By Angel Ofire
It presents a challenge for how we in the child protection system balance young people’s protective needs with their need to have a say in their own lives. International, national and state legislation and guidelines enshrine the right of children and young people to participate in decisions about their own lives. Research shows supporting children and young people to make informed decisions about their own lives improves outcomes in terms of self-confidence, social skills and positive life choices.
For children and young people who experience the child protection system, participation is of particular importance. Feedback shows they continue to demand more involvement in the care that they receive. On a broader level, children and young people also want a say in the system designed to protect and support them. Our goal is a child protection system that supports children and young people to be engaged participants in their own lives. Without a doubt, their participation results in both improved individual outcomes along with improved services.
This strategy is the Queensland child protection system’s commitment to give young people a voice and develop a system that truly meets their needs. It was originally developed by a youth led group called G-Force, which sees young people with a care experience working alongside key representatives from organisations throughout Queensland to improve our care system.
Involving children and young people in decision making processes is a responsibility shared across the child protection sector.
All children and young people in the child protection system have the right in shaping:
• Their lives now and for the future; and
• The services and support they and other children and young people receive.
All children and young people have a right to participate in decision-making about their own life. This should not be limited by ability, age, ethnic background, personal circumstances or behaviour. Specific skills and processes are required to facilitate the participation of the most vulnerable children in our services including the very young, children with intellectual disabilities, communication difficulties, children from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Children and young people will also have increased opportunities to express their views, and have these views meaningfully considered, in discussions about the type of services they and other children and young people receive.