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News from the field of Child and Youth Care

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29 JUNE

CANADA

Children's Aid Foundation announces the six finalists for The Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award

Children's Aid Foundation of Canada is pleased to announce the six finalists for The Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award, which recognizes extraordinary Canadians or initiatives that have made an indelible mark on the child welfare landscape. The national award winner will be announced at Children's Aid Foundation of Canada's Stand Up for Kids Night presented by CIBC on September 12, 2018.

"Through our Stand Up for Kids movement, we've seen an outpouring of support from individuals across the country who are taking action to help at-risk kids," says Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO, Children's Aid Foundation of Canada. "This inaugural award is an important next step in recognizing the ongoing dedication and daily efforts of Canadians who are making a positive difference and changing the trajectory for children and youth who have experienced abuse, abandonment and neglect."

The six finalists were chosen from a collection of 70 submissions. The Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award winner will direct $50,000 and the five short-list nominees will direct $5,000 each to child- and youth-serving organizations in Canada that enable initiatives that advance the lives of vulnerable kids.

"The shortlist of finalists are local and national change-makers who are standing up for vulnerable children and are leading important initiatives to improve the everyday lives of children and youth living in Canada's child welfare system," says Donald Guloien, Chair of The Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award Committee. "The six finalists are all exemplary in their field and are driving meaningful change for children in communities across Canada. "

The 2018 Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award finalists are:

Ruby Barclay - Student, Mentor, Volunteer and Advocate (Nanaimo, British Columbia)
A former youth with lived experience in government care, Ruby is a fourth- year student in the Child and Youth Care program at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and a part-time Peer Support Navigator for VIU's Tuition Waiver Program, which waives tuition for eligible students who have grown up in the care system. A high achiever and role model, Ruby has been successful in bridging the gap for Tuition Waiver students and the complexities of university.

Cindy Blackstock – Child Rights Champion and Social Worker (Ottawa, Ontario)
Cindy is a member of Gitksan First Nation and has over 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous Children's Rights. She has dedicated her life to advocating for the rights of First Nations children and families and has become an influential voice within the Indigenous, social work and child rights communities, among many others. She is Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and a professor at the School of Social Work at McGill University.

Karyn Kennedy - Child Welfare/Rights Advocate, and Child and Youth Agency Employee (Toronto, Ontario)
Karyn is recognized in Canada as a leader in the field of child abuse prevention and intervention. She is currently President & CEO of Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre in Toronto, a groundbreaking child welfare support model Karyn created and implemented by bringing together community professionals, including local Children's Aid Societies, Toronto Police and SickKids representatives to provide services in one location for children at risk.

Tom Littlewood – Therapist for Youth affected by Trauma (New Westminster, British Columbia)
Tom has dedicated his 40-year career to helping youth battling trauma-based mental health and addictions issues. Through his own blended model of cognitive behavioural therapy and life-sills programs, Tom is recognized for helping thousands of at-risk young people, most of whom grew up in British Columbia's foster care system, to take control of their lives. Tom is Program Director and lead therapist for Dan's Legacy Foundation.

Kenn Richard – Child Welfare Development & Administration, Indigenous Child Advocate, Educator and Front Line Practitioner (Toronto, Ontario)
As Executive Director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, Kenn is recognized for his tireless work ethic and sheer determination as the founding member and driving force behind the creation of Canada's first urban Aboriginal child welfare agency.

Bruce Rivers – Child Welfare Expert And Advocate (Toronto, Ontario)
Bruce is the Executive Director of Covenant House Toronto, Canada's largest agency serving at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth. Bruce has been a child welfare expert and advocate for over 30 years, including 16 years as Executive Director of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, where he where he started on the front line, and helped lead the charge to transform Canada's child welfare system with direct participation and testimony provided through a series of inquests and public inquiries.

