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The voices of children in care

Image children in circle

The voices of children and young people in care have been highlighted as part of an Australia-wide literature review undertaken by Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia (within Monash University) in partnership with the Children and Youth Area Partnerships.

The research unpacks the challenges faced by children and young people in out-of-home care, to better understand and create a strategy to collectively address the issues they face in their daily lives.

Policy makers often assess the experience of Australia’s most vulnerable children through statistics.

This research demonstrates the importance of seeing information from the perspective of the child and young person. It allows us to develop a richer understanding of the challenges these children and young people face, further informing how we can make the experience of these children and young people better while they are in care.

The Southern Melbourne Area Partnership approached Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia at Monash University to undertake a literature review with the intent to inform how they work.  

The resulting review draws out the voices of children and young people in out-of-home care in Australia.

The research included a review of a wide variety of materials including reports from key organisations such as the CREATE Foundation, the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People and academic qualitative research.  

Research suggests that children and young people share many common concerns, and the research summary gives an overview of some of these issues. Some common themes highlighted include:

  • Communication: a significant number of young people say they are not told basic information when they enter care
  • Power and agency: young  people in care often feel they lack genuine and meaningful involvement in important decision-making
  • Connection: many young Australian people in care express a strong need for connection so they can ‘feel normal’
  • Wellbeing:  many young Australian people worry about their safety and wellbeing while in care, as well as that of their friends and families
  • Safety, risk and crime: most young people living in care feel safe where they live, but a significant minority report feeling unsafe in their placements and see running away as their only option
  • Education: Some young people say they enjoy and are doing well at school; where some struggle and others feel there is a stigma that negatively impacts their education.

When questioned as part of research undertaken by the CREATE Foundation on the topic of whether they felt they had power and agency in their own lives, one young person said: “Young people need to be more involved. [Staff] have all these meetings about me, but I never got told or invited. I know me better than they know me.”[1]

When asked about their education while in care as part of other research by the CREATE Foundation, another young person said: “It’s hard. The schools I have been to I've only been there for a short time. At first you are more worried about making friends than your education so you didn't really learn.”[2]

The Southern Melbourne Children and Youth Area Partnership is sharing these views and experiences of young people across the area to establish a more informed approach to working with children and young people in care and to better respond to their needs.

Read the Research Summary: