Nunga Oog workshops are going regional

After a successful round of art workshops in metro Adelaide and surrounds, the Nunga Oog team have packed up their art supplies and hit the road to regional South Australia.

Our first stop was Port Pirie last week. We met with four fantastic young people who attended the workshop and contributed to the design of Nunga Oog. The young people said they enjoyed the workshop as well as learning how to tell their story through art. They were also treated to Aboriginal artist David Booth playing the yidaki (didgeridoo) for them.

Over the next five months we will continue our regional workshops, with the Riverland next on the list, in July. This will be followed by Pt Augusta (August), Mt Gambier (September), Ceduna (September), Port Lincoln (October) and Coober Pedy (November).

Aboriginal children and young people aged 13-18 years who are in care and living in these regions are invited to join us, along with an Aboriginal artist, to help bring Nunga Oog to life. It’s a great opportunity for them to leave their mark on our new safety symbol, learn some new art skills, chat with our team, and have a free feed!

Please share this video with the young people so they can find out more about the workshops.

If you know of a child or young person who would like to be part of the workshop in their region, please let us know. Spaces are limited. Email Conrad at conrad.morris@sa.gov.au or Leila at leila.plush@sa.gov.au. Alternatively, you can call us on 8226 8570.

Resourcing pressures leading young people to detention

Interim findings from our new South Australian Dual Involved project (SADI) indicate that significant resourcing pressures are hindering the ability of Department for Child Protection (DCP) staff to do their best for the individual children and young people who are caught up in the state’s care and youth justice systems, and otherwise known as ‘dual involved’.

Since February of this year, 46 children and young people in care – mostly living in residential care – have been detained in Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre (KTYJC). To gain a better understanding of why the numbers of this highly vulnerable and complex group are increasing at a concerning rate, we spoke with many of the children and young people and some staff from several service providers who support them. This is what they have to say…

What are dual involved children and young people telling us?

Here are just some of the things this distinct group, with their diverse experiences, have told us:

– some say they prefer to remain in KTYJC because they don’t feel safe living in residential care

– some say they choose to ‘go on MPR’ (go missing) rather than stay at their DCP residential care home

– some value the structure in KTYJC (including access to education) which they don’t have when they are in the community

– they express frustration that they are arrested for relatively minor matters after police are called by the residential care facility (eg for verbal aggression or property damage)

– they think “some residential care staff don’t know how to manage children and young people with behavioural problems or disabilities well” (and we note that this increases the likelihood that the police will be called)

– some have been held in custody for extended periods because they can’t get bail due to the lack of an appropriate placement in the community – one young person told us “they are only offering me a place where I don’t want to be and I would only run from there so I guess I’ll have to stay in here” (and it was generally acknowledged that staying at that placement was associated with trouble for that young person)

– some young people have told us there was no support for them when they’ve gone to court

– others say that their social workers were in the court but didn’t say anything that would help

– some spoke of a lack of visits from their social workers and that it has been really hard to contact them

– one young person tried to contact her social worker multiple times – but it kept going to voicemail and the Kurlana Tapa telephone system does not allow her to leave a message

– some young people talked about how it felt to be detained in the Adelaide City Watch House (an adult facility)

– a large number of young people told us about a time delay between being granted release by the court and being picked up from KTYJC (with some reporting a wait time of up to six hours).

What are other stakeholders saying?

Other stakeholders have raised the following systemic issues with us:

– DCP support not being available for some children and young people appearing in court

– growing concerns that courts are not granting bail due to inappropriate remand addresses being provided by DCP

– the lack of adequate transition plans for return to the community after young people have served long periods of time within KTYJC

– the risk that some young people will lose their accommodation if DCP is unwilling to implement support when a young person is released

– some young people not having access to Centrelink support for up to a week after being released

– changes in external circumstances while a child or young person is in detention so that they are not able to return to their families, requiring DCP involvement

– it was reported that on some occasions, DCP has advocated that some children and young people remain in KTYJC, rather than being granted bail

– views were expressed that some children and young people become bored with education in KTYJC.