The award is named after Lynn Factor, a long-standing Children's Aid Foundation of Canada volunteer and past Board Chair, who as a social worker by profession has served for over 35 years on the frontlines of child welfare and has seen the damaging impact on children living under the weight of abuse, neglect and trauma. The Lynn Factor Stand Up for Kids National Award is part of Children's Aid Foundation of Canada's Stand Up for Kids national campaign for child welfare, which is mobilizing Canadians who want to help change the future for Canada's most at-risk children and youth.

28 June 2018

Source: Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada

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27 JUNE

UK

Members of Parliament urge creation of new department for children

A new department for children should be established in order to drive efforts to improve mental health services for children and young people, a cross-party group of MPs and peers has said.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Health Childhood found that attempts to reform child mental health support are impeded by a lack of collaboration across government departments. It calls for the new department to be led by a secretary of state for children and to be held to account by a new select committee.

The call comes eight years after the old Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), which was set up in 2007 by the then Labour government, was scrapped and replaced with the Department for Education.

The APPG, made up of MPs and peers, said the creation of a new department, specifically concerned with children is necessary to ensure child mental health policy is effectively co-ordinated and audited across government.

"The current system of child mental health is funded, commissioned and supplied by many differing organisations," the report states. "Lack of collaboration and fragmented care, waiting list pressure and the infrastructure of allocated funding all add up to a child mental health service currently in crisis."

The report adds that children's mental health should be "designated a national priority necessitating co-ordinated action across all government departments".

It also calls for a new inter-departmental group on children's health, including external experts, to be established. Last September a group of 50 Tory MPs and peers called for a similar departmental overhaul for children's policy, through the creation of a cabinet-level families minister post. The group, that includes former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, also stressed the need for ensure better co-ordination of policy across departments.

In 2013 former children's minister Tim Loughton said that overseeing children and families issues had become a "declining priority" within the DfE.

The DCSF's replacement with the DfE garnered criticism at the time from children's professionals and mental health campaigners.

The APPG's report also calls on the government to rethink its green paper on children's mental health, which was published last December and pledged £300m to provide support in schools.

The APPG describes the green paper as "flawed" and puts forward a raft of recommendations to improve it. This includes a stronger focus on early intervention rather than later stage crisis support and the creation of a national in-school counselling service staffed only be accredited counsellors. All teachers and children's professionals should also have compulsory training in dealing with the mental health of children and young people.

The green paper's recommendation that schools be incentivised to appoint a designated mental health lead to co-ordinate support also needs to be bolstered by guaranteed remuneration for those taking up the role.

APPG chair Baroness Floella Benjamin said: "We welcome the green paper and some of its core recommendations such as early intervention and counselling services in schools, but green papers are necessarily ‘works in progress'. Our report shows that there is much more to do."

She added that this "challenging policy area should be supported by new initiatives and co-ordination across government".

"The 'new initiative' that we propose is the creation of a department for children, headed by a secretary of state with responsibility for cross-departmental audit and held to account by a new select committee," she added.

Tom Madders, director of communications and campaigns at YoungMinds said: "Every day we get calls to our helpline from parents whose children have been waiting months for an appointment with child and adolescent mental health services, or who have been turned down because the thresholds for treatment are so high. The system is overstretched and disjointed, and this is having a devastating impact on thousands of families across the country.

"This report rightly draws attention to the need for increased, long-term funding for children's mental health services, as well as for a rebalancing of the education system to ensure a greater focus on wellbeing. We also need to see better coordination at policy level and more joined-up services across the board. The government's green paper is a step in the right direction, but there is still a very long way to go."

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

By Joe Lepper

25 June 2018

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25 JUNE

NEW ZEALAND

Minister Martin's proposed intervention strategy for children

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) supports Minister for Children Tracey Martin’s strategy of intensive intervention to lower the number of children being placed in care.

At ANZASW we acknowledge that keeping children connected with their families is central to their wellbeing. Every child has a right to a loving home and, where it is safe for them, for their familial links to be preserved.

