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News from the field of Child and Youth Care

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Contract awarded to youth organisations to give children and young people a stronger voice in decision-making

Dr Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, today announced that Foróige, in partnership with Youth Work Ireland, has been awarded a three-year contract to provide children and young people’s participation support services to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Announcing the awarding of the contract Minister Zappone said: “Foróige and Youth Work Ireland will support the Citizen Participation Unit in my Department in ensuring that children and young people have a voice in decision-making that affects their lives, in line with government policy. This includes conducting consultations with children and young people on key policy issues being developed by Government, providing support to Comhairle na nÓg in every Local Authority in the country, hosting the biennial Dáil na nÓg and Comhairle na nÓg National Showcase events, and planning and supporting other participation initiatives.

A new National Children and Young People’s Participation Hub will be set up under the contract as a national centre for excellence. The Hub will support Government departments and other organisations in implementing the National Strategy on Children and Young People's Participation in Decision-making, 2015-2020 through training, documenting best practice and developing education on children’s right to a voice in decision-making for professionals. Among the activities the Hub will undertake:

• Create practice standards, toolkits, and training materials to mainstream good practice across the civil and public service and non-government sector
• Conduct training of facilitators in creative and age-appropriate consultation and participative methodologies
• Conduct training in children’s rights and children’s participation in decision-making
• Build and maintain a strong network of key stakeholders from government departments and agencies and from the non-government sector
• Establish a network of experts, who will engage with the Hub in promoting children and young people’s participation
• Form partnerships with third-level and adult education institutions to oversee development of third level education and professional development on children’s participation in decision-making
• Develop a repository of information on participation initiatives, projects and research
• Develop a public presence through a website to inform and educate the public, particularly children and young people themselves, about their participation rights
• Maintain and enhance the existing children’s participation online database
• Showcase, promote and share good practice through seminars, conferences and other events, and forge links and networks with international partners
• Ensure that all Hub initiatives and actions are underpinned by a strong evidence base.

24 January 2017 



New Zealand: Multi-million dollar fund for innovative child health research launched

A multi-million dollar funding pool to foster research that delivers tangible benefits to New Zealand children and their families was launched today.

A Better Start, one of the country’s 11 National Science Challenges, and Cure Kids, New Zealand’s largest national child health research charity, have joined forces to create a $2.8 million pool to fund child health research to find better ways to reduce childhood obesity, improve early literacy, reduce adolescent mental health problems and explore early diagnosis and behavioural management of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Researchers can submit proposals for up to $350,000. Proposals will go through a robust peer review process with successful proposals announced in July.

A Better Start National Science Challenge Director Professor Wayne Cutfield of the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland said, “The earlier we tackle a child’s health problems, the greater the benefit to the child throughout its life, and to the country. Healthier children become productive contributors to society. This new fund aims to cast a wide net to identify practical, evidence-based solutions to make a measurable difference for our children.”

Cure Kids CEO, France Benge, welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the A Better Start National Science Challenge, saying, ‘”These are important challenges facing our young people, and we’re looking forward to seeing the real impact this funding round will have on our children.”

Professor Cutfield said the partnership with Cure Kids not only created a greater funding pool but was an opportunity for both organisations to share and develop experience and expertise.

A Better Start National Science Challenge is hosted by The Liggins Institute, University of Auckland and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

A Better Start National Science Challenge fosters collaborative research that can help to address three key child health issues.

Science Challenge strategic research programmes already underway.

26 January 2017




Youth Programme acknowledges inspirational young people

Around 100 young people who have overcome considerable challenges have been selected to participate in the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme (PMYP) which is taking place this week.

“The programme, now in its eighth year, is a great opportunity for Auckland-based young people aged 14-17 to be recognised for their personal achievements and community contributions,” says Youth Minister Nikki Kaye.

