“Powerful children who can control their worlds are happier, secure children,” Q&A with Billy Black

Nov 2022

Written by Kelly Royds Billy Black

This month, we are thrilled to welcome Billy Black to our team at the CETC as a Care Experience Resource and Training Specialist. Billy has advocated for children in care since she was 15 years old. It was around this time that Billy realised she was a powerful advocate for change – not only in her own life and care experience but at a systems level.

I caught up with Billy to learn more about her journey and approach to creating change for children, young people and carers.

My dream is to improve the care system. When I found out that’s your dream too, you immediately became the people I want to work with 🙂

The system will only improve with constructive critical feedback. Unfortunately, it can be tough to empower people who have grown up with trauma and negative social stereotypes to give that constructive critical feedback in a way that the system will hear. When people without lived experience are the only ones doing the research, delivering the training, writing the policies, and creating the resources, they are all informing each other, and no one gets feedback from the people who live with the effects. If we spend time and effort convincing experts-by-experience that their expertise is legitimate, and we support them to lead these projects with whatever they lack in tools, network, resources, and articulation, then we’ll see greater and more efficient progress to systemic problems that only people who have lived and breathed the experience can target.

Everyone finds the messages of aesthetically appealing resources and stories easier and more enjoyable to absorb and retain over dry, formal texts. Our caveman brains care far more about stories because they offer the perspective of a real or imagined person to relate to and empathise with, which gives more emotional importance to what we learn. Artistic flair does the same thing; it personalises and gives character to your message. People treat those messages more like a character to mentally interact with, rather than as a bullet point to memorise. I think those who work in social services are even more naturally inclined to change their work style when inspired by stories and artistic representations, because they tend to care deeply about people.

I always think of this one boy who said, “One random thing I miss about living with Mum is just getting to play soccer – can’t play anymore, don’t have soccer shoes ay”. Children assume they deserve nothing, and they have no idea what standard of care to expect. Knowledge is power, and children are given woefully little of either. Some adults like to leave it that way in hopes their job will be easier with fewer demands. Still, insightful adults know that informed, powerful children who can control their worlds are happier, secure children who are highly motivated to connect and achieve.

I think if everyone could magically learn to positively frame children in care and really see them as lovable, wonderful children, to openly brag about how funny and clever they are to others – even behind their back the way we do about our own families, those children would see incredible changes in the way that every adult treats them, which in turn changes how they see themselves.

I want to push for empowering children to design their care plans and lead their own care teams. The sector has seen a big shift in the past two decades away from “managing difficult children and families” towards healing and therapeutic care; I think our next step is to heal and care for those children by supporting them from beneath their feet rather than trying to pull them up from above.

Billy’s work at the CETC is focused on leading the design and development of special projects, resources, and training that amplify the voices of children and young people in care. You can learn more about her on her staff page here: https://cetc.org.au/profile/billy-black/

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