Research demonstrates that long-term damage occurs when children are separated from their family: dislocation in childhood leaves profound emotional and psychological scars, often leading to unresolved trauma, heightening the risk of poor mental health later in life, as well as increased sensitivity to stress.

Social Workers are committed to working with families and communities to ensure children are safe and cared for. The removal of children from their caregiver and placement in care is a last resort. Social work practitioners always aim to keep families together and only notify Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, as the agency with statutory authority to remove children from their caregivers, about the risk to a child when it is genuinely merited.

Minister Martin’s policy of intensive early intervention is entirely consistent with social work ethics and practices, which emphasise the importance of maintaining family integrity and protection through improving familial relations.

Yet a serious investment in the workforce is required for these plans to meet expectations. Many social workers active in child protection are simply overwhelmed by their caseloads and despite working hard to provide the best possible support to families or caregivers, cannot always fully meet the level of need that exists in the community, much of which can be hidden from view. The refocus on intervention will require an expansion of the workforce.

At the present time it is not yet clear how much of the government’s extra funding for Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, will go toward these intervention programmes and we seek clarity on this.

However, ANZASW believes that more funding for Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children alone will not be enough to ensure that the policy delivers improved outcomes. The Ministry for Children cannot make these changes in isolation: social workers across the wider social services sector also need to receive greater support. Organisations outside of the Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children often have better opportunities to work closely with families and develop relationships that are crucial to ensuring security and wellbeing for at risk children.

ANZASW also strongly recommends greater investment in providing continual professional development to social workers assisting families, so that their skills and knowledge are as up to date as possible.

We also believe that a wider definition of family than that which is adopted by the Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, needs to be taken into account when considering how to maintain family integrity and provide protection for children. By expanding the concept to include extended family / Whanau, greater resources can be utilised to ensure security for at risk children.

We look forward to engaging with the Ministry on this issue.

22 June 2018 

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22 JUNE

CANADA

Ontario doors open to new Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence

The Trump administration’s current separation of children from their migrant parents has put children and immigration issues in the spotlight. But few people understand the extent to which children with unresolved immigration status issues are a growing issue for Canada. To meet this expanding need, Peel Children’s Aid and Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS ) officially launched a new Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence on June 13, 2018. This Centre of Excellence will not only be available at Peel CAS but will support child welfare agencies across Ontario as they deal with increasingly complex situations involving children and youth who do not have immigration status. The critical services that will be provided include support for children and youth so they can apply for immigration and citizenship documents, support for families so they can access services for children without status, and the collection of provincial data.

“The case for early and rapid resolution of immigration status issues for children and youth within the child welfare sector is clear,” says Rav Bains, CEO, Peel CAS. “Resolving immigration status issues in a timely manner has the potential to make a very significant difference in the lives of children and youth to ensure they have access to services such as education and employment.”

Children’s Aid Societies are encountering this issue more frequently because of their work with children and youth who come to Canada as refugees, unaccompanied minors fleeing war, extreme poverty, and gender-based violence, or who have been taken into care because of abuse from caregivers without immigration status while living in Ontario. Child welfare agencies also work with Global Affairs Canada to bring back Canadian children who are dealing with abuse while living abroad.

The Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence is positioned to address the many of these situations where the burden for resolving immigration status falls on the shoulders of children and youth who do not have adults to support them. The recently publicized case of Abdoul Abdi, who came to Nova Scotia as a refugee from Somalia, is an example of the kind of the challenges a youth faces who leaves care without receiving the proper immigration supports. Despite living in foster care since he was seven years old, Abdi now faces deportation back to Somalia, after a prison sentence for aggravated assault, because the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services failed to apply for citizenship on his behalf.

Lack of immigration status impacts children and youth in a variety of ways, most importantly preventing them from accessing health care and post-secondary education. Permanency is also not possible for children and youth in this situation, with severe possible repercussions when they grow older.