“These young people have overcome adversity and made a sustained attempt to make positive life changes such as moving away from low levels of offending, truancy or poor academic performance. They have been nominated to attend the programme by people who have worked closely with them and know them well.

“Many of us know the power of one person who we believe in making a difference to our lives. For these young people it could have been their school teacher, principal, youth or social worker, a family member, Police Youth Aid officer, or other community members.

“This week is about rewarding young people and investing in their continued personal development. Some of the activities this year include the AUT culinary school experience, a workshop at The Warehouse, white water rafting, and a sailing experience. I’d like to acknowledge the numerous sponsors who’ve got on board with supporting the PMYP and the young people taking part.

“The programme will involve a Celebration Dinner on Thursday where the young people will be celebrated for their achievements and receive their certificates. This year we are very pleased to have Paralympic double record-holder and double Gold medal winner, Liam Malone, as the guest speaker. He will talk about his life, the honour of carrying the New Zealand flag at the Paralympic closing ceremony, and his road to Rio 2016,” says Ms Kaye.

The week will end with all participants coming together for a day filled with fun challenges where they can use their leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and presentation skills in various performance, recreation and adventure-based learning activities.

Bluelight, Village and YouthTown are the key youth-focused organisations supporting the young people through this programme. These organisations also provide mentoring support to participants for three months post the week’s activities.

“This programme has been hugely successful over the years with around 700 young people having taken part. As the Minister for Youth it has been a personal highlight meeting some of these young people and hearing their incredible stories and dreams for the future,” says Ms Kaye.

More information about the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme is available

Hon Nikki Kaye
Minister for Youth

24 January 2017



Governments must act now to address suicide crises in Northern Ontario First Nation communities: Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

 The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth is reiterating its call for a coordinated, long-term strategy to be put in place by provincial and federal departments and ministries of health and children's services – in collaboration with First Nations leadership – to end the string of suicide crises that continue to devastate many Northern Ontario First Nation communities.

This latest call comes in response to the deaths of two 12-year-old girls who took their own lives in Wapekeka First Nation last week. The Advocate's Office also echoes Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler's call for a coordinated emergency response to provide the necessary supports for the community.

"The situation for children and youth is dire and urgent," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. "At a time that should be focused on healing and reconciliation, this is another reminder of Canada's failure to respond to the ongoing struggle and loss of life in communities."

From 1991 to 2013, 468 suicides by Aboriginal people have taken place in Ontario, almost half by people 25 or younger.

Over the last several years, the Advocate's Office has made numerous calls to governments to address the underlying issues contributing to the suicide epidemics that have affected many communities, such as Attawapiskat, Neskantaga and Pikangikum First Nation communities.

Recent news reports have suggested that Wapekeka First Nation requested additional mental health supports from the federal government last summer after the community discovered a suicide pact being made among youth, but Health Canada's response to the community only came months afterwards.

The Advocate's Office is calling for political leaders, provincial and federal decision-makers and their respective departments to come together immediately with their Indigenous counterparts and young people to devise a comprehensive short- and long-term strategy – including an implementation plan – that focuses on ongoing support in communities.

"When governments make decisions as they apparently did with Wapekeka First Nation, they are made on behalf of all Canadians. It is clear the public is well ahead of our governments in our desire to see action," said Elman. "These children cannot wait; change must come now and collective action is required before any more young lives are lost."

19 January 2017



Ontario strengthening Child Welfare, improving outcomes for youth

Province increasing accountability and child-centred care

Ontario is working to help children and youth across the province reach their full potential by introducing legislation to strengthen and modernize child and youth services.
Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau introduced the Child, Youth and Family Services Act this afternoon in the legislature. The bill, if passed, would put children at the centre of decision-making, support more accountable, responsive and accessible child and youth services and strengthen oversight for children's aid societies and licensed residential services by:

In addition to the legislation, Ontario plans to boost accountability across the child welfare system by requiring children's aid societies to publicly post financial audits and expenses. The province will also explore the option of creating a single adoption agency for the entire province, helping more children find stable and supportive permanent homes.

