The growing recognition of young people living in non-approved homes has put the Brisbane Emergency Response Outreach Service (BEROS) and the young people with whom they work front and centre in both discussions and responses. Young people living away from the homes approved by Child Safety is not a new issue, nor is it unique to Brisbane. It is an issue for the Queensland as well as national and international child protection system.
BEROS offers an innovative and collaborative response to this group of young people. Their intent is articulated in the following statement: Together with young people we aim to address crisis by connecting them with resources and people to create safety and stability as quickly as possible.
Funded by the Brisbane Region of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, BEROS provides services to young people aged 12 to 18 years who are in out-of-home care and are living away from their approved placements (formerly referred to as self-placing) in Brisbane Region. BEROS is a partnership between Community Living Association (CLA) and Micah Projects. CLA is the lead agency, supporting young people to achieve safety and stability in their housing and relationships with family, friends, culture and community. Micah Projects provides after hours outreach support to young people in the community who are experiencing an immediate crisis.
In providing this service, BEROS works closely with the seven Brisbane Child Safety Service Centres, the Placement Services Unit (PSU) and Child Safety After Hours Service Centre as well as a range of government and non-government services. BEROS aims to connect young people to their previous care arrangements with their foster or kinship carers or residential care service. When this isn’t an option, alternative care opportunities are identified.
Collaborative practice and networking are the cornerstones of the BEROS model. Since its inception three years ago significant time has been spent relationship building with organisations and government departments, in particular staff at each of the seven Child Safety Service Centres.
Positive relationships are central to their practice, most notably with young people. As BEROS staff spend significant time building relationships and connecting with others, they encourage and support young people to do the same. In doing so their relationships with a wide array of support services including cultural, drug and alcohol, mental health and accommodation services ensure that young people are linked to the support services they require for their holistic wellbeing.
The BEROS team comprises of a Team Leader, two full-time and one part-time Case Managers at CLA who fulfil both case management and the significant outreach functions of the organisation. Micah Projects operates outreach to young people from 6pm until 12am via a phone service that links services such as Child Safety After Hours and the Queensland Police Service to the four Assertive Outreach Youth Workers working seven days a week within the BEROS Street to Home team. Micah’s Safer Lives team through the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service fulfils post-midnight work to ensure 24-hour coverage.
Emergency accommodation is provided via a CLA-owned property available for two young people at any given time with overnight support. CLA has four overnight staff who fulfil rostered shifts.
BEROS provides outreach, connection and stable relationships with young people whilst remaining focused on safety. Achieving sustainability by meeting immediate needs such as stable accommodation and care relationships as well as personal, family and community connections is a primary focus. BEROS provides developmental work such as linking young people to educational, health and other relevant supports, whilst consistently working towards positive peer relationships for young people and focusing on mentoring and enhanced family and cultural relationships.
“The outreach is active outreach. We come from a relationship focus across the organisation and our relationships are young person centred. Young people are front and centre in our practice approach. We meet them where they’re at and we’re seeing really positive responses from young people by doing so. We now have young people remaining connected after two and a half years. Even when they’re not in secure accommodation, they’re committed to working on themselves and moving forward” says Chloe Warrell, BEROS Team Leader.
Chloe spoke about the enormous task of relationship building and noted that this is an all-of-the-time occurrence. Language is also relevant in that the term ‘self-placing’ has been used for many years. It causes confusion and is disliked by many young people. BEROS alongside other colleagues are working to change the language from the commonly used term ‘self-placing’ to young people ‘living in non-approved homes’. Chloe notes that this change is happening but change takes time and a common understanding regarding language is necessary too.
“What is really heartening” noted Chloe “is the shift in perspective of those working alongside young people who are in non-approved homes and the increased focus and understanding regarding their specific needs. They are the cohort of young people with the most concerning outcomes who need a concerted focus and holistic service responses to meet them where they’re at.” The BEROS model of service delivery, and the philosophy of respect, connection and relationships, affords improved outcomes when young people are ready to make the changes they desire. Mistakes are seen as learning opportunities and non-punitive responses are offered. There is a shift across the sector that young people are viewed as being on a journey that includes both healing and growth, with adolescence being understood as a time for learning and mistakes. When responded to with humility and respect young people remain connected and continue to work willingly alongside their workers.
Referrals to Brisbane Emergency Response Service (BEROS):
From 9am until 5pm: Team Leader Chloe Warrell, Community Living Association, on 0447 385 199
After hours from 6pm until 12am: Micah BEROS team on 3036 4444