New rights for children and young people in care

We have a new Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care! The revised Charter has just been approved and will replace the existing rights that sets out what children and young people can expect and experience while they are in care.

The nine new rights reflect what children and young people said was important to them, and they are…

– I have the right to be safe and well cared for

– I have the right to be listened to and have a say in decisions that affect me

– I have the right to be myself and to be treated with respect

– I have the right to connect with my culture

– I have the right to have contact with people who matter to me

– I have the right to good health, fun and play

– I have the right to privacy

– I have the right to a good education

– I have the right to get the support I need so I’m ready to leave care and feel good about my future.

The Charter also provides explanations about what each of the rights mean – based on what young people told us – and includes contact details for children and young people if they don’t think their rights are being respected and they need someone to talk to or make a complaint.

Read the Charter of Rights in full.

You can also read the full report about the review process and consultation feedback from the review participants that was provided to the Minister for Child Protection in January this year.

We are so grateful to the wonderful children and young people who worked with us to help create the revised Charter. A big thank you to everyone who supported and participated in the review process.

We will continue to consult with children and young people in the coming months to create a new set of resource materials, so stay tuned.

Endorsing the revised Charter

If your organisation currently endorses the Charter you will need to reapply to endorse the revised Charter and nominate Charter Champions for each of your organisation’s sites. We will be in contact with endorsing organisations in the coming weeks to begin this process.

If your organisation does not yet endorse the Charter and you would like more information about what it means to endorse the Charter, please contact Mardy McDonald at Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au.

New Charter of Rights waiting to be approved

We are excited to announce the proposed Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care (Revised) has been sent to the Minister for Child Protection for approval.

The revised Charter was developed over nine months using the voices of 77 children, young people and adults who are, or have been in care, and 6 other stakeholders. The revised Charter details nine rights that reflect what children and young people told us was important to them – this includes being safe in care; connecting to culture, family and friends; and having access to education, play and good health.

Here are just some of the things young people told us about what they want the new rights to include…

“Listen to kids what they want not what you think.”

“[Young people] need more info about why they come into care otherwise the child will start thinking it is their fault.”

“Being a part of decisions about us.”

“Knowing about & connecting to culture.”

“Keeping in contact with family.”

“All children in care need SSO support or extra help with school, even if they don’t have a disability.”

“Learning life skills earlier to prepare for when you go independent.”

As part of the Charter review, our working group collated all the feedback and drafted the new rights, which were later endorsed by 111 children and young people, and other care leavers, aged between 6 and 25 years. As part of the endorsement, children and young people were asked if the new rights made sense and if they reflected their experiences. They were also asked if anything further should be added or changed. The final revised Charter and supporting report was then sent to the Minister to be approved and tabled in Parliament.

Once the revised Charter has been tabled, all organisations who work with children and young people in care will need to endorse the new Charter. We will be in contact with all existing Charter Champions to arrange endorsement so please make sure we have the most up to date contact details for your organisation’s nominated Charter Champions.

While we wait for the Minister’s approval, we will begin developing a raft of new accessible, culturally diverse materials for children, young people and their carers and provide further guidance and support for the agencies who endorse the Charter. We will also be looking at the endorsement process to see what improvements can be made.

If your organisation does not yet endorse the Charter, with a designated Charter Champion, and you would like more information, please contact Mardy McDonald at Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au

We’re looking forward to sharing the new Charter with you all very soon!

Review of rights of young people in care is set to begin

We are excited to announce we will be embarking on a project next month to review the rights of children and young people in care. Every child has rights but children who can’t live with their birth parents are entitled to a special set of rights to ensure their safety, health and wellbeing.

In 2006 our office worked with some children and young people in care – or with a care experience – and relevant stakeholders to develop this special set of rights, outlining what a child in care deserves and needs to live a safe and happy life. And so, the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care was born.

The Charter was tabled in parliament in 2010, with the requirement that every organisation and person who works with children and young people in care applies these rights to their everyday practice and dealings with these young people. The Charter is reviewed every five years to ensure the rights are still as important and relevant to this young cohort today.

Over the next few months we will be asking anyone who is interested, including people who have previously been under guardianship or in care, children and young people who are currently in care and others who have an interest, about their thoughts on the existing Charter.

