Written by Jennifer Sanderson and Lee Tennent
Most children and young people in out-of-home care in Queensland report feeling happy and safe in their placement, recent research from the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian has found.
The Views of Children and Young People in Foster Care Survey conducted in 20111 allowed children and young people to make an assessment of the quality of their care and to share their lived experience of being in care. Respondents were 829 children, 1180 young people and 745 young children, including 38% Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders.
Overall, some aspects of the current out-of-home care system appear to be working well for many, while other areas remain problematic for significant numbers. For example, most children and young people reported their carer listens to them (97%) and treats them well (99%). Most also indicated they have positive relationships with their Commission Community Visitors, reporting that their Commission Community Visitor listens to them (99%) and they feel able to discuss important issues (95% of young people, 98% of children). Relationships with Child Safety Officers2 were positive for many, though greater numbers expressed some discontent with these relationships than those with their carers or Commission Community Visitors.
Preliminary analyses examined the factors associated with children’s and young people’s well-being (happiness, happiness in current placement and being better or worse off in care). Children and young people with higher levels of well-being:
- were more likely to have entered care at a younger age;
- had been in fewer placements;
- had a carer of the same cultural background;
- were more likely to report positive experiences at school;
- had attended fewer primary schools; and
- had fewer worries.
They were also more likely to have reported:
- feeling cared for and able to get assistance with their problems;
- their current care placement was a ‘good fit’ where they felt safe, their carer listened and treated them well, they felt important, and were not worried about moving;
- positive relationships with teachers, peers and Child Safety Officer;
- feeling satisfied with their level of contact with their biological family; and
- to say they were involved in, and/or informed of decisions about their lives, including
- being told what to expect in care;
- having people listen to them;
- having a say in what happens; and
- knowing they have the capacity to challenge departmental decisions.
The impacts of being in care are lessened for these children and young people so they have confidence in the department, and permission requirements are considered reasonable and given in time. They are less likely to report having to do things they do not want to, or missing out on activities, or to feel different because they are in care and more likely to do extra-curricular activities.
Overall, the survey findings highlight the importance of creating a sense of security and facilitating a sense of agency for children and young people through:
- placement and school stability;
- supportive, stable, positive relationships with carers, Commission Community Visitors, peers, Child Safety Officers and teachers;
- participation in decision-making, and
- lessening the impact of being in care.
To read the first report, see – 2011 Views of Children and Young People in Foster Care Survey
1. The Commission released an overview and selected findings from the 2011 Views of Children and Young People in Foster Care Survey in September 2012. A series of topical papers from the survey findings will follow in the coming months.
2. Commission Community Visitors and Child Safety Officers are Queensland-specific positions. For more information see the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian QLD website