- Youth Advisor Sara Bann presents ‘How Australian Kids See the World’ to the Prime Minister as part of this year’s Australia Day celebrations. The book, produced by the Australian Children’s Commissioners and Guardians, commemorates 20 years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with quotations and artwork gathered from children around Australia.
Implementation of the Information Sharing Guidelines is going well with Nunkuwarrin Yunti, DECS, DFC, SA Health and UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide in the training and induction phase for staff. The second stage agencies, Australian Red Cross, Centacare and the government agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Justice, are preparing their procedures.
The Guardian’s 2008-09 Annual Report was tabled in Parliament in late October and the report of the inquiry into the use of physical restraint was released to the public on 13 January. The restraint report and a report summary are available on the Guardian’s website.
A brochure to encourage young people under guardianship to consider applying to attend university was distributed to all Families SA offices, secondary schools and major universities.
The Office’s Child-sensitive records checklist,is now available as a PDF download
The Being in Care products for children are in demand and some items are now out of stock. We are delighted that so many children have the products and hear the message that they have the right to be safe.
Sara Bann, one of our Youth Advisors, met the Prime Minister on 20 January and gave him a copy of the book, How Australian Kids See the World, commemorating the 20thanniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We welcome to our team Benita Brinkworth, 15, our newest Youth Advisor.
For young people in care, turning eighteen can be a huge step. It can be really exciting but quite scary at the same time.
In this post, some of the Guardian’s Youth Advisors answer questions and share their experiences about what it was like to turn eighteen and leave care.
What was helpful to you?
- Having a strong relationship with my social worker was the key – it was comforting to know that there was someone there I could trust to answer my questions, to help with my fears and to teach me new things.
- My support network was great. I used to catch up with one of my teachers each week to discuss any problems and this helped to balance my new found independence and home life with my schooling.
- Living on my own for the very first time was really daunting. It was helpful to keep my friends close, inviting them home and keeping busy.
- Being able to learn from my friends’ experiences helped as many of them already had houses of their own.
- Accepting help from my friends and their families. Sometimes it can be hard, but it is important to know that it is okay to ask for help.
- Getting out and meeting new people which helped to build my confidence.
What do you wish you had known?
- I wish I had been more prepared … what it actually meant and what opportunities were available in my local community.
- I wish I had taken moving out more seriously … taking more time to learn how to cook and how to manage a budget
- That it’s okay to ask others for help – no one has to do everything on their own.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
- Asked lots more questions before leaving care.
- Reached out for help sooner, rather than later.
- Focused on getting involved in things that would help build my self esteem and reduce my social isolation.
- Learn how to manage money and a budget.
- Gained employment before moving out…I didn’t know then how expensive everything is!!
What things did you learn?
- I learnt a lot about myself, as well as how to budget, cook, manage my time … The good thing is that no one is there to judge you, so just take your time.
- How to make my own decisions, no matter how scary they seemed.
- That I had the potential to make it on my own, with the help of my support network.
- It was okay to be afraid and to reach out for help whenever I needed it – and that didn’t make me a failure.
Our Youth Advisors bring a diversity of experiences and views. Some of them are in paid employment; some of them are studying at school, TAFE or university. One of the things they have in common is that they are volunteers. Youth Advisors Sara and David recall their first experiences of work.
David: My first job was as a café assistant and birthday party host. It was a paid position and I learnt quickly that income is there one day and gone the next. It certainly taught me that I needed to budget more effectively!
I really liked the work environment and the chance towork with children. One of the best things was that we were to dress up for birthday parties. I think my best outfit was Bob the Builder. I had a lot of fun working there.
The thing that I remember most was having to go through the play equipment and make sure it was clean! That was a huge job but also an excellent excuse to play on the equipment.
That job taught me how to act in a professional manner in the workplace and that has been very helpful. It also taught me basic skills that I’ve been able to use in all other positions. I just wish I could remember how to use the coffee machine again!
I got to do a lot of cool things – I started a project and worked with some kids at the Magill Flexi Centre and I also got to work with Che Cockatoo-Collins on an awards ceremony.
