‘First ever’ forum gives young people power to call for change

A group of incredible young adults with a care experience got the chance to share their personal stories last month in a bid to influence policy change, at CREATE Foundation’s first ever Hour of Power in SA.

The forum, which was led by the young adults themselves, provided an opportunity to tell the audience of their life experiences while in care and to offer ideas to key decision makers, including the Minister for Child Protection, about how to improve the care system.

Sibling contact and cultural connection were the themes for the day.

For those presenting, their siblings were important in maintaining their identity and mental wellbeing, and yet many of them did not live with them while they were in care and/or had issues keeping in contact with them.

“When you don’t live with your siblings, it can be hard to connect with them when you do see them,” one young person said.

After reflecting on their experiences with their own siblings, the young people offered ways in which the system could change to improve sibling contact for those who are still in care, which included:

– DCP must place greater significance on sibling connection and the importance of sibling relationships

– siblings should be able to stay together, wherever possible

– if siblings cannot stay together, they must be able to maintain connection with one another while in care

– sibling connection arrangements should be included in case planning

– the term ‘sibling’ needs to encompass other cultural and social interpretations to include other important relationships like cousins and foster siblings.

The young people then asked the panel to reflect on the issue. Guardian Penny Wright was among the panellists, along with April Lawrie, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children and Young People, and Cathy Taylor, Chief Executive of Child Protection.

Penny told the audience one of the biggest concerns from young people who call our office for advocacy support is about sibling contact not occurring (or occurring infrequently and much less often than children/young people are requesting) and outlined the barriers that standi in the way of this happening.

“There are a number of factors behind why sibling contact isn’t occurring. They include carers or case managers in disagreement about sibling contact, the challenge of siblings living in distant geographical locations, lack of transport and time pressures on carers,” Penny said.

“Managing sibling contact among children in care can be complex. This doesn’t mean we don’t do it, it just means we have to work harder.”

Cultural connection was the next topic for the forum. One of the young adults said they didn’t know how to connect with culture while they were in residential care and weren’t given the opportunities to do so, but once they got to connect to family, land and their culture they said “it was natural”.

“To know your cultural identity, at least for me, is seeing family regularly, getting a chance to go out to the bush often, learn about bush tucker, connection and cleansing, learn about dreamtime, totems and spend time with the old fellas and nanas,” the young person said.

To improve and maintain cultural identity and connection for young people in care, the youth presenters were clear that DCP needs to prioritise connections to family and strengthen the commitment to all of the five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle. They also said more funding needs to go to enriching cultural experiences, as well as employing more Aboriginal workers within the sector.

The event was a fantastic platform for empowering the young adults to share their thoughts and suggestions and play a positive role in creating change for the many thousands of children and young people who are still in care today.

Jacqui Reed, the CEO of CREATE, observed that the Hour of Power was a unique way of bringing children and young people’s voices to decision makers so they could better understand the perspective of those with a lived experience within the care system.

“I was thrilled with the first ever Hour of Power in South Australia. The energy in the room buoyed all those present to make the system better for children and young people,” Jacqui said.

CREATE is currently working on a summary report about the forum, along with its key outcomes, which will be available soon.

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!

Residential care facilities given much needed makeover to support the safety of young people

DCP is currently rolling out a program to ‘make over’ the bedrooms and shared living areas of children and young people in residential care to make them more ‘homelike’. This is a very welcome initiative, with DCP announcing, as part of their MyPlace program, all DCP residential care properties will be transformed, to make them more therapeutic, culturally supportive and responsive to residents’ needs.

The MyPlace program is working with each child and young person directly to help design and create the overall feel of their house and their own bedrooms, so the rooms reflect their personalities and meet their individual needs.

Young people have consistently told us that a ‘homelike’ environment is a key aspect of feeling safe in residential care. By contrast, the institutional look and feel of many residential care facilities was a common theme in the Guardian’s Final Report of the trial Child and Young Person’s Visiting Program, published earlier this year. The report recommended that facilities should be more homelike and personalised and young people should have input into the process and design of the place in which they live.

Having a space where a child or young person can go to and feel a sense of comfort and ownership – not only because they helped create it but also because it reflects who they are as a person – helps promote their feelings of security and wellbeing.

MyPlace is an excellent initiative, which sees the child or young person involved in the whole process, from helping to prepare an image board so they can gain a visual perspective about how their personal space and shared rooms will look, to contributing to design, creation and installation, including unpacking and assembling flat-pack furniture and placing soft furnishings and items in their room. DCP has advised us that specialised staff also work with the team to ensure the fit-outs meet the needs of children and young people who are Aboriginal or from diverse cultural backgrounds or who have disabilities.

