

Our office is in the process of consulting with DCP and Youth Justice about the arrangements they are making, guided by the advice of the Health Department, to manage the health needs and wellbeing of residents. We don’t underestimate the difficulties involved in responding to requirements for quarantine, isolation and social distancing – and understand that these will all be difficult to achieve and maintain, given the close proximity in which the residents live and the nature of rostered staffing. More than ever, DCP staff and those in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre will be called on to carry out work that is essential for protecting and supporting the children and young people in their care. We are grateful for their service at a time of such challenge.

What is our office doing?

At a time like this, when big systems have to swing into action, it is even more important that the needs and interests of the smallest players are not swept aside. Our main priority is to ensure we maintain contact with children and young people who need our support and advocacy.

We know that face-to-face contact is important, if it can be done safely, and visiting children and young people can be a vital way to safeguard their interests and hear from them directly. We will be guided by health advice but will work hard to maintain this contact while it is possible.

We are also actively developing alternatives such as video conferencing and video calls so we can ensure a presence and connection for the children we work for.

Many of our staff will be working from home until further notice but we will still be contactable by phone on 8226 8570, 1800 275 664 (freecall for children and young people only) or email. If you or a young person want to meet with us in our office please call ahead to see if we can accommodate this.

Talking to children and young people about COVID-19

These are stressful times for everyone, particularly for children and young people who may not understand the magnitude of the virus and the need to distance themselves from others. They may experience disruption or changes they don’t understand, feel scared that they will get sick or worry about others they care about.

There are many resources available that we can use to start the conversation with children and young people about how they are feeling.

What we can all do to reduce the spread of infection

We can help to reduce the spread of infection by practising good hygiene and avoiding non-essential contact with others. This is particularly important if we are visiting a residential care facility or the detention centre where self-isolation is harder to maintain.

We must remember to:

  • wash our hands regularly
  • keep a 1.5 metre distance from others
  • avoid large gatherings
  • stay home if we are sick or if we have been in contact with someone who is
  • notify a child’s case worker if a child or young person in our care requires testing of COVID-19. If a child or young person who lives in residential care or youth detention tests positive they will be admitted to hospital for isolation.

Get the latest updates on COVID-19

For the latest updates on COVID-19 go to www.health.gov.au.

Getting to know: our Assessment and Referral Officers


Assessment and Referral Officers Courtney Mostert and Sonia Regan

Have you ever wanted to know what happens when a child or young person in care (or an adult from their lives) calls the Guardian for Children and Young People’s office with concerns about the child or young person’s rights and best interests? We sat down with our Assessment and Referral Officers Courtney Mostert and Sonia Regan to find out.

What is an Assessment and Referral Officer?

An Assessment and Referral Officer (ARO) is responsible for assessing all initial enquiries, including gathering information and determining if there is a role for the Guardian for Children and Young People’s (GCYP) Advocates.

What happens when a child or young person calls the GCYP?

When a child or young person first calls the GCYP they will be directed to us. We will gather information including their name and place of residence, their contact information, and the key issues they are concerned about.

We will attempt to determine if the young person is safe and if the Department for Child Protection (DCP) knows where they are. If the child or young person has a current Missing Person Report (MPR), the ARO has a duty of care to let DCP know of their contact with the child or young person. The ARO is also required to report any reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected to the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL).

Once the information has been gathered from the young person, the ARO, in consultation with the Principal Advocate and the Advocacy Team, will determine whether there is a role for GCYP.

Can an adult call on behalf of a child or young person?

An adult (e.g. carers, teachers, birth parents) who may be concerned about the rights and best interests of children and young people in care can call us. We will explain the role of the GCYP and highlight the office’s focus on the voice and rights of children and young people in care.  We may encourage the adult to support the child or young person to contact GCYP directly, if they are able to.

We will seek information about the child or young person and the adult’s relationship to the young person to determine if the query is ‘in mandate’ and how best to help the individual young person.

What happens if the query/request falls outside the mandate?

GCYP’s role is restricted to advocating for and promoting the rights and best interests of the children and young people who are under the custody or guardianship of the Chief Executive of DCP.