That job gave me on-the-job skills but also the chance to study at the same time. It gave me an opportunity to learn about government and get my foot in the door for other exciting jobs.
In previous editions the Youth Advisors have had their say on what makes a good social worker and now they turn their attention to foster carers.
The Youth Advisors were asked by Families SA for their opinions as part of the Review of Foster Care Assessment and Training late in 2008 and this is some of what they wrote.
They told Families SA that children or young people in care want stability and security through consistent care and a daily routine. They wanted to be listened to sympathetically and involved in decision making…
…carers should know about the importance of involving children and young people in decision-making about their lives.
…but not always involved in all of the detail.
There’s some things that a child doesn’t need to be involved in, for example an argument between a social worker and carer about clothing allowance or arguments between lawyers.
Practical stuff was important like access to medical care – but also fun.
Some foster parents include you in all their family stuff, especially the fun stuff, but some foster parents don’t. Young people in care, they said, need to feel that it’s not being done just for the money.
Carers, the Youth Advisors thought, needed to have a knowledge of child development and safe caring practices and to understand trauma, attachment and mental health issues that might arise for young people in care. They needed to know how to support and maintain cultural ties.
A carer should be prepared to learn about the child’s culture in order to support that child’s connection with their culture and heritage.
Family based carers should be happy and stable and welcome the child into their home.
The focus for someone considering becoming a carer should be on wanting to provide a home and a heart for a child who can’t live with their family.
They should have good parenting skills, including being compassionate and being focussed on the child, and be willing to help children with their education and life skills.
A carer should enable the child or young person to continue with activities that they were doing before coming into care that were positive and contribute to their development, for example, family birthday and cultural celebrations.
The Youth Advisor’s input was presented to the reference group on family based care by Families SA Principal Social Worker Alisa Marshall who relayed back the reference group’s thanks for ‘an extremely valuable contribution’.
Nothing symbolises more the freedom and responsibility of being out on your own than cooking a meal. When food does not appear on the table and take-aways become boring or expensive, there is no escape – as three of our Youth Advisors recall.
I can’t remember the very first thing but it was probably something like spaghetti bolognese and it was probably terrible. My first housemate was a bit better at cooking than me so he did that and I did the cleaning…When it comes to cooking my specialty is gingerbread houses – that and biscuits and cakes generally.
I did a bit of cooking in residential care – helping out in the kitchen. But when it came to living by myself, I just figured it out. You need to say “I can do this.” Mostly it was simple stuff like pasta or fried steak with salad which worked pretty well. I made a curry once. I put in the usual veggies and some beans and then about eight of these little red chillies. I couldn’t eat it, it was so hot. My Mum and sister managed to eat a bit but not me. I’ve never made a curry since.
I can’t really remember the first thing I ever cooked! But when I first moved out of home, stir fries were the best things that ever happened to me. Just chuck it all in stir it around for a while and eat it! Cheap and healthy… that’s how it was! Here is a cheap, easy as, YUMMY recipe.
Sara’s Fettucini Carbonara
Ok… you need
- 2 onions roughly diced
- about ½ kilo of bacon roughly chopped
- 3 mushrooms cut into slices (if you like them)
- small tub of cream
- a teaspoon of nutmeg to taste
- ground black peppercorns to taste
Here we go… Start by preparing the pasta. Fettucini is awesome, cook as per directions on back of packet. Once you have started boiling pasta, start on the sauce.
Fry onion, bacon and mushroom in frypan. Grind black pepper into frypan as cooking. Add a teaspoon of nutmeg and stir.
Once onions and bacon have browned reduce heat to low and add cream to fry pan. Drain pasta from the saucepan, once TOTALLY DRAINED.. put pasta back into the saucepan and add sauce.. mix all around and… EAT
Last edition the Youth Advisors asked some young people, a youth support worker and a social worker, ‘What qualities make a good social worker for children and young people in care?’ This time it is the turn of the Families SA Executive Director.