So far, feedback from the young people has been very positive. DCP shared some examples with us from a recently refurbished three-bedroom home in the southern suburbs.

Playroom before make over

Playroom after make over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 12-year-old boy said he would like his bedroom to represent his Aboriginal background. Cultural items were sourced and he chose the final design. A current family photo was arranged for both his bedroom wall and family room wall, creating a home-like feel and connection to family and culture. His reaction was, “This is awesome.”

Bedroom before make over

Bedroom after make over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An 11-year-old explained she was fond of beluga whales. She was involved in deciding the colours and layout of her room as well as textures and the overall theme. A built-in wardrobe was installed to create more space and storage, and other items like a beluga whale quilt cover, throw blanket, pillows, wall hanging, fairy lights, bean bag, rug, lamp, mirror and collage picture frame all complemented the overall look. Her reaction? “Wow, I absolutely love it, it looks amazing.”

We understand that residential care staff have reported that since being part of the program they have noticed a real change in the dynamics of the houses with many children and young people showing an increased sense of social responsibility and choosing to find enjoyment in more communal spaces.

This process of allowing children and young people to express their unique identities, have more influence over the environment they live in and feel acknowledged and heard, can only benefit their development and sense of safety.  It is this understanding that also informs the Australian Childhood Foundation’s Practice Guide: ‘Creating positive social climates and home-like environments in therapeutic care’.

We will be watching with great interest as this program continues to be rolled out to the remaining DCP residential care properties and look forward to hearing more stories of how being directly involved in the creation of attractive and personalised living spaces contributes to children and young people’s wellbeing.

Nunga Oog is taking shape

The long-awaited safety symbol for Aboriginal children and young people in care, Nunga Oog, is taking shape after our face to face workshops kicked off earlier this month.

A group of Aboriginal children and young people joined artist Sasha Houthuysen during the October school holidays to start designing what Nunga Oog could look like. These sessions came on the back of art boxes we sent to selected residential care facilities in July to invite young people to come up with some initial designs.

After the delay in workshops due to COVID-19, it was great to be able to sit down with the young people and see and hear their ideas in person. They told us that:

Nunga Oog should…

– look different to Oog

– have some black on it

– have the Aboriginal flag on its belly

– have colours of the Aboriginal flag

– be cuddly

– be gender free

– not be so round

– have big ears to listen to children and young people

– tell a story of safety by using symbols

– be brown with symbols and dot work (journey lines).

The workshops also provided opportunities for the children and young people to take away some new-found art skills and learn about Aboriginal symbols and how they can tell stories using these symbols. The young people were keen for us to share their designs with you.

And after the second workshop, the draft outline of Nunga Oog began to take shape…

Workshops will be continuing in the January school holidays to help design Nunga Oog, with sessions being planned across the state in collaboration with Aboriginal artists. If you know an Aboriginal child or young person in care who would like to get involved, please register their interest by emailing Leila at leila.plush@sa.gov.au or Conrad at conrad.morris@sa.gov.au by Friday 13 November.

Launch of our new logos

We are excited to launch our new logos and branding which were inspired by two young people in care/detention.

The Guardian for Children and Young People and the Training Centre Visitor now have their own individual logos. Moving away from the Government of South Australia logo, we wanted to create a brand that young people could connect with, using bright images that tell their story about their relationship with our office.

So how were the logos designed?

You may remember earlier this year we ran an art competition for children and young people in care to help design the logo for the Guardian for Children and Young People. Our office voted on the entries, with the winning artwork given to a designer to create the final logo.

                               
The young person who inspired the logo said she designed this logo because “anywhere you are there will always be an adult to care for all young people. It doesn’t matter who you are we should all have a place to live and be treated fairly”.

The Training Centre Visitor (TCV) logo was inspired by art workshops that we held in the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre in June with the help of Aboriginal artist and youth mentor Shane Cook. The artworks were used to develop a larger art piece to promote the Charter of Rights for youths detained in detention centres as well as the TCV logo. The Aboriginal artwork in the TCV logo represents a journey path.

 

             
Both the logos have a strong Aboriginal theme due to the overwhelming representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care and detention. We wanted them to know our office and our advocates provide a safe place for them where their culture is respected, and their voices are heard.

Penny Wright, Guardian for Children and Young People and Training Centre Visitor said she was grateful to the young people who inspired the logos.