This will be an opportunity to share any new ideas and thoughts you may have to reflect the rights of young people currently in care. There will be many ways you can have your say so stay tuned to our weekly blogs.

If you would like to receive updates about the review and be part of the project, we would welcome your interest and you can email Mardy McDonald at Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au. 

We look forward to working with you all to help shape a brighter life and future for these young people.

Natural advocacy – how you can empower a young person

Children and young people in care have not always had the time and support they need to develop the knowledge, skills or confidence to express their views and advocate for themselves. Navigating the child protection system can be a difficult task even for the most seasoned professionals – and much more so for the children and young people who are caught up in it.

The right to an advocate

One of the rights outlined in the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care is that children and young people have the right to speak to someone who can act on their behalf when they cannot do this.

The number of children and young people in care who may need advocacy support far outweighs the resources of the Guardian for Children and Young People. For this reason, children and young people in care need the adults in their existing network (both personal and professional) to advocate for them. Such adults can, and should, act to ensure that the voice and interests of each child and young person in care are represented.

We call this ‘natural advocacy’.

Natural advocacy supports the voice and rights of the child. As well as having their voice heard and their rights addressed, being involved with the advocacy process can allow young people to learn valuable lessons; that they have rights, including the right to be heard, that rights can be negotiated to achieve better outcomes, and the value of persistence.

As a ‘natural advocate’, you can work with a child or young person to help ensure:

  • they have a place to live where they are safe, cared for and respected
  • their views and wishes are asked for, and considered, in planning such as at care team meetings, case conferences or annual reviews
  • they are given the opportunity to participate in decisions that are made about matters such as school changes, placement moves, or family contact
  • they have access to services such as health, housing, mentors, cultural support, recreation and education
  • their interests, aspirations, achievements and strengths are recognised and supported by the adults around them
  • they know about the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care
  • they know how to access a complaints or review process if things aren’t going well for them, or if they disagree with a decision that has been made about their care.

Your advocacy might involve contacting services and decision-makers directly, or supporting the child or young person to do this themselves.

Challenges in advocacy

One of the most significant challenges a natural advocate may face is that advocacy can sometimes be misread by other care team members, colleagues and/or management as disruptive or obstructive to the work of the care team. Natural advocates may also fear that they will not be as powerful as an external, professional, or more senior voice, and so they may not feel empowered to pursue an issue on the child or young person’s behalf.

This is where the Charter can be helpful. The Charter, which has been widely adopted and endorsed by 88 organisations to date, frames the work of an advocate positively, as a legitimate action that focuses attention on the child or young person’s voice and rights. Grounding your advocacy in the Charter can prompt discussion and reflection, which can in turn promote child-focussed decision-making.

There are a few things to remember if you are going to act as a natural advocate for a child or young person:

  • Wherever possible, it is important to seek the child or young person’s consent to act on their behalf (if they have not asked you to do so).
  • Wherever possible, it is important to seek the child or young person’s voice on matters related to their care, so that this can form the basis of your advocacy.
  • Consider, at the outset, whether it is safe for you to advocate for what the child or young person wants (their safety is paramount).
  • Involve the child or young person in the process as much as possible (depending on their age and developmental capacity), or in accordance with their wishes.
  • Role-model positive communication and team work throughout the process.
  • Be careful not to make promises about the outcome or what you can achieve, but reassure the child or young person that you will do your best to help them have a voice in the process.
  • Be mindful of keeping your own views, complaints or frustrations separate from the child or young person’s voice and needs.

If your advocacy is not successful, be honest with the child or young person about the process and outcome. Support the child or young person to reflect on what they might have learned or achieved through the process, and congratulate them for their bravery, confidence and persistence. In some situations, it might be appropriate to explore whether a compromise can be negotiated, and in other situations, it might be appropriate to pursue a formal complaints or review process.

What next?

If you, or the child or young person, continue to hold significant concerns after you have attempted natural advocacy, you can contact us for advice about other options and/or an assessment of whether advocacy is required from our office.

You can phone us on 8226 8570 (adults) or 1800 275 664 (free call for children and young people only).