There are many issues and concerns still to be addressed as part of the SADI project which we will delve into in the coming months. As part of this, we will be talking more with dual involved children and young people about their thoughts about what life is like for them, through an intensive consultation process. These findings will be reported in our interim report due for release later this year.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters mentioned above, please do not hesitate to contact Conrad at conrad.morris@sa.gov.au.

Intern gains valuable insight into young girls detained in Kurlana Tapa

Our latest law intern has just completed a literature review examining the factors which may contribute to the overrepresentation of girls from residential care being detained at Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre.

In this week’s blog, Esther talks about her intern experience and the privilege she felt when meeting the young people behind the statistics, from their needs, desires and hopes for their future, to their communal hate for tuna related meals!

Hi! My name is Esther and I have completed my internship with the Training Centre Visitor Unit. I am currently studying a Double Degree of a Bachelor of International Development and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Adelaide. I have thoroughly enjoyed my internship as I am very interested in areas of community development, youth justice and disability. I have a background in youth work and am passionate about advocating for, and alongside, young people, particularly those with a disability.

As part of my internship, I completed a literature review examining the factors which may contribute to the overrepresentation of girls from residential care being detained at Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre. This research involved exploring a range of relevant factors including childhood maltreatment and/or trauma, the residential care environment, disability, gender, age and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. I have found this research to be incredibly interesting but also concerning. I discovered that dual involved young people face significant additional barriers, such as experiences of trauma, disability and lack of support systems, when interacting with both the child protection and youth justice systems.

I also had the opportunity to visit some of the young people in Kurlana Tapa. I felt I was well prepared and briefed appropriately for the experience by the TCV team and was accompanied by advocates, Simone and Travis. I learnt a lot from the way Simone and Travis interacted with the young people and I was encouraged to see the level of effort that had gone into building rapport.

I really enjoyed meeting the young people in the centre and felt it was such a privilege to be able to listen to their experiences. I especially enjoyed hearing about their love for pinball machines, appreciation of quality sneakers and communal hate for tuna-related meals. I was impressed by their resilience and willingness to engage with us. After completing a significant amount of research into the lives of these young people and the barriers they face, I felt it was valuable to have an opportunity to engage with them directly. This visit afforded me the chance to learn about the young people who are behind the statistics, and their needs, desires and hopes for the future.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to complete my internship with TCV. This is because I have been exposed to a broad range of ideas and people, which has developed my interpersonal skills and understanding of vulnerable people in our community. I have also had the privilege of developing a body of work which will hopefully promote better outcomes for dual clients in the future, through the dedicated advocacy efforts of TCV, and more broadly the Office of the Guardian for Child and Young People.

Findings from Esther’s literature review will further inform the South Australian Dual Involved (SADI) project – a project primarily looking at children and young people living in care who are currently detained in Kurlana Tapa.

Latest report calls for system to rethink the idea of ‘leaving care’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new report from CREATE Foundation is calling for the care system to rethink the idea of ’leaving care’. This comes after the report found few improvements have been made to young people’s experiences in transitioning from care in the past decade.

Findings from the 325 young people with a care experience who were surveyed, from across Australia, found the biggest issue young care leavers faced was a lack of support post-care. 50% of young people surveyed were able to stay with their carer after they turned 18, but for those without this continuing network of support, only 20% felt ‘reasonably supported’ and 36% experienced homelessness in their first year of independence. Young people on their own are also more likely to be unemployed and have contact with the youth justice system.

According to the findings, the ability of young people to thrive post-care is influenced by the quality of their care experience, with stable relationships and environment being critical to achieving this. Young people in stable placements are more likely to be involved in creating a meaningful transition plan, and to receive continued support, both financial and emotional, from their care network.

Sadly, the report finds that instability in care is the norm, with 70% of the young people stating they were not consulted about changes to placements, and over half stating their reason for being absent from placements was from ‘feeling unloved, unhappy, unheard.’ Only 36% knew of an official plan for their future, 33% had little or no involvement in the creation of a plan, and about half found their plan ‘unhelpful’.

During CREATE’s online launch of the report last week, three young people shared their experience transitioning from care. Emily (22) said she was well supported during care but on the day of her final high school exam her finances were ‘cut off’ and she found herself suddenly needing to independently support herself and her young son. Andre (24) stated he had no long-term transition plan and when he aged out of his residential care placement, a place he called his ‘family’, he found himself alone on the streets. Contrastingly, Adina (24), who grew up in a single placement with ‘support networks all around her’, spoke about how her mentors empowered her to follow her ambitions and complete university. ‘My foster carers became my family… a place I can always go back to,’ she said.

CREATE asks us to consider ‘why do we still expect young people who leave OOHC to be independent, when mainstream young people are supported to be interdependent?’ The last decade has seen Royal Commissions, inquiries, and changes to the child protection system to achieve better outcomes for children and young people leaving care, yet the evidence shows these outcomes are remaining the same.

With this in mind, it is time for us all to rethink the idea of ‘leaving care’ and start helping young people transition from care to interdependence through continued supports and access to opportunities well beyond their 18th birthday.

Read CREATE’s latest report: Transitioning to Adulthood from Out-of-Home Care: Independence or Interdependence?

 

Reconciliation: More than a word


We would like to acknowledge the Kaurna and Peramangk people, the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which our team members live and work. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

As our office reflects on the Reconciliation Week’s theme ‘more than a word’, we know that now more than ever every Aboriginal child and young person in care deserves to be connected with their culture.

With just over one in every 11 Aboriginal children in SA living in state care, we, as advocates, carers, social workers and everyone else who supports these young people, all have a role to play in connecting them with their identity. We could have every policy under the sun to tell us to do this but until we take action, these will just be words. Whether it’s sitting with a child to explore their family tree, attending cultural events with them or providing them opportunities to visit their lands, we need to work together so young Aboriginal people know who they are and where they are going.

We are privileged to share this candid conversation with you this week, between a university student who did an internship with us late last year and Brooke, a young Aboriginal woman with a care experience. Together they talk about exploring identity while in care, the importance of connecting to family, and how action is needed to reconnect young Aboriginal people with their culture. This is an extract from their conversation. Our heartfelt thanks to the young woman for sharing her story, thoughts and dreams.

As a young person, what was it like for you exploring your identity whilst being in the care system?

My dad wasn’t on my birth certificate until I was 10 and nobody looked into the background of my mum. My mum’s a Kaurna woman and dad’s Nykina. Until my dad was put on my birth certificate there was no connection to culture or any Aboriginal identity.

[Connecting to culture] didn’t really happen until my dad stepped back in and he took me back to the lands and I got in touch with all of the traditions and the customs that my culture has. But finding identity, in general, is really hard in the care system.

Friends and school base your identity through consistency and that doesn’t happen often in care. When you’re being put in different homes in different situations constantly, it doesn’t help you form your identity. So you’re a bit lost in that whole part of your life.

What do you believe should have been different with the hindsight that you now possess?

Being able to be in touch with my culture, being able to have the freedom to be able to choose what I think is safe for me and not have somebody else feel like “this isn’t safe, she can’t do this”. Not being so limited and restricted.

Every kid stuffs up, every human stuffs up, and being able to learn from that and create a better future for yourself.

What would you like to see changed for Aboriginal kids in care or transitioning out of the system?

Less youth detention, less incarceration, less homelessness, and being connected to culture. Them knowing their mob 110%. Kids knowing who their family tree is. Being engaged with an Aboriginal worker, knowing their language. Being able to be back in their lands, being able to be in touch with their traditions, their dream time. Kids having that safe person who is in their community or outside the community but linked with their culture.

We need connection. Culture being at the forefront of every worker’s mind and their practices and actions so kids don’t feel like they’re an outcast in their own land. This is stolen land. A lot of people need to recognise that and wake up to the fact that colonisation did happen, and there is still a genocide. There’s still a Stolen Generation that’s going on today: Aboriginal kids getting put into white homes. Kids getting put into care and being institutionalised is another form of Stolen Generation. These facts need to be at the forefront of everybody’s practices.

We need to be able to stop the numbers climbing. We need to be making them decrease. Kids just being connected to their family members. All of that would be phenomenal to see, and to watch that change happen!

I feel like it would take decades, but at the same time, it’s worth the wait to be able to see these kids connected.

Hearing the voices of children and young people in residential care

The Guardian for Children and Young People’s advocacy team has commenced audit visits to residential care houses, following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Audit visits are just one of the ways we monitor the circumstances of children and young people living in residential care as part of GCYP’s functions.

