The Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian (the Commission) has released findings on health and wellbeing from its fourth biennial Views survey of children and young people living in foster care in Queensland. More than 2000 children and young people responded bringing the total number of surveys completed since 2006 to more than 13,000.
The surveys generate a rich source of cross-sectional longitudinal data on children’s and young people’s placement histories, perceptions of their health, wellbeing and school experiences, as well as their views on many aspects of their care experience including their current placement and carer, support from the department, involvement in decision making, and preparation for leaving care.
Analyses reveal that most respondents continue to report being better off since coming into care, with nearly all reporting they feel happy, safe, and well treated in their placement. Many children and young people emphasised how important their foster family is to them and specifically commented that they feel cared for, and loved by their foster family. Data also confirm steady improvements over the years in some aspects of the health and wellbeing of children and young people in foster care such as decreases in reports of unresolved health problems and increases in reports of having Child health passports, in having confidence in the Department of Child Safety, Communities and Disability Services and finding their Child Safety Officers more helpful.
However, the survey findings also highlight ongoing challenges for the child protection system in meeting the health and wellbeing needs of children and young people in care. Children and young people report high rates of anxiety, and many continue to experience considerable instability in their lives. Also some do not see their Child Safety Officer as often as they would like, feel excluded from decisions and still face problems in obtaining permissions for various activities.
The Commission’s report also identifies that children and young people in foster care have better outcomes when they have more stability in their lives and better quality relationships with their carers, peers, teachers and Child Safety Officers. Their wellbeing is also better when they are able to get help with their concerns, are involved in making decisions, can obtain permissions easily and are given opportunities to engage in activities enjoyed by their peers. The research shows that deficits in these areas do have a detrimental impact on the lives of children and young people in care.
This research is being used to inform policy and practice among stakeholders in the Queensland child protection system. The research also demonstrates to individual children and young people that they have an important voice in shaping the future directions and priorities within these systems.