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Young people and placements

Placements for young people are different to placements for children due to the developmental changes young people go through and the additional needs they have.

Practitioners are challenged every day by how to engage and work with young people who have been harmed and traumatised by adults. These young people may behave in ways that are likely to hurt themselves or others. This makes working with them that bit harder.

Young people today are facing challenges that previous generations either did not face, such as the growing world of technology; climate change and sustainable living; and limited employment opportunities for those without qualifications; and issues with greater openness such as sexual and gender diversity.

When managing placements, we need to be aware of these topics and deepen our understanding of them to be able to walk alongside young people on their placement journey.

Young people are more likely to be placed in residential care or with kinship carers, due to the limited number of foster carers. If they have grown up in a foster or kinship care arrangement, they may remain with their carer until they transition to adulthood. Sometimes young people remain with their family-based carer beyond their 18th birthday (as happens in other families).

There are several elements that are vital to ensuring young people achieve better outcomes and a successful transition to adulthood. They include:

  • participation in decision-making
  • attendance at meetings
  • responsibility for themselves and their actions
  • plans for the future
  • goals
  • life skills
  • money
  • independent time
  • mobility
  • school
  • family connection

Planned placement transitions      

Planned placement transitions for young people are more likely to work when they have ownership of the plans and feel that their views and worries have been listened to, heard and acknowledged as important.

To ease the trauma experienced during a transition for any placement change, some factors to consider sharing with the young person may include:

  • who they will be living with
  • how long they will be living with the carers
  • how they will get to see their friends
  • when they will see their parents again
  • their health and education
  • legal matters, such as pending court dates for either child protection or criminal matters
  • long-term living arrangements
  • strategies to keep safe from harm
  • who they can talk to about any issues or concerns


‘Transitions are often governed by systemic time-lines and rarely represent a pace conducive to the emotional wellbeing of children’. (McIntosh, 1999, p.32)

Practical considerations to do with placement availability, geography and financial resources often affect the timing of major transitions for young people. Despite these, keep the young person at the centre of the process and do whatever you can to meet their need for safety, wellbeing and belonging.


For further information on participation, the CREATE Foundation information on participation from a young person’s perspective. You can access it here.

The concept of participation can have different meanings in different cultural contexts. In this video, two Aboriginal CREATE Young Consultants from the Northern Territory talk about what participation means to them.

CREATE NT Participation Project   

Residential placements

A residential placement is where young people live with other young people (they may or may not know), supported by rostered case/youth workers at premises owned/rented by the licensee (the person and organisation licensed and funded to provide care).

This type of placement is for young people over the age of 12, and may take various forms such as semi-independent living and therapeutic residential services.

Despite residentials having youth workers rostered on shifts rather than parent figure caregivers, the key to residential care is the same as family-based care—relationships.

The single most identified factor contributing to positive outcomes for young people involves meaningful connections and lifelong relationships’. (Kevin Campbell, Seneca Center, Leader in Family Finding Field, cited in the Intensive Practice Module series).

‘Providing a stable and responsive environment of relationships for high-risk young people with consistent, nurturing and protective interactions with adults may enhance their learning and help them develop adaptive capacities that promote well-regulated stress-response systems’. (Dr Jack Schonkoff, Harvard University, cited in the Intensive Practice Module series).

‘Relationships that provide a sense of security, stability, continuity and social support are strong predictors of better outcomes for young people’s long-term outcomes’ (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2007, cited in the Intensive Practice Module series).

The Hope and Healing Framework for Residential Care (introduced across all residentials in Queensland in December 2018) focuses on nurturing relationships.

This framework sets out the foundation for caring and working with young people in residential care in a way that understands and responds to trauma therapeutically, while using the relationship between youth worker and the young person. It recognises that, while not all young people in residential care require specialist therapeutic care, all have experienced trauma.

A trauma-informed therapeutic framework, such as the Hope and Healing Framework for Residential Care, is underpinned by common practice principles which apply across all types of residential care and all cohorts of young people. The practical application of these principles shapes the way in which care is defined and understood. This means that care:

  • is individualised, taking account of age, stages of development and cognitive functioning and abilities
  • is relationship-based
  • promotes engagement in decision making and life choices
  • occurs within the context of family
  • supports links with community
  • is culturally safe and culturally proficient
  • supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity
  • supports culturally and linguistically diverse identities
  • understands and responds to behaviour as communication
  • provides unconditional commitment
  • is collaborative and integrated across all services involved with each young person

In addition, the needs-informed approach of the Hope and Healing Framework for Residential Care (as shown in the following diagram) incorporates: 

  • fundamentals of care—applied as part of everyday care throughout a young person’s journey in care
  • focus areas—core elements of a therapeutic approach
  • future orientation—a goal-focused approach incorporating young people’s hopes and dreams

Semi-independent Living (SILS)

A semi-independent living placement has a small group of young people, 15 years or older in a residential setting or privately rented property, supported by case/youth workers who do not live in the house, but provide external support through regular visiting (a reduced support model of care). This model of care aims to increase the life skills of the young people and support their transition to adulthood.

Young people generally enter a SILS placement when they have developed some life skills and are capable for caring for themselves without an adult 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This may include having basic cooking skills and the ability to grocery shop, budget, wash their clothes and keep a clean house.

To enter a SILS placement, a young person generally needs to have a transition to adulthood plan that details their needs, strengths, goals and achievements regarding their transition. One format for a transition plan is the CREATE Foundation’s Go Your Own Way Kit (GYOW). It is filled with resources and information to assist in the process and provide practitioners, young people and carers with the information they need to plan for a successful transition.

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