When seeking a care arrangement for an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child, there are many factors to consider to ensure an informed decision is made. As discussed in the Seeing and understanding section, these factors include the child’s or young person’s:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
- cultural identity
- child rearing practices
- cultural safety
- connection to country
By including as much information as you can from the above list when seeking an initial placement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, you increase the likelihood that the placement will satisfy the child placement principle. This means it is more likely that it will support the child’s cultural needs, which will contribute to the child achieving better outcomes and will contribute to the overall case plan goals.
Once you are aware of the child’s community, their language group and country, you can seek a placement for the child in a geographical location that is culturally safe for that child.
Partnering with family
When seeking information from family members, be aware there may be hesitation on their part to share information about their family and their culture with a non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worker due to the impacts of past policies, mistrust and lived experiences. Approach this topic sensitively and be transparent, letting the family know why you are asking for the information and what it will be used for.
Families may also be more likely to share this information with you when they know what you will do with it and how it will impact on them and their children. Family members may be more likely to share information when they know it will can assist in seeking a culturally safe placement for their child so they can remain in community and support their child’s cultural needs while in care.
You may like to use the following example questions to help frame your culturally safe conversations with the family.
Not knowing— As you and I are from different cultural backgrounds, when there are things about you, your family or your culture that I don’t not understand, would it be okay if I ask you about them so I can learn more about you and what is important to you?
Local wisdom—Have others from your family, culture or heritage had to face similar challenges like this before? What did they do to get them through? Who were they able to go to for help? Are these same people available to help you? Were there people from local services that were able to help then? What were the things that they did that you could be able to use when you are working through similar challenges?
Naming oppression—Do you think people from your cultural or ethnic group have had to experiences similar situations to you more so than other people in society? What is your understanding on why this seems to be the way is it?
Independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entity (independent person)
The use of an independent person, referred to in the Act as the ‘Independent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Entity for a Child’, is in line with the principle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination. This requires practitioners to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to enable their participation in significant decisions that affect them. A placement decision is a significant decision.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and their families are best placed to identify a person who can help facilitate their participation in decisions that affect the child.
Practitioners must offer the family the opportunity for an independent person to help to facilitate their participation in a placement decision. It is the child and family’s choice whether they have an independent person. If they are agreeable active efforts are required to support the family to make this possible.
Ideas for engagement strategies
- Limit the meetings held at the Child Safety Service Centre as the family may not feel culturally safe coming to a government building.
- Meet the family at a culturally safe location nominated by them—for example, their home, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service, or a location in the community.
- Prepare questions before and seek advice from your Cultural Practice Advisor on how culturally safe your questions are. Seek advice on alternative questions if needed.
- Have your Cultural Practice Advisor attend meetings and visits with you and participate in case discussions. They can help to identify what is needed to strengthen the partnership between you and the family.
- Use framework tools such as the Family Roadmap, which promotes storytelling and invites the family to tell Child Safety their story, rather than Child Safety ‘talking to’ the family.
- Framework tools such as the Future House, the Safety House, Three Houses and Circles of safety and support are all great tools to use in engaging the family in telling their story. Storytelling, drawing and talking are important forms of communication rather than the written word.
- Strength cards are also useful in helping families share their strengths and what is important to them.
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