New initiatives from the province will also support better outcomes for Black children and youth, including the mandatory collection of identity-based data, including race-based data, to support better service planning and delivery, as well as the implementation of the One Vision One Voice plan in children's aid societies.

Supporting children and youth and helping them reach their full potential is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick facts

8 December 2016
Ministry of Children and Youth Services




StreetSmart diners raise R 50 000 in Pretoria

StreetSmart SA, an organisation dedicated to helping street children rebuild their lives through donations from restaurants in the Western Cape, Garden Route and Gauteng, has handed over R50 000 to their Pretoria beneficiary, PEN – Streetwise, for 2017. This is part of an allocation of over R1 million raised nationally for the third consecutive year by StreetSmart SA with the balance to be distributed in the other regions later this month.

PEN – Streetwise engages with boys living on the street and other vulnerable children in Pretoria, to support them in restoring their dignity and hope for their future. Most of the youth comes from traumatic circumstances and PEN assists them to restore their emotional well-being and establish their independence and reintegration into society.
The StreetSmart funds will be used towards the payment of the social worker salary.

There are currently 7 restaurants in Pretoria that have embraced StreetSmart’s vision to make a real difference to the lives of street children. Funds are raised by adding a R5 donation to each table’s bill at participating restaurants. This donation is voluntary and diners are able to contribute more if they wish to. Al Fiume @ River Place, Chapters and Hemingway’s @ Leriba Hotel & Spa, Orange Restaurant @ Court Classique, Pride of India, Prosopa and Ritrovo, offer their diners the opportunity to give responsibly in their restaurants, and not in the hands of a child.

“StreetSmart, through the work of our beneficiaries, provides opportunities to empower street children and other vulnerable children in our communities to live viable lives. Through the generosity of our restaurant partners and other supporters we are able to continue to expand our national footprint. For the third time in a row, StreetSmart will be disbursing over R1 million to beneficiaries nationally. We are so excited to be able to continue this work through responsible giving via StreetSmart restaurants.” says Melanie Burke, Chairman of StreetSmart SA.

“At PEN we believe in moving our children from dependency to dignity.  Our partnership with StreetSmart enables PEN to take ‘broken’ children off the street and give them more than just a safe space to call home. We give them an opportunity to grow into boys who are well rounded, socially well integrated, have access to education, and help them to dream again.”

StreetSmart Restaurateurs and their diners are taking hands to make a difference in their communities.  Nationally this partnership with 92 restaurants has raised more than R1 060 000 during 2016, for organisations that are actively involved with social development and rehabilitation of street children with the ultimate goal of family re-unification.

“There is a special feeling you get when you give someone a gift, and if that someone is less privileged, then the feeling is amplified exponentially,” says Dino Fagas, owner, Prosopa Restaurant.

StreetSmart SA was set up in 2005 by a group of concerned Capetonians under the patronage of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and comprises resourceful board members representing business and the hospitality and tourism industries. Similar StreetSmart organisations also run independently in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA – San Francisco and The Netherlands.

StreetSmart SA is registered as a Public Benefit Organisation as well as a Non-profit Organisation and ensures that every cent donated by diners goes towards social and educational upliftment projects for street children. StreetSmart’s goal is to be part of the process of social normalisation and to encourage the public not to give money into the hands of a child as this keeps them on the streets. In essence, eating and donating at a StreetSmart restaurant is the responsible way to help a street child.

16 January 2017  




Magistrates issue 'exemption clause' warning

Magistrates have added their voice to fears that measures in the Children and Social Work Bill to allow councils to opt out of children's legislation will undermine the rights of vulnerable young people.

The controversial measures were thrown out by members of the House of Lords last year but amended proposals have been drafted by government and could be re-introduced to the bill imminently, with MPs meeting to discuss the legislation this week.