“If we don’t resolve immigration status, we are not setting children and youth up for success,” says Mary Ballantyne, CEO, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. “The centre of excellence will capitalize on Peel’s years of expertise in immigration and child welfare and will assist other organizations and agencies across the province to better respond to children and families experiencing immigration and settlement issues.”

To raise awareness about the new Child Welfare Immigration Centre of Excellence and the challenges that children and youth without immigration status face, OACAS and Peel CAS visited MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in May. “We are hoping to build relationships and awareness, because while child welfare is a provincial responsibility, immigration is a federal matter” says Rav Bains, CEO of Peel CAS. “Our Centre of Excellence is the first of its kind in Canada, and we are looking for the support of our federal partners.”

19 June 2018

Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

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20 JUNE

USA policy of separating children from parents is nothing short of torture

The sickening images of children cruelly separated from their parents and held in cages as a result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy of ‘zero-tolerance’ will leave an indelible stain on the reputation of the USA, said Amnesty International today.

“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centres, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director.

“There is no question that President Trump administration’s policy of separating mothers and fathers from their children is designed to impose severe mental suffering on these families, in order to deter others from trying to seek safety in the USA. Many of these families come from countries experiencing generalized violence and grave human rights violations, including Honduras and El Salvador. This is a flagrant violation of the human rights of these parents and children and is also a violation of US obligations under refugee law.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the “zero-tolerance policy for criminal illegal entry” on 6 April 2018. Since the policy came into effect, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents or legal guardians at the US border. Children’s rights are violated in multiple ways: they are detained, they are separated from their parents or guardians, and they are exposed to unnecessary trauma that might affect their development.

Statistics obtained by news media suggest that thousands more migrant families may have been separated by the Trump administration even prior to this new policy.

Amnesty International recently interviewed 17 asylum-seeking parents who were forcibly separated from their children, and all but three of them had entered the USA legally to request asylum.

“The claims of the Trump administration ring hollow. This cruel and unnecessary practice is being inflicted not only on families crossing irregularly, but also on those seeking protection at ports of entry. The majority of these families fled to the US to seek international protection from persecution and targeted violence in the Northern Triangle, where their governments are unwilling or unable to protect them,” said Guevara-Rosas.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has denied a policy of separating families is in place, but her statement from January this year confirms that the intention all along has been to target families: “We’re looking at a variety of ways to enforce our laws to discourage parents from bringing their children here.” Her predecessor John Kelly, now Trump’s chief of staff, suggested the policy as early as March 2017 “in order to deter” families of migrants and asylum seekers from coming to the USA.

“Make no mistake, these family separations are a crisis of the government’s own making. The U.S. government is playing a sick game with these families’ lives by playing politics with what is a serious and mounting refugee crisis. Just as we have seen with previous immigration reforms from this administration, authorities have chosen to target the very families seeking safety in the USA, adding to the trauma and pain they have already experienced,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Amnesty International is calling on the administration to immediately put an end to this unnecessary, devastating and unlawful policy of forced separation, and to reunite those families that have already been separated as quickly as possible.

Amnesty International is specifically calling on the U.S. government to:

1. Reunify, as quickly as possible, those families that have been separated.

2. Halt the forced separation of children from their parents or guardians. Family units must be kept together in accordance with international standards on family unity.

3. Halt prolonged detention of parents and guardians who arrived in the U.S. with children.

4. Reject any increase in funding for immigration detention facilities for children and families.

For additional background, see the June 2017 Amnesty International report, Facing Walls, which documents how US border authorities have routinely denied asylum seekers the ability to claim asylum at US ports of entry, resulting in greater irregular flows of asylum seekers across the US-Mexico border.

