To increase the involvement of children in their placement decisions, it is important to continue to keep them informed through your case work activities and, as mentioned earlier, include them in major decision-making processes.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle outlines five core elements, including one specifically on participation. Culturally safe participation is vital and includes the following actions:
- draw on family knowledge of culture, strengths and risks
- initiate family-led decision making processes
- include advocacy and legal representation
- find and include kin and community members and widen the child’s safety and support network+
Research has produced different findings with regard to children being informed and having an opportunity to participate in decisions about their lives (Heyes et al, 2018).
Some children in care felt that they were rarely consulted and that their views, if they had an opportunity to express them, were not acted on (Bessell, 2011 cited in McDowall, 2013).
However, the CREATE Foundation reported that two thirds of children surveyed felt that they were able to contribute to decisions about their lives ‘reasonably often’ (McDowall, 2018), mostly about their education and family contact and least about placement decisions. A supportive relationship with a caseworker was a major factor enhancing engagement in decision-making. The Create foundation report further identifies the need to provide support to children to facilitate their engagement in case planning meetings to avoid the experience becoming aversive and counterproductive (McDowall, 2018).
To ensure meaningful participation in decision-making, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child who is old enough must be offered an independent person.
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