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.
- Tips for discussing Coronavirus with your kids
- How to talk to kids about the coronavirus (video)
- Talking to children in care about coronavirus
- Birdie and the Big Sickness (e-book)
- Supporting children during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Coronavirus and children in Australia
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.