All children and young people have a right to participate in decision-making about their own life. The Children and Young People's Participation Strategy incorporates a vision and framework for children and young people's participation and a detailed implementation plan.
The strategy builds on the commitment and collaborative efforts of Child Safety staff, non-government agencies and CREATE Foundation. The vision established by the strategy is for all children and young people in the child protection system to shape:
- their lives now and for the future
- the services and support they and other children and young people receive.
The participation strategy was informed by a review of relevant work of other Australian jurisdictions, literature and research to identify models of engagement and participation of children and young people in statutory child protection systems. The paper, Listening, hearing and acting: Approaches to the participation of children and young people in decision-making a review of the literature reports on the outcomes of this literature review.
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The objectives of Child Safety are to:
- develop a culture of valuing children and young people's views and being proactive in facilitating their participation
- grow the number of children and young people receiving child protection services who report they have had opportunities to participate in decisions about their own lives and that they are satisfied with the process and the effect of their participation
- expand opportunities for children and young people to have a say about the nature and delivery of services to themselves and their peers.
The strategy outlines four approaches or pathways to participation, based on research, that have been adopted.
Taking into account the nature of the decision, the participation of a child or young person in decision-making may occur in any one of the following ways:
- Consultation: the child or young person's views are taken into account by the adults making the decision, however, they are not involved in implementing the decisions.
- Supported: the child or young person makes autonomous decisions and carries out actions with the support of adults.
- Deciding together: the child or young person and adults discuss their views, identify options and make decisions together. The adults in the process hold ultimate responsibility, but the child or young person steers the decision.
- Acting together: the child or young person and adults share power and responsibility for decision-making, both deciding and taking action to implement the decisions together.
The participation of a child or young person in matters and decisions affecting their day-to-day lives can be focused on matters and decisions that relate to them as individuals or to them as a group and may be formal or informal.
Individual matters and decisions include those relating to the immediate circumstances for a child or young person, their day-to-day care and support and their life course.
Group matters and decisions include those relating to service planning and development, service improvement, development of policy and procedures and review and development of legislation.
Formal participation includes the participation of children and young people at key decision-making points of the case planning cycle in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999 and supported by Child Safety policies and procedures. Key decision-making points include:
- actions necessary to ensure a child's protection (investigation and assessment)
- development of a child's initial case plan at the family group meeting
- seeking a child protection order from the Childrens Court
- removal of a child from parental care
- placement of the child in out-of-home care
- the ongoing review of the child's case plan
- the decision to pursue long-term guardianship of the child to the chief executive or another person
- decisions about a child's contact with family and friends
- transition to independence for a young person.
The effective participation of children and young people in formal case planning processes and, where applicable, the development of education support plans, cultural support plans, transition to independence plans and health plans, requires that the child or young person is adequately prepared for the process and provided with additional supports, where necessary.
Informal approaches include on-going conversation during regular contact with the child or young person, observation, listening to spontaneous communication, engaging in joint activities and providing the child or young peson with an opportunity to have contact with Child Safety officers when required.
Reflection and review is a critical part of the participation process. Ongoing reflection and review by children and young people and adults about what happened, how it happened and what worked, strengthens relationships and contributes to improved practice.
Children and young people's participation is a right, not an option. Their human and legal rights to participation are identified in:
- the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
- the Child Protection Act 1999
- Child Safety policy and procedures.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) (Article 12) states that public services and governments are to provide children with the freedom and opportunities to express their views and that the service or government must consider their views in a meaningful way.
The Convention came into force on 2 September 1990, and is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Australia ratified the Convention in 1990, and in doing so, is committed to protecting and ensuring children's rights and to being held accountable for this commitment before the international community.
The Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standards, also called human rights, set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments, including that children everywhere have the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
The Child Protection Act 1999, section 5, establishes participation as a legal right for children. The legislation requires that the Child Protection Act 1999 is administered in a way that ensures the views of the child and the child's family are considered and the child and the child's parents have the opportunity to take part in making decisions affecting their lives.
The Child Protection Act 1999, section 59, requires that the Childrens Court may make a child protection order only if it is satisfied the child's wishes or views have been made known to the court.
The Charter of rights for a child in care,'Kids Rights: Charter of Rights of Children in Care', establishes the right for the child to be consulted about, and to take part in making, decisions affecting the child's life (having regard to the child's age or ability to understand), particularly decisions about where the child is living, contact with the child's family and the child's health and schooling.
Child Safety policy and procedures require that children and young people are provided with information and that their views are sought in court proceedings and case planning processes. For further information, refer to the Participation in decision-making - children and young people subject to statutory child protection intervention policy Participation in decision-making - children and young people subject to statutory child protection intervention policy .