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Asked but not heard: Another report calls for change in out-of-home care

Sep 2022

Written by Kelly Royds

A new report released by the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People, Zoë Robinson, calls on the government to listen and respond to the voices of children and young people in out-of-home care.

This report comes after an extensive ABC investigation revealed disturbing stories about children abused in state care and after a bill hoping to codify changes recommended by Prof Megan Davis in her 2019 Family is Culture report stalled in parliament.

Ms Robinson said she was confronted by the findings in this report. “What is clear is that we are not consistently listening or providing a place for children and young people in care to be heard about all the decisions that affect their lives.”

To address concerns regarding the government’s response to the Family is Culture report Natasha Maclaren-Jones, the Minister for Families and Communities has committed to fast-tracking a review of the key recommendations

“Our aim is to take [reforms] to our parliament this year” she recently told the Guardian, with the government planning to bring its own legislation to the house next month after more consultation.

The Office of the Advocate for Children and Young People (ACYP) report also recommends that the government continue to work towards implementing the ‘Family Is Culture’ recommendations. The Aboriginal children and young people they spoke to shared painful stories of disconnection from culture, kin and community.

As one young person who participated in the research said: “There was a….lack of support around my cultural learnings…I wasn’t taken back to country, I wasn’t connected to my own elders or community or anything like that.”

Although the themes of loss of culture, trauma, leaving care, health, sibling separation and lack of safety will be familiar to many, viewed together, the report provides another indictment of a failure to act on what children and young people have been saying (shouting!) for years.

I have been asked. I don't think I've been heard like 95% of the time

Young person, ACYP report

Carers, workers and others reading this latest report might ask, as a recent Conversation article just did, how does this keep happening? This report won’t answer this question, but it does offer a powerful compendium of children’s and young people’s voices organised by themes across their care journey.

Although less common, there are positive stories of children and young people feeling heard and involved in decision-making in the report. As one young person said about being engaged in decision-making about their life: “Just makes you feel like you’re an actual human instead of just getting told what you have to do.”

While we wait to see what changes the NSW government will make, this report provides a valuable resource for carers, workers and others to reflect on the importance of supporting voice and agency for children and young people in care.

You can read the ACYP Out-of-Home Care report and watch a video that shares the voices of children and young people involved on their website: https://www.acyp.nsw.gov.au/out-of-home-care

The ACYP Out-of-Home Care Report has a video of children and young people with lived experience in the NSW out-of-home care system that can be viewed on their website.

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