Presented by Claudia Whitton, Policy and Research Manager and Audra McHugh, Policy Officer at CREATE.
This session provided an overall summary of the CREATE Report Card which collects the experiences of young people living in out-of-home care. The full report is available to download online.
The CREATE Report Card is a survey that is completed online and is open to all young people living in care between the ages of 8 and 17. The survey intends to hear as many young people as possible and present their experiences to those working the sector. Alongside gaining key statistics on care in Australia, the report also gives an understanding of what makes a good care placement.
83% of children overall say that they are “quite” or “very” happy in their current placement. 75% feel as though they are treated exactly the same as other young people.
A big part of having a good placement is concentrating on relationship building. Key to relationship building is in the difference between a child in care being able to speak freely, and feeling as though someone will listen when he or she speaks. Giving the kids a voice, allowing them to take part in and gain a deeper understanding of their care planning leads to those plans being executed more effectively.
What CREATE hopes for in the future is an increase in the engagement of young people in the plans made about their lives, particularly the transitioning from care plans. With stronger involvement in their life decisions, young people in care are able to transition out of care and live more independently.
Child protection is everybody’s business…we all have an opportunity to improve the lives of young people in care
There are micro-moments of joy that can really create significant change over time.
This double workshop was jam-packed with interactive activities, great tips for maintaining wellbeing, and plenty of information on mental and physical health. It was so full of great ideas that the blog post will be in two parts.
It began by getting the audience members into pairs and having them complete a five-step workout:
1. Stand up and have a stretch
2. Notice what’s going on – thoughts, physical feelings, emotional feelings, etc. 3. Introduce yourself to your partner, and share something you’re looking forward to 4. Draw a portrait of the other person you see in 30 seconds – except that once the pen hits the paper you can’t look at the paper again, and must keep your eyes on the other person 5. Give your portrait to the other person
Jo explained that this was conducive with the Five Ways to Wellbeing, a workout incorporating over 500 studies. It is based on the human experience of maintaining wellbeing:
1. Being able to move
2. Tuning in (to notice thing, acknowledging the importance of mindfulness)
3. To connect with others (one of the strongest predictors of wellbeing)
4. To learn
5. To give
Jo explained that we tend to,as people, pay attention to the negatives in our life much more easily than to the positives. What we payattention impacts our performance in every day life, and therefore, our wellbeing.
Jo then spoke about positive psychology – this is changing the perception of people, by seeking what is right in their lives rather than what is wrong. This not a complete therapy, nor a traditional approach to mental health, or a ‘Pollyanna’ (always happy) approach – instead it just aims to re-focus the subject on a more positive aspect of their lives.
In this workshop, Dr. Bern Nicholls PhD gives advice for educators on how to build a classroom environment that values thinking.
Classrooms need to be ‘thought-full’ in two ways: respectful of ideas and others, and by facilitating thinking.
Over the conference, presenters have talked a lot about culture and about the stories that come through our experiences and shape us as people. When communicating with young people in a classroom, we need to think about how their personal stories might shape how they think. We need to think about thinking.
Learning is a direct outcome of thinking, but sometimes we forget about the thinking part and only focus on the teaching.
Thinking isn’t communicated, it’s invisible! When you can’t read how a student is thinking, you’re making assumptions and that’s dangerous, so why not try to make that thinking visible and easier to comprehend?
You can try to make your students’ thinking visible by turning this thinking into a wider understanding. This might take some experimentation and trying different exercises, but always remember to dig deeper. Asking students questions like ‘what makes you say that?’ peels back the layers of their learning and helps you understand how they connect their personal story to the course content.
As an educator, you can think ‘what sort of thinking do I want my students to take with them for the rest of their lives?’ Making thinking visible is about engaging your students, challenging them to think in different ways and reminding them that thinking is always valued in the classroom space.
The keynote speeches early on Friday morning alluded to some of the evils of social media, so it was refreshing to hear SYN’s Education and Training Manager, Jonathan Brown, highlighting the benefits and showing that if you don’t quite get the hang of social media at first, then perhaps you should have another crack at it.
The session began with a breakdown of the major social media platforms and some of the ways in which they are used, as well as what benefits you can get from using them.
Facebook: The largest of the social networks with a jack-of-all-trades focus. You can share videos, photos and links to other creative efforts. Listing the people you connect with as friends, however, is slightly misleading, because the connection isn’t quite at that same level.
Twitter: The focus on shorter messages and links is what sets this platform apart. There isn’t the same pressure to add your “friends”, simply follow people who post thought-provoking comments and share your interests.
Instagram: The home of the “selfie”. Usually connected with Twitter or Facebook, Instagram is all about sharing a moment in time with followers across all networks.
Tumblr and other blogging platforms: These work similar to your own website. You can add as much of your own creative content and layout and share creative content that you’ve created.
After listing the various options to make your presence on the internet known, Jonathan provided his five fail-safe tips to ensure that you are on the right platform and doing the right things to get noticed:
Be authentic: act on social media as you would in real life.
Post consistently and diversely: stick to a schedule and mix up your posts. If you tend to post a lot of image content, try a video or text post.
Make it conversational: Unlike mediums such as television, you have the ability to talk to and engage with your audience to make it a more rewarding experience for them as well as for yourself.
Play to your strengths: Ensure you’re focusing on what you are good at. If your strength is writing, try blogging platforms. If you’re more artistic, try a tumblr.
Consume, research and share: If you find something that catches your eye, feel free to share it with others. Be transparent with your sources and start a dialogue.
The session concluded with a feel-good image of cats, encouraging you to feel positive about posting what you enjoy and to have fun with social media.
“While we are the lucky country, it’s not lucky for everyone,” David James, General manager of Children’s Ground.
