To increase the involvement of young people in their placement decisions, it is important to continue to keep them informed and include them in major decision-making processes.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, the child placement principle outlines five core elements, including one specifically on participation. Culturally safe participation is vital and includes the following actions:
- the practitioner’s commitment to continuous development of cultural understanding and competence
- engagement with the family to draw on family knowledge of culture, strengths and risks
- use of family-led decision making processes, which supports the young person’s family group to collaboratively identify and address safety concerns and plans for intervention
- inclusion of advocacy services and legal representation
- finding and including kin and community members to widen the young person’s safety and support network.
To ensure meaningful participation, with consent, arrange for an independent person to help facilitate participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their families in decision making about placement options.
The child placement principle further identifies the following as important points to consider when considering placement options for a young person:
- Prioritise placement with family.
- Make ongoing active efforts to identify kin.
- If not with family, look for a placement in close geographical proximity.
- Involve the young person’s independent person in supporting them in decision making.
- Develop collaborative and quality cultural support plans.
- Review plans regularly with the young person and family.
For more information on culturally capable practice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and families, refer to the practice kit Safe care and connection.
Strategies for engaging young people
The following list of strategies and techniques can be adopted in your day-to-day practice when working with young people in care:
- Have regular and meaningful home visits. Consider taking the young person offsite to increase privacy and hold discreet conversations.
- Provide the young person with a smart device to enable communication with them.
- Download kicbox on the young person’s smart device and help them set up their profile.
- Build and maintain a relationship with the young person.
- Regularly send instant message updates to the young person on kicbox.
- Gain knowledge of young people’s slang and the meaning of words they frequently use.
- From age fifteen, help the young person complete a transition to adulthood plan to identify tasks and goals to focus on.
- Seek the young person’s view through any communication method they prefer, such as instant messaging, Facetime, or their attendance at the placement meeting.
- Share information with the young person through kicbox, texts and email.
- Engage the young person in all aspects of their life and relevant decisions.
- Provide the young person with formal written letters, as necessary under legislation.
- Have the young person contribute to their Placement Services Unit referral, completing their own profile and providing their own photo.
- Have the young person attend placement meetings and family group meetings. Consider attendance via other methods rather than just face-to-face.
- Help the young person identify an independent person to support the young person’s participation at case and transition planning meetings, where relevant.
- Learn about the young person’s culture and be curious about their culture on visits.
- Speak to the young person in age-appropriate and jargon-free language.
- Purchase a suitcase and overnight bag for the young person to use when attending friends’ sleepovers, respite and camps; when changing placements; and for family visits.
- Complete a belongings list and ensure all belongings accompany the young person if they change placements and when they return home.
kicbox is an online and mobile friendly application (app) that provides a convenient way of communicating and sharing information with a young person. The app also provides a safe and secure place for a young person to keep documentation, photos and mementos. The app supports the undertaking of life story work in which important personal information and significant life events are recorded. Maintaining a life story also and allows for the recording and accumulation of information throughout a young person’s time in care, which is critical for their eventual transition to adulthood.
All young people in care experience disconnection from their family and community, and placement disruptions may result in the loss of personal possessions, photos and memories.
Life story work supports the development of a strong foundation for a young person’s independence and will assist them to create a clear understanding of their family relationships and connections, increase their self-knowledge and self-esteem and promote an understanding of what has happened to them during their time in care.
kicbox also has an instant messaging feature whereby the young person can send their CSO an instant message through the app, see when the CSO is online and upload documents and pictures to their profile at any time.
kicbox includes 4 main categories:
- My life—which helps them record their journey in care by uploading photos, describing particular events and recording their thoughts and feelings.
- My future—which helps them to visualise their life goals through words and images.
- Important documents—which provides a single place for storing all their documents, such as their birth certificate, certificate of Aboriginality, or school reports.
- Contact and support—which lets them connect with their CSO by sending secure and private messages.
Remember to consider whether a young person is emotionally mature and responsible enough to be safe online, prior to inviting a young person to use kicbox. Be curious about what they know about and do online, and discuss what online safety means to the young person generally in their day to day life.
Resources for engagement
Consider using resources such as these cards to assist your conversation with the young person to identify their strengths and skills. Identifying strengths reminds young people that they have them, they can use them to address problems and that they should be celebrated:
It is important to provide written letters to young people advising them of their placement, as this decision is reviewable through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
This letter will outline the reason for the decision, which should include:
- your conversations with the young person, parents, carers and network members if applicable
- the case work you implemented to match the young person to the placement
- how the placement will enhance the young person’s stability and meet their safety, belonging and wellbeing needs.
The letter is more than just about complying with our legislative requirements. It helps prepare the young person for a transition and provides all the information to them regarding a decision about them.
This is an empowering process for the young person and demonstrates participation at its highest level when the content of the letter is already known to the young person as you have included them in every step of the process.
Engaging young people with high needs
Young people enter placements with all types of needs, some more complex than others, requiring different techniques to include them in the decision-making process. This may include young people who have a disability or medical health challenges.
Be aware of how to engage with young people with complex needs. You can read more information on working with young people with high needs in the various practice kits relevant to the needs of the young person:
- Disability practice kit
- Mental health practice kit
- Child sexual abuse practice kit
- Domestic and family violence practice kit
- Alcohol and other drugs practice kit
The resource Collaborative Assessment and Planning Framework provides a range of strengths-based questions to use when engaging with young people, their families and carers.
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