A good social worker must:
- have the appropriate qualifications. They will have studied, can show that they have thought about the theory and understand the link between theory and practice and have an ability to apply the learning and skills.
- have the right personal qualities. They must have passion, believe in what they do, believe they can make a difference and want to work with children and young people in care.
- have a good work ethic.
- be robust and grounded with good coping skills, and a good life/work balance in their own lives.
- be a good listener who is able to listen with empathy and understand the individual they are working with.
- be a problem solver and be organised and methodical. • have the necessary skills for their work duties such as client work, whether working with children or adults, presentations (for example in court) or case planning.
- have a sense of fun. They must be energised and have ways of looking after themselves.
- work within a team and cooperate well.
- have a commitment to ongoing learning, reflective practice and continuous improvement.
- have integrity and honesty, recognising the power imbalance between them and their clients and not taking advantage of it or of a disempowered young person.
For kids in care, their social worker is very important. So for this edition of the Youth Advisor’s page we asked a few people, ‘What qualities make a good social worker for children and young people in care?’
First, we asked some young people…
- keep us informed when access changes – tells us why
- do stuff for us – find me a new placement when I need it, make sure I see my family
- visit me at my placement – don’t just talk with me on the phone • call us back after we call you • spend time getting to know me
- ask me what I think about stuff – school, placement, family, the people I live with
- help me sort out problems at school or in my placement
- talk to me about how the decisions are made
Then, a youth support worker’s perspective…
- communicate regularly with youth support workers about changes in arrangements such as access and worker allocation
- have regular face-to-face contact at their placement, not just in the district centre • show honesty and integrity
- follow through with promises
- be fair minded and realistic with expectations
- be willing to follow up on necessary funding to cover basic needs like education and health
- provide the necessary support with life decisions
Finally, a social worker themselves…
- find the time to get out and about to have face-to-face contact with children and young people, rather than just by phone or email.
- give the children and young people the chance to express their opinions and takes the them into consideration for decision-making. For example, consult with them before annual reviews and when writing case plans.
- make calls or visits for significant events like the first day at school or to go out for lunch to celebrate a birthday.
- make regular contact
- links with as many stakeholders as possible and keep in regular contact to communicate the views of the child or young person in care.
In a lunchtime ceremony in the Rotunda of the Adelaide Zoo on April 19, young people involved in the development of the Charter explained why they felt that a clear statement of rights for children and young people in care was important.
Reflecting on her time in guardianship, 19 year old Rachel Hopkins said, “Most kids don’t know what to expect when they go into care.
“They want to know why them and what is going to happen next. The Charter will help clear up a lot of those things and make sure they know it’s alright for them to ask questions.”
Eighteen year old David Wilkins who chaired the event said, “Children in care want to feel like any other children – they want to have the same opportunities and support.”
“It’s really important for children in care to know they have rights. For those coming in to the system, this Charter will be able to provide them with information to help them deal with being placed under guardianship.”
Surviving a simian heckling that he said rivalled even that of his parliamentary colleagues, Minister for Families and Communities, Jay Weatherill congratulated the children and young people, carers and the many professionals whose work created the Charter.
“Children and young people are placed under guardianship when they are unable to remain in their family home making them among the most vulnerable,” he said.“They need to know they can expect to be treated well and cared for properly while they are under guardianship. It also is crucial for them to know they have options if something goes wrong. The Charter is a great way of telling them this and preventing problems such as abuse.
“We are going to ask people and organisations providing care to endorse the Charter and build it into their ways of working with children and young people including their performance standards and reporting process,” he said as he officially launched the Charter.
The launch was attended by more than 100 children and young people and about the same number of carers and other interested adults. After the launch they joined the Office of the Guardian staff for a hotdog and gourmet sausage sizzle and were entertained by young DJ Ben and Dr Blot the clown before spending a sunny afternoon at the Zoo.
The Charter and the value of formalising rights for children and young people in care will be promoted strongly over the next few months.
To read the Charter and to view the promotional materials, visit the Charter of Rights page or contact the Office of the Guardian for Children and Young People on 8226 8570, email email@example.com