After 20 years working with communities facing the reality of sustained socio-economic disadvantage in remote areas, it was found that things had not improved; rather they had worsened…and probably wouldn’t improve.
This called for a complete rethinking of how to end entrenched disadvantage. This approach started with thinking about the needs of the community and ended with the building of the Children’s Ground platform.
Children’s Ground is a set of ideas and steps that can be implemented from within the community as opposed to being imposed upon it. It aims for families and communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage to realise their aspirations for the next generation of children – to be free from trauma and suffering. If this feels like a big commitment, that’s because it is!
This is a preventative program and a huge part of its success is starting early, even before the birth of the child. This commitment gives the child the best possible start at life and then this child is supported by the Children’s Ground platform for twenty-five years.
Within this time, the platform places focus on the child first, then the family and the community as a whole, whilst still being implemented from within the community. This bottom-up model for community led action is perhaps the biggest achievement of Children’s Ground.
It allows for deeper engagement and builds a relationship with a generation who can pass information and knowledge on to future generations.
The Children’s Ground platform is currently being used in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and West Arnhem Land. Here the platform was offered to the community with no strings attached and no further communication with Children’s Ground if the community didn’t seek it.
This giving up of ownership is was makes for the community led success of this project.
Technology can provide young people with the support they need outside of business hours.
After Baroness Susan Greenfield discussed some of the issues with social media, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAWCRC) Associate Professor Jane Burns, led an interesting workshop on the impact technology has on the mental health and wellbeing of young men in Australia.
Speaking from a personal perspective, Jane’s own 7-year-old son Angus, lives with autism and down syndrome, and relies on an iPad in order to communicate on a day-to-day basis.
A champion for the digital movement, Jane believes that Australia should utilise the technologies available to us today in order to provide youth with more accessible, online mental health services.
She contends that while Australia is one of the leading nations in service provision, we are living in an opportune time to decrease the still apparent disparity in health care in rural societies through mental health professional providing services online, building connections with and between young people.
Working with Movember, Beyond Blue, University of Sydney, and The Black Dog Institute, the YAWCRC conducted a national survey in 2012 to produce a research report on the impact of technologies on young men’s mental health and wellbeing.
Implementing the gold standard of survey-taking, they interviewed 1,400 young men aged 16-25 from all states and territories around Australia, of which 30% were from regional, rural or remote areas, and 2% identified as Indigenous.
Interesting stats from the research:
99% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use the internet,
95% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use it everyday or almost everyday.
Most are online for 2-4 hours a day,
20% are online for 5+ hours a day.
The top three ways young people use the Internet:
94% email in 2012 (up from 13% in 2008),
93% facebook in 2012 (up from 32% in 2008),
86% YouTube in 2012 (up from 7% in 2008).
How young people use the Internet:
74.8% access the Internet by phone,
69.9% access the Internet by laptop,
34.3% access the Internet by tablet,
30.8% access the Internet by desktop computer.
Where young people use the Internet:
75.9% access it in their bedroom,
56.2% access it in a social setting.
The main issues that concern young men aged 16-25:
47.6% said coping with stress,
26.6% said depression,
26.3% said body image issues,
19.3% said bullying or emotional abuse.
Finally, 42% of young men experience ‘moderate’ to ‘very high’ levels of psychological distress. Young men aged 22 to 25 years consistently reported higher rates of suicidal thoughts.
Almost 1 million young men are experiencing moderate to very high levels of psychological distress. Regardless of psychological distress, use of the internet is almost universal (98%) and in similar frequency. Even with advances in mental health services, young men do not seek help and many young men are not using services until they reach crisis point.
It appears that many men who are experiencing psychological distress tend to go online and use digital tools to express, share, distribute, and discuss their issues with others in a private, confidential setting. This acts as a cathartic tool and mental wellbeing exercise that can translate into their everyday lives.
Jane concluded the workshop by stating that further research needs to be conducted, and more data needs to be collected in order to understand the effects of technology on mental health and wellbeing. She is interested in knowing how we can tap into and use gaming and social media to use and create content for mental health services.
“Young people with disabilities are facing huge challenges when leaving Out of Home Care.”
On Friday, the second day of the conference, Associate Professor Philip Mendes from Monash University presented the findings of a study into this transitional period.
Philip said his study confirmed that young people leaving care are more vulnerable to poorer outcomes. He drew comparisons with the wider community, highlighting many young people don’t leave the homes of their parents until they are aged 25 and of those who do leave home by 18, a large portion continue to receive some sort of support from their family.
This is in stark contrast to young people with disabilities who are leaving Out of Home Care at age 18 and are often not ready to be fully independent for a variety of reasons.
There is minimal research about how many young people are in care, or what types of disabilities they live with, but it appears there is an over representation of children with a disability.
The findings of the study concluded:
Young people with disabilities are not experiencing planned transitions from care and are not receiving the care they need.
Young people are sometimes transitioned into aged care facilities.
The system is crisis driven.
Inadequate funding results in a lack of accommodation options and support services for young people with disabilities.
Young people’s participation in their leaving care plan is hampered by the lack of resources and services.
The sudden transition from statutory children’s services to voluntary adult disability services is problematic for some young people.
“After transitioning from care, young people with disabilities should have ongoing monitoring and support”
Philip continued to explain the situation for young people with undiagnosed disabilities, borderline disabilities and mental illness was also dire. They ‘fall through the net’ and are often left worse off than those with significant diagnosed disability.
“The most common type of disability is mental illness and yet young people with mental illness are not eligible for disability services,” he said.
Philip’s presentation highlighted how a sector that is underfunded is not providing the level of care and support a vulnerable group of people need. The process of leaving out-of-home care is fraught with difficulties, as one can imagine.
Perhaps the most important finding from Philip’s study:
“After transitioning from care, young people with disabilities should have ongoing monitoring and support”