To date, advocates have visited children and young people at five residential care properties, with a further two visits planned before the end of June. Audit visits are occurring in a small but important way, in the absence of the Child and Young Person Visitor Scheme – a currently unfunded role which was established in 2018 to promote the best interests of children and young people living in residential care.

Principal Advocate, Merike Mannik, said it was critical that audits of residential care houses were carried out, even though this is currently in a very limited capacity.

“We know there are concerns about children and young people living in residential care, and it is vitally important that these young people are given the opportunity to talk to someone independent and share their thoughts about what life is like for them,” Merike said.

“It is equally important that young people feel heard, by seeing changes take place as a result of their feedback.”

To prepare for the visit, the advocates review a range of records (including incident reports, care concerns, wellbeing plans, positive behaviour support plans, resident meeting minutes and complaints/feedback).

Visits take place after school, with the advocates joining in the young people’s activities and sharing a meal with them. The focus is on creating a relaxed and informal atmosphere, where young people can feel comfortable to engage with the advocates if they choose to.

During the visit, young people can share their experiences about life in residential care, including what they like and what they would like to be different. The advocates also record observations about the social and physical environment of the house, as well as feedback from care staff. They follow up the visit with an audit report to the managing agency and Department for Child Protection.

“We are enjoying spending time with the young people and hearing what they have to say as we work to improve their wellbeing outcomes. Their voices are at the centre of what we do,” Merike said.

“With more than 200 residential care facilities in SA, we are acutely aware that our current visits are barely scratching the surface and, unless we are able to commence the more comprehensive Visitor Scheme, this won’t change. Until then, we know that many children and young people living in residential care will not have their voices heard by an independent person,” she said.

“Our advocates aim to make a difference where we can. Meeting young people where they live, being shown around their home by them and hearing about what matters to them is such a privilege. We observe, ask questions, chat and listen, and treat what we see and hear sensitively and seriously. Every child and young person’s voice counts.”

If you would like more information about the visits, call us on 8226 8570 or email at gcyp@gcyp.sa.gov.au.

Growing concerns for Aboriginal children and young people in care and youth justice

A new report summarising the trends relating to Aboriginal children and young people in the child protection and youth justice systems has raised concerns about the trajectory of some these vulnerable young people.

Based on data provided by the latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services, the Office of the Guardian’s Snapshot of South Australian Aboriginal Children and Young People in Care and/or Detention from the Report on Government Services 2021 has reported the number of Aboriginal children in care is so high that this group now makes up 36.7% of all children in care although they make up only 5% of the population under 18 in the state. This means that just over one in every 11 Aboriginal children in SA is now living in state care.

If the continued worsening rate of Aboriginal children and young people being drawn into the child protection system continues, SA will not meet its Closing the Gap target of a 45% reduction in the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in care by 2031.

There is some good news, though. Despite the proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in detention in South Australia being 22.7 times higher than for non-Aboriginal children, this rate is declining, and SA is looking to surpass the Closing the Gap target of a 30% reduction in the over-representation of Aboriginal children in detention by 2031. This has triggered a call from Guardian and Training Centre Visitor, Penny Wright, to implement a more ambitious target.

“Aiming higher than the current target would benefit the whole community because of the significant cost of detention, at 32.3 times more per day than community supervision. This cost is even more concerning when almost all children and young people held in detention in SA are there on remand,” Penny said.

Youth diversions by police

Alarmingly, the Guardian’s report has highlighted a gap between youth diversions for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alleged offenders is at its widest point since reporting began.

When police apprehend children or young people who may have committed an offence, they have a variety of options available. They can charge the child (and proceed to court) or they can use their discretion to divert them away from this potentially costly, time consuming and stressful situation (for both the child or young person and victim).

Diversions include actions to move children and young people away from the courts through formal cautioning by police, community, diversionary or family conferences and other programs (such as drug assessment/treatment).

According to our new report, the rate of youth diversions by SA police in relation to Aboriginal children and young people who are alleged to have offended is at its lowest point since records began, with 23.3 per cent of alleged Aboriginal offenders being diverted away from court. This contrasts with the rate of 55.6 per cent for non-Aboriginal youth, the highest rate since records began.

