Voices in Action

by PeakCare Qld on 18th May 2012

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Ensuring Children and Young People’s Participation in the Child Protection System

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On March 20th 2012 the Voices in Action Forum was held to launch the new look Children and Young People’s Participation Strategy. This event was organised by G-Force, a sector wide working party of the Child Protection Partnership Forum made up of government and non-government organisa¬tions. G-Force is strongly informed by and grounded in the opinions of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience; some of whom currently have or have previously had significant involvement with and input into G-Force.

The Children and Young People’s Participation Strategy is a resource for the entire sector that aims to create a child protection system that ensures children and young people are engaged participants and empowered in their own lives and decision making. The key purpose of the day was for workers to share good practice, learn new skills and be inspired to renew their visions around the vital importance of children and young people having a voice in their lives. This action focused forum looked at how decision makers in child protection facilitate the participation of children and young people through their work. Most notably at the heart of this forum was the question: How do we hold true to the ideals of participation in busy and often crisis impacted workplaces?

Whilst the relaunch of the Children and Young People’s Participation Strategy was the focus of the day, robust discussion about how our sector defines participation and how it is balanced with the protective needs of children and young people as well as the sharing of best practice in facilitating young people’s participation was also of paramount importance. The CREATE Young Consultants offered insight and opportunities for encouraging participation and shared their experiences of what had worked well for them and what hadn’t. Their input was a highlight of the forum which received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

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The following is one such example from a Department of Communities (Child Safety, Youth and Families) Practitioner who gave her permission to share her comments:

“I would just like to thank you for a fantastic day yesterday. I have come away from yesterday very inspired to change my practices, to involve young people as much as I can with case planning for their future.

I just thought I would forward the email I sent to my work group this morning about my day yesterday. I just had to share with them some of the inspirational statements the young people said that just touched my heart. Thanks again, you guys do a great job:

Yesterday I attended the Voices in Action Forum, a re-launch of the G Force Children and Young People’s Participation Strategy. There were 6 young people from CREATE there who all got up and spoke throughout the day telling their story of their experience in care. All of these young people expressed that they really appreciated being consulted about the decisions made about their life, appreciated that they had a say in planning for their future even though sometimes these wishes could not be granted.

Some inspirational statements from yesterday

  • “We (young people) are the ones steering the ship, you are just there to guide us”.
  • “As a CSO you need to get to know me, I don’t just want to be a piece of paper in a file”.
  • In relation to attending a meeting/FGM – “Get to know me, get to know my fears, I won’t be able to engage if you don’t know me and my fears”

I have the Children and young people’s participation strategy booklet on my desk if anyone would like a look. I would also encourage you all to have your young people link in with CREATE, a fantastic service that supports children in care with all aspects of their life”.

An expert panel of experienced practitioners and young people with care experiences from CREATE who spoke about mechanisms for engaging disenfranchised young people also offered amazing learning and inspiration for those in attendance. On closing, all event participants were provided with a ‘Participation Toolkit’ of resources to assist their work in this arena.

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We extend our sincere thanks to Rob Ryan for offering extensive guidance and then so effortlessly facilitating this significant event. Our appreciation is similarly extended to the expert panel members; those who have dedicated many years to working with children and young people and those who were or are the children and young people.

When the Voices in Action Forum was initially announced by G-Force the interest was so overwhelming that a waiting list had to be established and many were unfortunately unable to be accommodated due to the room capacity of 70 which was stretched to 80. The interest was heartening as it was such a positive demonstration of the genuineness of practitioners across government and non-government organisations to ensure that children and young people have a strong voice in their lives and well-being.

The relaunched and restyled Children and Young People’s Participation Strategy is attached. It is the hope of G-Force that the Voices in Action Forum was step one in reinvigorating workers around Queensland to take stock of the vital importance of children and young people being able to have genuine input into their own lives and decision making.

Click here for the Children and Young People’s Participation Strategy

Lorraine Dupree
G-Force Member
Policy and Research Manager, PeakCare Queensland
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