19 June 2018

Press Release: Amnesty International 

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18 JUNE

USA

Raising awareness to educate parents and caregivers on the importance of play

The Genius of Play, a national movement to raise awareness about play's critical role in child development and encourage more play in children's lives, today announced its partnership with Outcome Health, a technology company that provides education at the moment of care to improve health outcomes. Through this partnership, The Genius of Play will provide content to air on waiting room TVs and digital wallboards in exam rooms in more than 200 pediatric offices across the U.S.

"The waiting room of a doctor's office is an ideal place to reach parents and educate them on the importance of play," said Anna Yudina, director of marketing initiatives at The Toy Association, the organization that spearheads The Genius of Play. "Given the average wait time to see a doctor is 20 minutes, The Genius of Play's videos and infographics will help make the wait go faster by offering parents information about the role of play in healthy child development, as well as fun play ideas that have lifelong benefits for kids."

As families wait for a doctor to see them, the exam room wallboard will display facts about the importance of play and direct them to The Genius of Play website for play ideas that they can utilize while they wait.

"Research shows that through play, children learn how to interact with others and reach critical developmental milestones," said Renee Tulenko, senior vice president at Outcome Health. "By partnering with The Genius of Play, Outcome Health can reach parents across the country with this research, and arm them with information around the importance of play."

The program will run from June 15 to September 15. For additional information and play ideas, visit www.TheGeniusofPlay.org

About The Genius of Play
The Genius of Play is a national movement to raise awareness of play's vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives. The Genius of Play enables today's busy parents and caretakers to use the power of play to help raise a happier, healthier, and more productive next generation.

15 June 2018

Source: The Genius of Play 

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13 JUNE

NEW ZEALAND

Early prevention the key to reducing youth crime – chief science advisor's report

A new report argues the Government ought to take an early intervention approach to youth crime, as "harsh punishments have little deterrent effect on young people".

The report from the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor says the evidence proves it's more effective to improve community, social and family environments to keep children away from entering the prison pipeline.

Justice sector science advisor Dr Ian Lambie, who produced the report, says a preventative approach is best.

"The most effective and cost-effective way to reduce prison costs is to prevent kids getting into crime at the earliest opportunity," he explained.

The report says boot camps, which were a National Party election policy, do not work – and 'scared straight' programmes have even been shown to increase crime. It calls on the Government to adopt a 'developmental crime prevention' model to change the trajectory of the "prison pipeline".

"The effects of abuse, neglect and maltreatment on children's development and behaviour can be successfully addressed at home, at school, in the community and in targeted mental health and other services, for a fraction of the cost of imprisonment," the report says.

It identifies young Maori as "significantly and persistently over-represented" in the criminal justice system – as both victims and offenders. Violent offending rates for Pacific young people are also "disproportionately high".

The report calls for strong partnerships between the Government and Maori and Pacific communities, using culturally specific models and worldviews.

It says most young offenders have been victims themselves, experiencing high levels of abuse, neglect and violence – often from infancy. Eighty percent of child and youth offenders grew up with family violence at home.

Most of those in youth justice facilities have experienced at least two traumatic events, such as being sexually abused or in danger of it, being badly injured or being in danger of being badly injured or killed, witnessing a severe injury or a killing, or another event described as "terrifying".

The report argues that youth need support and trauma recovery services before offending is likely to begin.

Between 50 and 75 percent of young offenders meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental illness or substance addiction, while 79 percent are heavy drinkers, and 65.5 percent had used methamphetamine in the past year.

The report says the risk factors of youth crime include poverty, violence, childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, school failure, antisocial peers, parents in prison, undiagnosed mental and substance-use disorders, and lack of attachment to homes, communities and people.

The protective factors, reducing the risk, include a safe place to live, trauma-informed care, support with mental health, literacy, learning support, and a network of people in the home and community for a sense of belonging.

The report acknowledges the crime prevention approach is a "highly political" issue, but calls for "strong and courageous leadership".

"Painful examples of criminal victimisation feature in media coverage and public discourse, and have driven much of the public discourse. Prevention rarely features," it says.