Ahead of today's committee stage hearing of the bill, the Magistrates Association has announced it shares concerns raised by Lords and the Together for Children group, a coalition of around 40 children's organisations, that allowing councils to opt out of legislation may leave looked-after children more vulnerable.

In a statement the association said that despite amendments made by the government to the opt-out plans, "there remain considerable concerns."

"The association echoes the comments in the Lords that nothing can be more important than the safeguarding and protection of children, especially those who are at greatest risk or are the most vulnerable.

"The association understands the protections afforded to children, and the legislation under which these can be found, to be an interdependent body of work, with a connected and cohesive nature. This would be at risk in light of potential exemptions.

"Those on the front line of children's social care services have not identified the provisions provided in the new clause as necessary, and point to the flexibility already afforded under the current system."

In particular, the association believes the measures could undermine recommendations made in the Laming Review into children in care's involvement in the justice system to tackle their "disproportionate criminalisation".

Magistrates say fulfilling this recommendation would require "more consistent support, early intervention and joint working within children's social care and services", all of which could be affected if councils are allowed to opt out of children's law.

The statement adds that: "It is concerning that the proposed changes may limit the consistent and full implementation of recommendations in that review."

Magistrates also share Together for Children and Lords concerns that the exemption plans have not been properly evidenced.

"The association supports arguments that any such clause should only be implemented on the strongest evidence that such fundamental changes respond to an identified need and are in the best interests of children.

"The association would encourage the government to source independent research on the validity and need for these provisions before introducing any such innovation clause."

The proposed government amendments would continue to allow councils to opt out of legal requirements but stipulates this must not include child protection areas.

Last month Children England chief executive Kathy Evans said the changes had done little to dampen fears that the bill would "create a patchwork of inconsistent rights and duties for children".

By Joe Lepper

10 January 2017




Queen’s honour for Children in Care police officer

A police officer who took on a pioneering role to help children in Nottingham has been honoured by the Queen.

PC Sam Flint started as the Children in Care police officer 12 years ago when a pilot was launched to help prevent young people in care from committing crime. The role hadn’t been tried before anywhere in the country and is provided in partnership between Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire Police.

In her time, PC Flint has introduced methods of working which have led to a reduction in young people in Nottinghamshire being criminalised.

Now, she has been recognised for her efforts with a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, awarded for a ‘hands-on’ service to the local community.

PC Flint said: “I am absolutely delighted to be nominated for such a lovely thing. A whole team effort has made this post the most rewarding experience in my police career. Seeing the positive outcomes for young people we work with makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

PC Flint works alongside the Youth Offending Team to support children in care, children on the edge of care and those living in residential children’s homes and foster placements.

A large area of her work has been in Child Sexual Exploitation working closely with the NSPCC and other organisations to identify children at risk and suspicious locations – something which has been recognised by the Home Office.

“In my 23 years’ service it’s the hardest role but the most satisfying,” said PC Flint.

Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years at the City Council, said: “This is fantastic news and I’m delighted that Sam has been honoured for the work that she does.

“Sam plays a really important role giving children in care a friendly face they can trust and someone who they know will be there to support them during difficult times. She has worked hard to build good relationships with everyone.

“I am proud to work closely with Sam now and in the future. Her recognition in the New Year’s Honours is richly deserved and makes a big difference to the lives of Nottingham children.”

PC Flint not only visits young people in care regularly to check on their welfare and support them, her restorative approach also ensures young people are making amends, rehabilitated in the community and most importantly diverted from offending.

Inspector Paul Harris, Operational Lead, Nottinghamshire Integrated Offender Management, said: “Having joined with Sam ‘way back’ in 1994, but only recently been lucky enough to have her on my team, I’m absolutely overjoyed for her. Within her field of expertise (Children in Care), she possesses a national reputation, and this is reflected in this royal recognition. She is an incredibly significant asset to our organisation, yet Sam remains humble, dedicated, and utterly deserving of this award. I’m incredibly proud to be her supervisor and friend.”

