Looking out for our youngest citizens

Meg Webb News and Media, Uncategorized, Young People

There are many people in our society who, through no fault of their own, have been left voiceless.

When this occurs, it is all too often the youngest people in our communities who suffer.

For decades, Anglicare Tasmania has been campaigning hard to see the lives of vulnerable children and young people improved through the services, opportunities and care they need.

But there is still a lot more to be done.

As of June this year, there are 1203 children in out-of-home care in the state, a number that has increased in the last year.

We already know young people are over-represented in the Tasmanian homeless population and on any given night, about 190 people aged between 12 and 18 do not have a home to go to.

On top of this, Tasmania has particular challenges with low rates of educational attainment, particularly among children who are experiencing disadvantage.

There are thousands of Tasmanian children who live happy, healthy lives and are given every opportunity to succeed in life, but for many life is littered with obstacles.

Earlier this year, SARC researcher Catherine Robinson released her landmark report Too Hard? Highly vulnerable teens in Tasmania.

This report looked at the cohort of young people aged between 10 and 17 who had faced personal, systemic and structural adversity in their lives.  They had typically experienced childhood and adolescent trauma, homelessness, and contact with the child protection and youth justice systems.

Over the course of the research, Dr Robinson interviewed 16 young people and almost 30 service providers to gain a deep insight into the lives and experiences of these children.  The research highlighted the practical and emotional impacts of abuse and abandonment.  It also made clear the strength required to survive in the face of a lack of services targeted to older children with high and complex needs.

The report went on to not only make a number of key findings and recommendations, but to create a genuine community discussion around what can be done to prevent young people from falling through the gaps.

In 2016, fellow SARC researcher Teresa Hinton released her Fostering education: supporting foster carers to help children and young people to learn report, which found there was inconsistency across Tasmania in how well schools were meeting the learning, social and emotional needs of students in out-of-home care.

The report went on to recommend that governments further recognise the importance of educational outcomes of children in care and that a more collaborative approach by government departments be taken to ensure children are given the best possible opportunities.

Last year also saw SARC policy officer Margie Law make a submission to the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People on the impact of family violence on children.

The submission found that “outcomes for children and young people who experience family and domestic violence take a long time and vary depending on the therapy the child receives”.

Even now, SARC is embarking on further research reports, on top of the on-the-ground services Anglicare already provides, looking at different aspects of Tasmania’s out-of-home care system.

Breaking the Cycle: Alternatives to recurrent child removals in the Tasmanian Child Safety System will look at mothers who have repeatedly had their children removed by Child Safety Services and make recommendations to reduce the rate at which this occurs.

A second report, In Limbo: Tackling income and housing challenges for low income Tasmanian parents engaged in the process of family reunification, explores the collateral consequences of children being removed from families, including the withdrawing of welfare payments for parents.

In the end, what everything is telling us is that more needs to be done to ensure all young people are given the best possible chance to live a happy, fulfilled and safe life.

We need to be working together, alongside all levels of government, community organisations and schools, to ensure our youngest citizens get the good life they deserve.