Programs for young people should be evaluated – by them

a group of young people at the Royal Commission consultation
An interview with Isabella Daziani from the Department for Child Protection Evaluation Unit

‘In evaluating programs for young people, we think it is fundamental to start with the young people themselves’, says Isabella.
‘If we really want to improve services for young people we must recognise they are the foremost experts in their lives – they know what is working for them and what isn’t.
‘And it must be done genuinely, more than a quick tick and flick to check off the “young people consulted” box.
‘But achieving a genuine, respectful and useful dialogue with young people is not always easy and can be made difficult by the circumstances of the young people. They have a lot of adults coming in and out of their lives and some are understandably reluctant and distrustful of yet another nosey adult. Others may have psychological, intellectual or physical disabilities that we need to acknowledge, and provide them with opportunity to contribute.
‘Some young people may be suspicious of the motives of adults or jaded by consultations that take up their time but produce no follow-up and no change.
‘To talk to young people, you may also need to navigate the attitudes of the adults who care for them. Some adults genuinely believe that young people should be protected from discussing challenging issues. Some believe that only adults can understand and legitimately speak on issues for young people.
‘We have found that many young people are very aware of their circumstances and capable of expressing their insights to a degree that would surprise many adults. They are the experts in their own lives. The young people we have spoken to always surprise and delight us with their insights and their directness.

This is part of a longer interview which includes the views of young people, Isabella’s top tips for consulting and some further reading.

Download the full version of Programs for young people should be evaluated – by them

Finding out what young people have to say – in a different way

RESPECT artworkStarting January 2014, the Guardian’s Office will be actively reaching out to a broader range of young people.  The Guardian will be partnering with organisations to speak with young people from different ages, locations and cultural backgrounds.

Muggy’s (Salvation Army), Time for Kids, Metropolitan Aboriginal Youth and Family Services, Key Assets, and Create Foundation will all be contributing their expertise to outreach workshops in a new way of hearing from children and young people.  The format will vary according to the wishes of organisations and their young people but the linking theme will be respect.

‘Respect is a term and concept widely used by young people and in media and in education,’ said Guardian Pam Simmons.

“Discussing how young people are respected by adults and by their peers and how they respect other adults and other young people will tell us much about their world and help shape our practice and advocacy,’ she said.

The Office will publish minor reports on each of the consultations and a major report when all are completed.

You can find out more about the underpinning  policy and strategy on the Youth participation policy and strategy page.

link to GCYP twitter

What’s been done – September 2011 to February 2012

Youth Advisory Committee

The Youth Advisors now meet as the Youth Advisory Committee and in the past months they have advised on topics such as contact with siblings, Life Story Books, Other Person Guardianship, the ending of relationships with social workers and their experience of using complaints mechanisms.

Advocate visits to residential care

In the three months October to December, there were eight visits made by the Office’s advocates to children and young people in residential care and the youth training centres to listen to their views about their residence and circumstances.

Rights materials for young people with disabilities

In December, we released six sets of flash cards and a user guide to assist young people with disabilities to understand their rights and what they can fairly expect.  Thanks to the 35 young people, their families, the advisory committee and the Office staff who brought is ten month project to fruition. The card sets will be distributed to children in care through Disability Services and other disability agencies.

Sibling contact report

In December we released the report of our inquiry into what children say about contact with their siblings and the impact contact has on their wellbeing.  The full report and a summary are available on our website.

picture of book coverWhat children say about their world

We worked with our colleagues in children’s commissioners and guardians around Australia to produce a second book on what children say about their world. It focussed on children’s rights and children’s experience and views.  Our thanks to Leonie Wanklyn and her 2011 class at Port Lincoln Junior Primary for their contribution.

ISG progress

Implementation of the Information Sharing Guidelines for Promoting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children, Young People and their Families (ISG) continues apace with many more non-government organisations adopting them, following development of their own procedures for safe and secure exchange of personal information. Improved information sharing is a focus of the National Women’s Safety Strategy and the contribution the ISG can make to this important work is being explored. Planning for the 2012 review of ISG implementation is underway. We are partnering with the Australian Centre for Child Protection as a component of evaluating ISG implementation.

Mental health services for young people in care

The Office reviewed 60 case files to better understand how the mental health needs of children in care are being met.  We will publish a summary of the findings of that review within the next few months.

Audits of annual reviews

In the last quarter of 2011 the Office audited 73 annual reviews of the circumstances of children in care.  A summary of the audit report for 2010-11 was released in September.

The Year in Review and 2010-11 Annual Report

On 24 November the Guardian’s Annual Report was tabled in Parliament and its observations on the situation of young people in care were re-presented in The Year in Review published in December.
All the latest news from the Office is on our Twitter feed. 

link to twitter

The Youth Advisors reflect on life story books

Recently, Families SA invited the Youth Advisors to comment on the development of a new Life Story Book for non-Aboriginal children and young people in care. Families SA currently provides a  Life Story Book for Aboriginal children and young people, which is tailored to the child’s own clan group.

Only one of the current five Youth Advisors have, or had a life story book. They said:

‘I have no photos of me before the age of 10 years” – no baby photos, no first day of school photos, no birthday photos…’

‘It’d be good to look back at what I did and where I was during my childhood.’

‘Would’ve been nice to have a record of my history and heritage.’

‘I’ve been doing some scrapbooking [with my parent]’.

All of the four Youth Advisors who haven’t had a Life Story Book agreed that they would’ve enjoyed participating in life story work and would benefit from having a Life Story Book.

Summing up, one said ‘The Life Story Book should be given as a bound book at age 18 years, and in the absence of a Life Story Book, a bound photo book’.