4 January 2017



'Early Moments Matter' for children’s brain development, UNICEF

UNICEF today launched #EarlyMomentsMatter, a new campaign supported by the LEGO Foundation to drive increased awareness about the importance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and the impact of early experiences on the developing brain.

During this critical window of opportunity, brain cells can make up to 1,000 new connections every second – a once-in-a-lifetime speed. These connections contribute to children’s brain function and learning, and lay the foundation for their future health and happiness. A lack of nurturing care – which includes adequate nutrition, stimulation, love and protection from stress and violence – can impede the development of these critical connections.

The campaign kicks off with #EatPlayLove – a digital and print initiative aimed at parents and caregivers that shares the neuroscience on how babies’ brains develop. #EatPlayLove assets explain the science in a straightforward, visually interesting way to encourage parents and caregivers to continue to make the most of this unrivaled opportunity to provide their children with the best possible start in life.

By engaging with families, the initiative also aims to drive demand for quality, affordable early childhood development services and to urge governments to invest in programmes targeting the most vulnerable children.

According to a recent series in The Lancet nearly 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of poor development due to stunting and poverty. But the need for greater investment and action in early childhood development is not limited to low-income countries. Disadvantaged children living in middle- and high-income countries are also at risk. UNICEF estimates that millions more children are spending their formative years growing up in unstimulating and unsafe environments, putting their cognitive, social and emotional development at risk.

Investment in early childhood is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing the ability of all children to reach their full potential – increasing their ability to learn in school and, later, their earning capacity as adults. This is especially significant for children growing up in poverty. One 20-year study showed that disadvantaged children who participated in quality early childhood development programmes as toddlers went on to earn up to 25 per cent more as adults than their peers who did not receive the same support.

Early childhood development interventions, such as the Care for Child Development package that includes training community health workers to teach families about the importance of playing with their children in a way that stimulates healthy development can cost as little as 50 cents (USD) per capita per year, when combined with existing health services.

UNICEF is calling for governments to increase investments in early childhood, expand health and social services offered to young children, and strengthen support services for parents and caregivers.

10 January 2017




Time to turn aspiration into action for vulnerable children in 2017

Demand for Barnardos’ services increased again in 2016, the organisation revealed today. According to preliminary figures, the children’s charity supported more than 12,304 children and families in the first nine months of 2016 compared with 11,718 the first nine months in 2015.

Fergus Finlay, CEO, Barnardos, said, “Every year Barnardos works with hundreds of families facing all manner of challenges and we worked with more families and children than ever in 2016. Among the top needs of the children with whom Barnardos worked in 2016 were support for improving family relationships, their own social-emotional development and for enhancing their health and education. It is clear to us the economic recovery isn’t being felt by all as we are supporting parents who are under huge strain to meet the needs of their children because of the absence of appropriate quality public services.

“We are a third of the way into the Government’s flagship policy framework for young people, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures 2014-2020 but its impact is not being felt. In fact its intention to lift 70,000 children out of poverty by 2020 has had to be altered upwards to 96,000 in light of the greater number of children living in consistent poverty.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said, “This framework rightly acknowledges the holistic nature of children’s lives and has many laudable recommendations spanning the different areas of children’s lives. For instance it pledges to improving support for families, something Barnardos sees from its work as an absolute priority. Intelligent investment in this area would reap huge benefits for countless families, as well as proving cost-effective, as it would negate the need for crisis intervention at a later stage.

“It is a challenging time for thousands of families in Ireland today. While we were encouraged by some steps taken in Budget 2017 to deliver affordable childcare for all, with a focus on low income families, many children’s public services are under-resourced or absent. It is crucial that 2017 sees quicker implementation of the varied recommendations of the Government’s own framework so that children can achieve Better Outcomes and experience Brighter Futures.”

3 January 2017 


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