State of Care 2016 is an annual report based on our independent monitoring of Child, Youth and Family’s policies, practices and services. It includes feedback from children and young people about their experiences in the system.
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Our findings at a glance
We did find some examples of positive practice and strengths that can be drawn on. Most sites and residences have a child-centred vision. In general, leadership teams are well-respected and social workers are committed to doing their best for children and young people. There is a good understanding among staff of what is needed to provide high quality case management, even if this not consistently achieved in practice. Residences are moving in the right direction, albeit from different starting points – an encouraging improvement since our last State of Care report. Reassuringly, most of the children and young people we engaged with were happy with their current care arrangements.
Nevertheless, the overall picture across our findings is one of considerable variability in the quality of CYF’s services for children and young people. As the EAP has also noted, CYF is not sufficiently child-centred, and the result is a system that often does not serve children and young people well.
CYF’s case management is not sufficiently child-centred
This year we paid particular attention to the quality of CYF’s case management. This built on our findings in State of Care 2015. In our first report, we found that CYF placed more emphasis on intake and assessment processes than on long-term support for children in all types of care placement, and that CYF’s case management of young people on Youth Services Strategy placements was not high quality.
In 2015-16, we wanted to assess CYF’s case management for other types of placement, so we conducted reviews of CYF’s case management for children and young people in non-kin foster care and for young people with both care and protection and youth justice status.
We found that CYF’s case management is not sufficiently child-centred and is of variable quality. While most CYF sites have a child-centred vision, this falls down in practice due to a range of barriers, including insufficient resources to invest in what children need, a lack of skills and capability to work in child-centred ways (particularly lack of cultural capability), and not enough working collaboratively in the best interests of the child, both internally within CYF and externally with other stakeholders.
CYF residences are moving in the right direction, from very different starting points
We visited six out of nine CYF residences this year: four care and protection residences (C&P residences) and two youth justice residences (YJ residences).3 On these monitoring visits, we looked for evidence that children and young people in the residences were safe, and that they were receiving care and services that met their daily needs and supported them to heal, recover, and change harmful behaviours.
All of the residences we visited were moving in the right direction, towards more child-centred and trauma-informed models of care, but from very different starting points. We are confident that children and young people are safe in these residences.4 Most children and young people in CYF residences receive care and services that meet their daily needs, and two residences are modelling excellent practice to help children and young people connect with their culture and heal and recover in the long term. For most CYF residences though, there is more work to do on the path to delivering genuinely child-centred care.
Children and young people want to belong, be listened to, and be supported by social workers
We engaged with more than 60 children and young people in the care and protection and youth justice systems through interviews, focus groups and surveys, to find out about their experiences with CYF in the past year. The experiences they related to us broadly matched our monitoring findings. Their responses can be categorised under three headings:
We need to feel like we belong. Children and young people wanted help to manage relationships with family, opportunities to learn about and connect with their culture, and to be able to enjoy their childhoods with a range of activities, a positive school life, and no stigma attached to being a "CYF kid."
Involve us, listen to us, and communicate with us. Children and young people wanted to be given a voice in decisions that affect them, involved in care plans and transition planning, and communicated with clearly and respectfully.
Social workers have a big impact on our lives. Children and young people spoke in detail about their interactions with social workers. Their comments highlighted that, as the chief interface between the child or young person and CYF, the social worker plays a critical role in determining whether the child has a positive or negative experience in the care and protection and youth justice systems.