Consider permanency as part of your everyday casework with young people, their families and carers. Casework, including conversations with young people, their families and carers, should be guided by a permanency goal. Seek to understand, through ongoing conversations, what the young person’s life is like and what they want for their future.
Remember, achieving permanency involves ongoing open and transparent conversations with the young person. It cannot be achieved in one meeting.
Consider how the young person’s placement is providing them with the best opportunities for safety, stability, connection and wellbeing.
Consider focusing permanency options on:
- the rights of the young person to reach their potential
- the views of the young person and other important people in their life
- the quality of relationships the young person has and what impact any decision will have on these
- the young person’s long term experience of safety, security and belonging
- the young person’s wellbeing across all domains of their life
- the young person’s cultural identity and needs.
Young people’s understanding of permanency
In 2019, the CREATE Foundation consulted 31 young people with a care experience to seek their views about permanency and stability. The young people were asked to prioritise, in order of importance, the main areas that support permanency and stability being achieved:
The views and wishes of young people on home, future, connections, relationships and care emerged as significant themes. Placement, siblings, friends and parents were considered the top priority contributing to stability, underlining the importance of relational and physical permanency.
The diversity in responses highlights the need for practitioners to seek and hear the views of each young person about what is important to them specifically, and what areas they think will make the most difference to achieving permanency and stability (CREATE Foundation, 2019).
Young people were asked about what permanency means:
‘Stability is having a routine you’re used to that doesn’t change often. Familiarity with your surroundings and those you live with and the community you’re in’
‘Stability means a home that I know I can go back to everyday. The same people. The same home. The same school. Things not changing at a whim. Being able to know who you can go to.’
‘A birthmark stays there forever.’
‘It shows you can have your own things and house without other people owning them.’
‘I think it means something staying forever.’
‘Staying in one place until you are allowed to move out.’
‘I’m trying to think about how to put it into words…Not temporary people. A permanent community… feeling like you can rely on people.’
‘Permanency means…staying in one household with the same people, same school, same environment for a long period of time.’
‘Something that is there all the time that you can rely on.’
(Various young people, CREATE Foundation, 2019: page 6)
Some young people were unsure or confused by the term permanency:
‘I’m not sure.’
‘I haven’t heard of permanency.’
‘A scar is permanent.’
‘I know what it is but I can’t explain it.’
(Various young people, CREATE Foundation, 2019: page 6)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have identified that meaningful cultural experiences contribute to their feelings of stability and connection:
‘In general, to be able to connect with your culture when you are away from home and being able to freely practise your religion when you’re away from home, it creates a sense of identity.’
(Young person, CREATE Foundation, 2019)
Young people also voiced both positive and negative responses in relation to permanent care orders, some young people considered the minimal interaction with Child Safety to be a benefit, while others worried about being properly cared for if Child Safety or the Community Visitor were no longer involved (CREATE Foundation, 2019).
Given the variety of responses from young people regarding permanency, it is important for practitioners to know the young person they are working with and determine, through ongoing conversations, what the young person feels is the priority to support their stability and permanency.
This video is another example of young people speaking about permanency and what it means to them.
Engagement and participation
There are significant benefits to having young people participate in and be seen as competent partners in decision-making (Augsberger, 2014). To ensure the voice of a young person is heard, consider what reflects true engagement when building relationships with young people and encouraging them to participate meaningfully in permanency planning.
Roger Hart's Ladder of Participation (1992) provides a framework to guide, and reflect on, the meaningful participation of young people in decision making processes:
- Manipulation—where adults use young people to support causes and pretend that the causes are inspired by young people
- Decoration—where young people are used to help or bolster a cause in indirect ways, although adults do not pretend that the cause is inspired by young people
- Tokenism—where young people appear to be given a voice, but in fact have little or no choice about what they do or how they participate.
More genuine engagement looks like:
- Assigned but informed—where young people are assigned a specific role and informed about how and why they are being involved
- Consulted and informed—where young people give advice on projects and programs designed and run by adults. The young person is informed about how their input will be used and the outcomes of the decisions made by adults
- Adult-initiated, shared decisions—where projects or programs are initiated by adults but the decision making is shared with young people.
Ideal levels of engagement are:
- Young person initiated and directed—where the young person initiates and directs a project or program. Adults are involved only in a supportive role
- Young person initiated, shared decisions with adults—where projects or programs are initiated by young people and decision making is shared among young people and adults. These projects empower young people while at the same time enabling them to access and learn from the life experience and expertise of adults (Hart, 1992).
The ladder of participation informs the spectrum of youth engagement as seen below.
Use your knowledge of rights, engagement and participation in case planning to inform primary and alternative permanency goals.
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