Views of children and young people in foster care and residential care in Queensland

Ethnicity Children Child welfare Foster care Australia Queensland

This research investigates and documents the views of children and young people in alternative care (foster care and residential care) and in detention centres in Queensland. The research features a repeated cross-sectional longitudinal design enabling the Commission to identify changes in these views over time. The first phase was conducted in 2006, the second in 2007. To date, a total of 4882 children and young people have participated. The research employs a survey methodology to gather data. Questionnaires tailored to the comprehension and literacy levels and situation of the participants are administered to children and young people by Commission’s Community Visitors (CVs) during their regular visits. Information is collected on participants’ characteristics, perceptions of their current situation, the system in general, the CV program and, for young people in detention, engagement with the justice system. Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data reveal high levels of satisfaction with many aspects of alternative care and improvements in some areas over time. In 2007, for instance, more than 98% of those in foster care and 89% of those in residential care and detention centres reported feeling safe where they live. The majority in foster care and residential care also feel that they are better off since coming into care and indicated that their lives have improved in the last 12 months. However, data also highlighted a range of system issues that can impact negatively on the care experience. For instance, more than 40% of those in foster and residential care report having little or no say in decisions that affect them. Many in foster care appear dissatisfied with the frequency of contact they have with their family and having to get permission to do things that others not in care can do. A considerable proportion also report having experienced numerous placement changes and feel worried that they might have to change placements the coming months. Increasingly, findings from the research are being used to inform policy and practice decision-making among stakeholders in the Queensland child protection and youth justice systems. 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.

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