An enquiry is ‘out of mandate’ if it relates to a child or young person who is not under custody or guardianship of the Chief Executive or who is not detained at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (as mandated under the role of our office’s Training Centre Visitor).

The ARO will redirect these enquiries to an alternative service or process that can better respond to the issue.

How do you assess what role the GCYP will take on behalf of the child or young person?

GCYP’s role will look different depending on the presenting issues and the child or young person’s circumstances.

GCYP has a ‘threshold’ for intervention, which helps determine our response to requests for advocacy. The ARO will assess the request against the following threshold:

  • The issue has – or would have – a significant impact on the young person if it is not addressed. This includes where the matter poses an immediate safety risk or the nature of the issue will result in cumulative harm over time.
  • The young person is – or would be – seriously disadvantaged by a decision or a lack of service.
  • The issue has not been – or is unlikely to be – resolvable through other means in a timely way.

Additional consideration is also given to young people from priority groups, including children and young people who:

  • are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • are culturally and linguistically diverse
  • have a disability, or
  • have suffered, or are alleged to have suffered, sexual abuse.

What are some examples of how you can help?

  • Talking with the young person about how they can use their own voice to raise the issue with their allocated DCP worker, their worker’s supervisor, or an existing complaints process
  • Helping the young person to identify someone in their own network who can support them to advocate for themselves
  • Talking with the adult enquirer about how they can advocate for the child or young person as a natural advocate and/or member of the care team, or other steps they need to take before GCYP will intervene
  • Making enquiries with DCP, on the young person’s behalf (and with their consent) to try to resolve the issue, before formal advocacy is necessary
  • Obtaining information from DCP to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the presenting issue/s and submitting a formal, written advocacy position to DCP on the young person’s behalf.

Upon initial contact, the ARO may refer the matter to an Advocate immediately, if it looks like the presenting issues will require ongoing advocacy support.

If the young person identifies as Aboriginal, the ARO will offer for them to speak directly with one of GCYP’s Advocates for Aboriginal children.

Do you address systemic issues that affect a larger cohort of children and young people in care?

We welcome contact from children and young people, and adults in the child protection space, in relation to the broader, recurring issues that affect the rights and best interests of children and young people in care.

One of the GCYP’s functions is to inquire and provide advice to the Minister in relation to systemic reform necessary to improve the quality of care provided for children and young people under guardianship.

Systems issues often take time, and persistence, to improve and resolve. GCYP may not be able to directly or immediately pursue a systems issue you raise with us; however, hearing about your concerns will provide us with unique insight into the circumstances and processes that affect children in care, generally, and will help us to prioritise issues for systemic advocacy in the future.

New resources help children and young people in residential care have a say

graphic from one of the having a say posters

New resources, available today, will give children and young people in residential care information about their right to make a complaint and be heard.

Developed by CREATE Foundation, in conjunction with Office of the Guardian, the resources provide information and tools to assist them raise issues that concern them.

Central to the new feedback process is the the Post Incident Reflection Form, developed with input from young people in residential care.

Also available is a set of posters, brochures and two videos which tell children and young people in residential care about their rights and ways to address issues.

The resources have been developed in response to a recommendation from Commissioner Margaret Nyland’s 2016 report The Life They Deserve.  Recommendation 136 from that report proposed that the Guardian’s Office develop an educational program for children and young people in residential care to explain and promote their rights and give them encouragement and the means necessary to have their voices heard.

The live action video shares the stories of young people who relate some of the incidents they faced while living in residential care. It also advises young people in care why it’s important to understand their rights.

For younger people, an animated video describes the Post Incident Reflection Form and how a child in care has the ability to make a complaint at any time.

If resolving an issue with residential care staff does not work, children and young people are encouraged to fill in a complaints form or phone the Complaints Unit directly on 1800 003 305.

Printable files of the posters can be downloaded now from the Resources page of the Guardian’s website and printed copies of the posters and booklets will be available to be ordered from that page in February.

Some favourite artwork from young people in care

We would like to share with you some of our favorite artworks from young Aboriginal people in residential care that have come to our notice in the past year.  Please click on the thumbnails to see a bigger version.