“The voice of children and young people is at the forefront of everything we do so I’m very happy that our logos were inspired by them as that really reflects the values of our office. I hope the young people who inspired the logos feel proud of their contribution,” Penny said.

And although we have a new look, Oog will still be part of our family and we look forward to meeting Nunga Oog in the near future.

We are also working on developing a new website, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

Reminder to return Charter of Rights review feedback by next Monday

Thanks to all the children and young people who have been involved in the Charter of Rights review! It has been great to see so many young people having a say about their rights in care.

If you registered children and young people to participate in one of our review activities and have not yet sent their comments and feedback back to us, please remember to do so by next Monday.

Please send feedback using the reply-paid envelopes we sent out with the activity packs. Alternatively you can take photos of the completed activities and email these to Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au.

It’s not too late to have a say!

If you know someone in care who hasn’t had a chance to have their say, we encourage you to get them to participate in our online survey. For children under 16 we do recommend that a carer/worker works with them to complete this.

Take the online survey.

What happens next?

Once we have collected all the feedback from participants, our office will develop the new Charter of Rights. We will be seeking your feedback on the revised Charter in a few months’ time, so stay tuned.

If you have any questions about the review contact Mardy McDonald at Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au.

And remember, all feedback needs to be back to us by Monday 10 August 2020.

The makings of Nunga Oog

Packing up art boxes to inspire what Nunga Oog will look like.

We are excited to announce the much loved Oog is getting a friend!

Just like Oog, who is the safety symbol for children and young people in care, we think the Aboriginal children and young people need their own safety symbol.

With more than one third of children and young people in the care system who are Aboriginal, it is vitally important to create a safety symbol that represents their own imagery and aesthetics to help connect this young cohort with their culture.

We have set up a project working group to collaborate with Aboriginal children and young people, the community and service providers across South Australia to help create Nunga Oog, who we know will be equally important and loved as the original Oog.

Part of the project is about having Aboriginal children and young people design what they think Nunga Oog could look like. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our plan to facilitate art workshops was put on hold. But with life returning to a new kind of normal, the working group is keen to get young people thinking about the design of Nunga Oog.

To kick things off, we have put together a number of boxes filled with art materials to enable children and young people to create their version of Nunga Oog at home. These art boxes were sent to a group of residential care facilities this week, just in time for the school holidays.

If your residential care facility received a box of art materials, please encourage the children and young people to get involved. All designs need to be submitted to us by 30 August 2020.

For those of you who have Aboriginal children and young people in your care and did not receive a box of art materials, stay tuned for more opportunities to help us design what Nunga Oog will look like!

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 Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au.

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 Mardy.McDonald2@sa.gov.au.

Art workshops inspiring more than just a logo

Artist and youth mentor Shane Cook

A group of young people in the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre (formerly the Adelaide Youth Training Centre) recently put their artistic ideas to paper in a series of art workshops.

The workshops gave the young people the opportunity to inspire a new logo for the Training Centre Visitor, as well as providing input into a larger piece of artwork to design and promote the Charter of Rights for Youths Detained in Detention Centres. The added bonus for the young participants was the chance to work with Aboriginal artist and youth mentor Shane Mankitya Cook.

Throughout the workshops, Shane provided the young people, who were selected based on their own interest in art, guidance on getting artistic ideas onto paper and exploring these further. He also shared his own experience of growing up – which he described as ‘full of adversity’ – and how he overcame these challenges through art and connecting with his culture.​

Shane said working with the participants was a great experience for him and everyone involved.

“I’m very passionate about helping others engage in mindful activities such as art, as I have experienced how powerful it can be for our mental health,” Shane said.

“Also assisting young people with an opportunity to create artwork that will then go on to be published is a great accomplishment. The participants engaged with the workshops really well. I am very proud of them and the work they contributed to this project,” he said.

The centre’s Programs Manager Paul Aardenburg was also pleased with the young people’s involvement in the workshops and Shane’s ability to quickly develop a great rapport with them.

“Shane shared his journey with the young people and reinforced to them that positive change is possible,” Paul said.

Shane will now take the ideas created in the workshops and build on these to develop a logo and artwork for the Charter, alongside a graphic designer. This work is part of a bigger project that is currently underway to develop some exciting branding for our office which we hope to launch in a few months.

We would like to thank the young participants, Shane, and Paul and his team for all their efforts in being part of the workshops.

Feedback from all those involved said the workshops were excellent and the young people were especially excited to see the finished product. We couldn’t agree more!

Artwork in the making.