“We don’t know why Aboriginal children and young people are being treated more harshly, but this systems bias could be contributing to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the youth justice system, and would certainly lead to their overrepresentation in detention,” Penny said.

“We need to be brave and take assertive steps to keep Aboriginal children and young people out of the youth justice system, and away from a path towards adult prisons.”

“Despite the Council of Attorney-Generals passing back the decision to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to individual states last month, SA needs to commit to significant reforms, such as raising the age to 14, and investing in culturally safe family support and early intervention, if we really want things to change for these young people and their families,” Penny said.

To view the report in full, download it here.

Out and about with Oog and friends

Over the last few months, we have had the opportunity to get out and about and have fun with some of the amazing children and young people we work for. From lunch at Parliament House, kicking the footy at AFL Max, to getting messy with paint at the Nunga Oog art workshops, here are some of our favourite photos.

Lunch at Parliament House

In March, Guardian for Children and Young People, Penny Wright, held a lunch at Parliament House with a group of CREATE’s youth consultants and other young people in care who had helped our office over the last few years. The young people were treated to a three-course meal and a tour of Parliament House by former MLC, Mark Parnell. A trusted source told Penny that the young people ‘had a ball’ and enjoyed being treated just for who they were (without having to provide their views on anything!) The conversation flowed, they enjoyed some very special food and one young person even had three hot chocolates! Thanks to the wonderful staff at Parliament House who were so accommodating to their special guests.

   

CF&KC Family Fun Event at AFL Max

Oog delighted more than 180 fans at Connecting Foster and Kindship Carers’ AFL Max family event last month, showing off some slick dance moves and expert footy skills. It was great to see the smiling faces of many young people. It seems everyone wants to hug Oog, including older kids (and even some of the ‘dignitaries’!)

 

Would you like Oog to attend one of your events? Contact us at gcyp@gcyp.sa.gov.au to find out how.

Nunga Oog art workshops

After another round of art workshops with young people and Aboriginal artist David Booth, Nunga Oog is coming to life! We’re so excited to watch colours and designs being added to the canvases by the young people themselves.

   

Our Nunga Oog workshops are heading further afield to regional areas over the next six months. If you know of any Aboriginal young people aged 10-18 years in care who would like to be part of creating Nunga Oog, then please get in touch with Conrad at conrad.morris@sa.gov.au.

Recent Developments in Education for Children and Young People in Care – Part 2

Positive changes to Inclusive Education Support Program (IESP) Funding

Over the last two years the Department for Education has introduced and refined the Inclusive Education Support Program (IESP) which provides funding to government schools to support children and young people with disability. Unlike some diagnosis-driven responses, the Department’s IESP model focuses on supporting a child’s functional needs (ie what they need to be able to participate and function in school) rather than their disability ‘label’, which may not always be simple to determine.

In our 2009-2019 education report released last year, we reported that a greater proportion of children and young people in care had learning disabilities compared to the overall government school student population, notably in speech and language skills. As well, the proportion of children and young people in care with an intellectual disability was over eight and a half times, and the proportion with complex social/emotional/behavioural needs was nine times, higher than the overall government school student population.

At the time, Guardian for Children and Young People, Penny Wright noted there needed to be more, targeted and skilled support for children in care in schools, particularly those with a disability or complex social, emotional or behavioural needs (which most often eventuates from their trauma) – in order to improve their academic outcomes.

Some recent, welcome changes to IESP funding have meant an increase in funding to better support children in care while they are at school and when they are moving between stages of education.

So what are these changes to the IESP?

