How culture helped a child find his voice

By Jen Willis, Communications Consultant, Berry Street – Take Two

Lots of 7-years-olds wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly. But Jay can.

Jay is an Aboriginal child going to a local primary school in suburban Melbourne. But unlike the others in his class, he has only just started talking.

Continue reading “How culture helped a child find his voice”

Why a baby’s mental health really matters

By Dr Nicole Milburn, Infant Mental Health Consultant & Jen Willis, Communications Consultant, Berry Street – Take Two 

As a community we often discuss the poor mental health of adults and young people, but rarely do we really look at the mental health of babies. This is unfortunate because it is the relationships and environment a baby experiences during infancy that often set the conditions for that baby’s mental health during later adolescence and adulthood.

What is mental health for a baby?
There are three key factors that define early mental health and wellbeing. Continue reading “Why a baby’s mental health really matters”

How line, colour and shape can help a young person in crisis

By Jen Willis, Communications Consultant, Take Two – Berry Street.

“I really can’t draw. And I think that helps, because they can laugh at me.”

Not what you’d expect to hear from an art therapist.

Danni is a Take Two specialist working with very traumatised young people in crisis. She uses line, colour and shape to support her clinical work with young people who are admitted to Secure Welfare.

Continue reading “How line, colour and shape can help a young person in crisis”

The longest relationship

Children in out-of-home care often have uniquely strong sibling relationships. This article looks at some of the reasons siblings are separated and ways sibling relationships can be maintained and nurtured while children are in out-of-home care.

By Dr. Trish McCluskey, Berry Street

Almost all of us have one, or more. Sometimes we wish we hadn’t and then we cannot imagine our lives without them. Remember primary school? We fight with them, they fight with us and then we fight for them.

Siblings: our closest genetic relative, our soulmates, rivals for parental affections, the keepers of our unembellished history.

For children in out-of-home care and indeed for all of us, our siblings are usually the longest relationship of our lives. Sometimes these are close and loving relationships and other times they are not. Interestingly even fraught sibling relationships can often be repaired and research shows siblings being identified as major supports as we get older.

Why then do sibling relationships seem to be so underestimated and overlooked for children in foster, kinship or residential care? Continue reading “The longest relationship”

If We Value the Expertise of Children and Young People

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“Yet, without the participation of experts we won’t be successful. And the expert is the child”

Janusz Korczak

I have recently begun to ask myself the question: how different would out-of-home care look if we truly valued the expertise of the children and young people that live in it? In fact, would so many children, young people and families be so enmeshed in the benevolent web of services that accompany the child protection and out-of-home care systems if those systems routinely and genuinely valued the expertise of children and young people right from the beginning?

My internal dialogue takes the discussion further… Let’s say, for one utopic moment, that we sit as equals at the table with young people who have experienced abuse, neglect and the terrifying complexity of the system set up to serve their ‘best interests’. Let’s imagine that they have proffered arguments and evidence alongside academics, experienced sector professionals and bureaucrats, in support of approaches (for we know without doubt that one size does not fit all) that focus on making their childhood good. What might that look like? And more importantly who would have the courage to make it happen?

We won’t ever know if we don’t ask.

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Young people who have lived through abuse and neglect and have subsequently been bounced, powerless, through the pinball machine of court processes, case managers, care placements, care plans and repeated attempts to ‘go home’ – these young people know. They know what it all feels like. Under their skin, in their hearts, they know how it feels.

Countless reforms and ‘system improvements’ will continue to achieve minimal success at best if we continue to prevent the key experts from leading the discussions and shedding light on the impact of decisions made by people so far from the ground that we all look like ants from where they sit.

Maybe childhood would be better for the huge numbers of children and young people in care if we were prepared to let them show us how to make it so. We won’t know unless we try.

Post written by:  Lauren Oliver, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Family Drug Treatment Court

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The first Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) in Australia launched in Melbourne earlierthis year.

The FDTC is a non-adversarial or problem-solving court model and its aim is to promote family reunification or earlier permanent care decisions for families where parental substance misuse is a major contributing factor of children being placed in out-of-home care.

Whilst participants are engaged in the FDTC, they are supported to address and own their substance misuse and recovery. Intensive clinical case management and wrap-around support is provided by a multi-disciplinary team to address any number of overlapping and complex issues including substance misuse, mental health, housing, family violence, financial and parenting issues.

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Conference delegates will have the opportunity to hear prominent international speakers Justice Peggy Hora and Megan Wheeler, who have years of operational experience in the FDTC sector in the US, discuss why the FDTC works and what intensive case management is all about in this particular practice setting.

There is also the opportunity to sign up for Master Classes to engage even more in depth with specific topics such as development and implementation of FDTC, evaluating success of FDTC, and the intersection between child protection and the FDTC.

Early bird tickets are available until October 17, so don’t miss out!

Save Foster Care campaign

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During Foster Care Week, we are focusing on the #SaveFosterCare campaign, a collaboration between Berry Street and the Foster Care Association of Victoria. We are working together in the lead up to the State election to save the foster care system. We are calling on the State Government and the Opposition to increase reimbursement rates for carers.

Foster carers willingly open their hearts and their homes to thousands of Victorian children and young people. They deserve to be supported.

More and more foster carers are leaving the system each year due to the financial stress. The gap between reimbursements to foster households and the actual costs associated with caring for foster children continues to widen, placing significant stress on families.

The facts:

  • 616 foster carers left the Victorian system in the last year, while only 442 new carers could be recruited. It’s the third year in a row the Victorian system has lost more foster carers than it’s gained.
  • Foster carers in Victoria still receive the lowest reimbursements in Australia, estimated to be over $5,000 less than it costs to care for a ten year old every year. This financial stress leaves many carers struggling to continue.
  • At the same time, reports to Child Protection are increasing and many more vulnerable young children are being placed into Residential Care. Residential Care is an extremely important service but is not the right option for every child, particularly very young children who would benefit more from a home environment.

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The financial cost of fostering is deterring as many as 60% of potential foster carers.

Berry Street and FCAV are calling on the State Government to increase reimbursements to carers, and provide them with a simple, fair system.

The time to act is now.

Visit www.savefostercare.org.au to voice your support and help vulnerable children.

Spread the word and help the #SaveFosterCare campaign create change!

Post written by: Skye Doyle, Media & Communications Officer, Berry Street