Placing a young person in care is a safety intervention in itself. This form of intervention can help increase the strengths of the young person, helping them experience better outcomes while in care and after care and assist in preparing them for adulthood.
Success in a placement is not possible without a network of people around the young person. In terms of post-care outcomes, the Indigenous Care Leavers in Victoria report observed that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, (and non-Indigenous young people) returned to family after care.
For some, a return to reside with family after exiting care is due to limited, sustainable accommodation options (Whyte, 2011). With this in mind, we must ensure our young people are connected to their family and community and have a strong sense of self—to ensure their safety needs are met when they exit care.
‘They go back to family in the end sometimes anyway, and yet there still hasn’t been that building of capacity for family for them to go back. It’s just remove them, artificial supports in place for 10 years, and then, ‘Oh crap, you’ve got nowhere to go’. Put them back into family and let them go. And that’s not going to work.’
‘We can do some amazing work with kids, but it needs to be a holistic approach, extended out to the family. You know, so if the families aren’t progressing, then we’re just putting these kids back into the lion’s den.’ (Whyte, 2011).
An understanding of brain development, including the effects of trauma, disrupted attachment and interrupted development, can give us important knowledge about a young person’s development and capability to return home safely, even as an adult. It helps us understand how to build relationships and undertake our assessment and planning work with young people, particularly when seeking and supporting a placement.
Practitioners work with young people to create personalised interactions, assessments and safety plans that support each young person’s development, while being sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence and the unique impact trauma has had on them (Manning & Bucher, 2012).
Remember, the chronological age of a young person is not necessarily equal to their social/emotional age.
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