The changes include:

– A $64 million increase, over the past 2 years, to the funding to schools and preschools for children with disability and complex needs

– Pausing IESP reviews of existing funding for individual students for at least two years (including pre-approved decreases) to allow for the consideration of feedback that has been received about the IESP. This may enable the program to be further streamlined and practice guidance developed for schools on how best to use the funding, and funding will continue in the meantime

– New applications or applications to vary the funding (because the child’s needs have changed) will still continue

– Funding to preschools, primary and secondary schools when a child in care transitions/moves to their school, to support the child’s transition (if the child is not already receiving individualised IESP funding)

– One-off funding to schools to support children and young people in care who are already enrolled in schools – with the idea that it will provide the school with ‘space’ to determine the best way to meet their individual learning requirements, including the specific needs of Aboriginal children in care

Some of the ways schools funding can be used to support children or students is:

– through supporting staff training in trauma-informed practice

– providing additional staff resources for individual children (such as allied health professionals, youth workers or Student Services Officers)

– offering targeted programs to support inclusion and belonging

– purchasing equipment and individual tools (sensory, calming)

– releasing staff from other duties to enable them to establish relationships with children, assess their functional needs and develop plans, facilitate support groups or lunchtime clubs or undertake professional development

Who is eligible to receive IESP funding?

Eligibility for IESP funding aligns with national disability legislation and guidelines, focussing on a child’s needs rather than their disability or learning difficulties – this includes mental health, trauma, complex behaviours and complex health care needs.

Schools will receive $3250 per child in care (if that child is not already receiving individualised IESP funding) to help support the child’s transition to their school, while preschools will receive $1000 per child in care.

Where can I get more information?

For more information visit the Department for Education’s website.

Looking forward

Based on future data we receive from the Department for Education and what young people tell us, we would hope to see significant improvements in participation and improved learning outcomes for children and young people in care who attend government schools, as a result of the new changes to the program.

Through this increased support, as well as the SA government’s recent announcement to phase out suspensions and exclusions in government schools, the Office of the Guardian looks forward to seeing some real and measurable benefits for young people in care and their education.

Stay tuned for our 2021 report looking into the education participation of children and young people in care who attend government schools, which is expected to be released mid-year.

Recent Developments in Education for Children and Young People in Care – Part 1

Independent inquiry finds young people in care overrepresented in state school disciplinary action

The right to a good education and being better supported at school was a key theme for the children and young people who participated in our recent review of the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care. Young people also told us they wanted their teachers to understand their own particular circumstances but not treat them any differently from students who were not in care.

The importance of school for many of these young people is in stark contrast to the reality that children in care make up far too many of the students being suspended or excluded from South Australia’s government schools.

The recently released ‘Graham Report’ –  from an independent inquiry into the suspension, exclusion and expulsion processes in SA’s public schools – found that children and young people in care were increasingly overrepresented in ‘take home’, suspension and exclusion categories over time.

The report noted that despite children and young people in care making up only 1.3% of the total enrolments in government schools in 2019 – (an increase of 58.7% over the 10 years since 2010) – they constituted:

– 8% of ‘take homes’ – students who are sent home for the day due to extreme behaviours or emotional responses that continue for extended periods of time even with staff support

– 5% of suspensions – a doubling between 2010 and 2019

– 9% of exclusions – an increase of 67.3% between 2010 and 2019.

These young people also face 4.1 times the risk of being suspended and 6.7 times the risk of being excluded compared to any other student in a government school.

The independent inquiry questioned the effectiveness of a ‘team around the child’ approach, stating that a child’s support staff at school are often not involved when decisions are made about disciplinary action for the child, especially for Aboriginal students, students with disability and students in care. It has called for best practice so that all relevant support staff are mandated to be involved and that factors relating to the student’s disability, trauma background or culture are considered.

The inquiry has called for a ‘whole-scale, evidence-based systematic reform’ to address the state’s disciplinary processes. This is consistent with recommendations coming from previous inquiries, including the 2016 Nyland Royal Commission Report, which proposed a review into ‘Education’s policies regarding school suspension, exclusion and expulsion to ensure that they are used as strategies of last resort for children in care’.

Minister for Education’s response to the Graham Report

In response to the inquiry’s findings and recommendations, the SA government has announced an additional $15 million to be invested over four years to phase out suspensions and exclusions in government schools, with a particular focus for children in reception to year two, Aboriginal children and children with disability or who are in state care.

The reform, which is aimed at providing better supports to students, teachers, parents and carers to help children and young people stay at school, is expected to be rolled out from 2023. The Education Minister’s statement can be found here.

Part 2 of our consideration of Recent Developments in Education for Children and Young People in Care will look at changes to the Inclusive Education Support Program (IESP), next week.