Follow the work of the Youth Advisors on Twitter.

link to twitter


New Youth Advisor, Thomas Manning

""Welcome to new Youth Advisor, Thomas Manning.  Thomas joins the other four Youth Advisors who provide advice to the Guardian and raise issues affecting children and young people in care.

Thomas was  in care since age 12 and has experienced a number of placements and a period of independent living.   He recently graduated very successfully from the Australian Science and Mathematics School and will be majoring in English and Economics when Adelaide University commences in 2011.

Thomas has a keen interest in education and the role it can play in society and for the individual and has in the past contributed his ideas via YACSA and CREATE.  Currently he volunteers for Meals on Wheels and World Vision and enjoys travel, reading and sailing.

The close of 2010 saw the end of the terms of two of the Guardian’s longest serving of the four Youth Advisors, Ed King and Rachel Hopkins.   Their input  to the work of the Office over several years has been invaluable and we wish them the very best in their future endeavours.

What’s been done – September to November 2010

The Office has joined the consultation on the 2010 update of South Australia’s Strategic Plan to propose this target specific to children in care:

Exceed the Australian average for wellbeing of children and young people in out of home care, as indicated by educational achievement, stability and successful transition to adulthood.

We are also supporting new targets for healthy child development and prevention of abuse and neglect of children.  Team members have attended consultation workshops, participated in online conversations and prepared a submission, Making our state a better parent.

The Charter of Rights was tabled in Parliament on 30 September 2010. Two additional agencies, Cora Barclay Centre and West Coast Youth Services, have endorsed the Charter, taking the total to 45 agencies. A survey of agencies who have endorsed the Charter closed on 11 October. The response rate was very high and a report on the findings will be finalised in November.

A discussion paper on improving the mental health of children under guardianship was released for consultation on 16 September. Work on this will continue in November.

Advocate Belinda Walker spoke at the ICAN and Mentoring Statewide Conference, Youth development: everybody’s business, on 27 August focussing on the importance of children’s rights and involvement in developing Individual Education Plans.

The Guardian’s Office has released A Community Visitor Program for Children in State Care report on the feasibility of introducing such a program in South Australia. The report includes background research on other community visitor programs, the outcomes from a discussion with South Australian experts and consultation with the Guardian’s Youth Advisors.

In the period August to October staff from the Office audited 57 annual reviews and conducted 21 monitoring visits.

A report on the Office’s audit of annual reviews of children and young people in care has been compiled and provided to the Minister following opportunity for comment from Families SA.  A Summary of the 2009-10 Audit of Annual Reviews is available in PDF.

With the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), the Office continued a series of information sessions for the NGO sector about the Information Sharing Guidelines (ISG) and is receiving positive feedback about the booklet A Guide to Writing an ISG Appendix. We have been working with Anglicare and Community Centres SA, formerly CANH, to promote the ISG.

The selection process for committee members for the Youth Advisory Committee (see the article on page 6) was held in August and September and the first meeting was held on 1 October.

The Guardian’s 2009-2010 Annual Report, was tabled in Parliament on
30 September 2010.

The independent Report on the Review of Performance and Effectiveness of the Office that was commissioned in April has been delivered.  As well as the evaluation, the report contains suggestions about needs and priorities gleaned from a wide range of stakeholders which will  be included in forthcoming strategic planning.

The brochure You and your future: choosing the right path to university has been updated and reissued for 2010-11 with the assistance of the three South Australian universities.  Distribution has started with the help of Families SA offices, the Department of Education and Children’s Services, the universities and YACSA.  Copies of the brochure can be ordered from the materials page of our website and can also be viewed  in a PDF version.

The Office responded to the Department for Families and Communities’ consultation on directions in alternative care which closed on 3 September.  The Response to Directions for alternative care is available in PDF on the Guardian’s website.

Youth Advisors ask ‘What about school?’

cartoon picture of schoolEverybody says ‘if you want to get anywhere, you’ve got to get an education’. And we know that people are telling us we need to go to school.

The Charter of Rights says we have the right to a good education and to get extra support for special education needs and extra support for students with disabilities.

When Sara talked about her own experiences at school at the Opening the Doors to Wellbeing State Conference convened by KidsMatter and MindMatters, it started us talking about what it was really like for children and young people at school.

Read what the Youth Advisors had to say in a PDF file.

The Youth Advisors talk serious fun

The Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care affirms children and young people’s right to develop their talents and interests, like sport or art.

When there are lots of other important things to sort out or when everyone is busy, remembering to help a young person to either start or maintain their recreational interests can be really tricky.

So for this edition, some of our Youth Advisors have their say about recreation and why it is so important.

It can offer a huge variety of different experiences and can allow young people to develop and follow their passions. For example, following a favourite sporting team may lead to becoming actively involved at school or with the local team.

It is about having fun and it can allow you to express your feelings and emotions. This can mean having some regular ‘quality’ time just for yourself – something of your own, outside of the family.

Oog with a soccer ballIt can not only help you to remain fit and healthy but it can also help you emotionally by improving your interactions with others, help you to learn strategies to deal with different types of situations and therefore help boost your confidence and self esteem.

It is a big part of most people’s lives and that should be just the same for children and young people in care.

Being involved in new activities can put you outside your comfort zone which can help you to challenge your abilities and to develop your skills.

Oog reading a bookBy having something regular to do just for yourself, can give you something to concentrate on or to look forward to.

Being involved with other young people in your local area can help you to build strong links with your community. These links can give a sense of fitting in and belonging.

Having someone to help you can also help you to remain focussed. A little success can go a long way.

It is about friendships and having the opportunity to make more friends. Having more friends can mean having a wider support network which can be really helpful.