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Young people’s views to help guide changes to child protection system

WA children and young people with experience of out-of-home care say having people they trust in their lives who listen and respond when they express concerns is crucial to their safety and wellbeing.

Having a range of ways they can raise concerns, such as technology, mentors and independent people and agencies, are also important in their confidence and ability to speak out about their care.

These findings are outlined in a report released today based on a landmark consultation with almost 100 WA children and young people with experience of out-of-home care.

The report, Speaking Out About Raising Concerns in Care, is the culmination of a partnership between the Commissioner for Children and Young People, the Department for Child Protection and Family Support and CREATE Foundation aimed at providing children and young people in care a voice in current work to improve the state’s child protection system.

Children’s Commissioner Colin Pettit said the children and young people who participated in the consultation exhibited a striking and prevailing resilience despite the significant adversity they have experienced in their lives.

“The views shared by the children and young people who took part in this project give us incredibly important information about how we can improve the systems and resources that enable them to raise concerns and access help,” Mr Pettit said.

“Any barriers these children and young people experience in their ability or confidence to speak out when they are worried or scared must be addressed, and I will be working with the department about how they can respond to the findings.

“As half of all WA children and young people in care are Aboriginal, there must be strong mechanisms in place to ensure they have avenues for raising their concerns that are linked to their particular culture and community.”

Some common barriers to speaking up identified in the report include a fear of not being believed, a lack of privacy, a fear of negative consequences, being let down before and not knowing how to.

Children and young people emphasised having strong, stable, trusting relationships with case workers and carers is essential as these were the people with whom they most frequently shared their concerns.

“While many children and young people reported having strong, positive relationships with their case workers and carers, many others did not,” Mr Pettit said.

“Working in this field is incredibly challenging but ensuring staff and carers have the time, skills and empathy to support and connect with children and young people in care is essential.

“This consultation demonstrated that each child has their own unique set of circumstances and needs, and their best hope of a positive future is to ensure they have a voice in important decisions made about their lives.

“With more than 4,500 WA children and young people now under the care of the State, there is growing urgency to ensure we have highly effective systems to support and protect the welfare of this important group.

“It is essential that children and young people in care have every opportunity to raise any concerns they may have and this report can help ensure that the systems in place are responsive to their needs.”