During the election campaign, National Party spokesperson for defence Mark Mitchell called for a 12 month youth leadership camp to be established at Waiouru army base for the most serious violent youth offenders, about 150 to 200 of them. Mr Mitchell said he doesn't like the term boot camp, and he stands by the policy.

"They were going to be isolated, they were going to be taken away from the community and they were going to have intense training from the defence forces and social welfare to try and get them turned around and get them moving in the right direction. I believe in those programmes," he said on Tuesday.

The full report It’s never too early, never too late: A discussion paper on preventing youth offending in New Zealand can be viewed here.

By Emma Hurley

12 June 2018 

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11 JUNE

IRELAND

Launch of the findings of a two-year research study into complex child protection cases by the Child Care Law Reporting Project

The Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice, today, on behalf of the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP), launched the findings of a two-year research study examining lengthy, contested and complex child protection cases in the District Court. This report was commissioned by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, T.D., welcomed the report, which forms a fitting culmination to the work of the Child Care Law Reporting Project over the last number of years.

The Minister stated that, “the reports produced by the CCLRP have proven an invaluable asset to all of us, including my Department, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, legal practitioners and many other stakeholders, who are working to ensure that child care law in Ireland works for the benefit of our most vulnerable children.

These reports are a crucial component in ensuring that those of us charged with the ongoing development and improvement of our child welfare and protection systems have full sight of those issues that present in the most difficult cases.”

This report provides empirical evidence for the complexities that can arise in child care proceedings. It identifies the challenge in coordination between government agencies, delays in securing psychological and sexual abuse assessments for children at the centre of proceedings, and contention around the use of hearsay evidence as among some of the difficulties that can arise at the interface of the child protection and the courts systems.

The report recognises that responding to these varied challenges will require a coordinated response from a wide range of actors. A number of specific recommendations for the attention of the Government, Tusla, the Department of Justice and Equality, the courts, and legal practitioners are made in this regard.

Minister Zappone further added, “the timing of the launch of this report, coming as it does when my Department is undertaking a thorough review of the Child Care Act 1991 and the Department of Justice and Equality is preparing the heads of a Family Courts Bill, is particularly beneficial. These developments provide a unique opportunity and potential gateway to address the challenges identified in the report.”

Minister Zappone was also happy to confirm that the CCLRP has entered into a new agreement with her Department to continue this important work for the next three years.

5 June 2018

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8 JUNE

UK

British Association of Social Workers demands greater protection from violence for social workers

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and the Social Workers Union (SWU) have called for social workers to be given the same level of protection from violence as emergency services personnel.

The plea has been issued in a bid to persuade politicians to amend the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, which is currently passing through the House of Lords.

The private members' bill, introduced by Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant and backed by the government, aims to create a new offence of assault on emergency workers, which doubles the maximum penalty from six to 12 months in prison.

But while non-emergency frontline NHS staff and prison escorts have been added to the list of "emergency workers", social workers are not included.

BASW has this week issued research from Northern Ireland to highlight the scale of violence against social workers. This found that half of social workers in Northern Ireland have been subjected to physical violence, 86 per cent have experienced intimidation and three quarters (75 per cent) have been threatened.

In 2014 research published by De Montfort University found that 70 out of 87 residential care social workers had been threatened or assaulted during the previous 12 months.

"Social workers are the forgotten emergency service. We support people and families of all ages, 365 days a year, in very difficult circumstances," said SWU general secretary John McGowan.

"Our clients increase in number year on year, at the same time as funding is repeatedly slashed. Nevertheless, social workers and approved mental health professionals ensure vulnerable people receive the care, support and protection they need, in collaboration with their family and friends, often under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances - just as a new study from our Northern Ireland branch clearly shows.

"We urgently need an amendment to add social workers to this bill."

Other professionals classified as "emergency workers" in the bill include police officers, frontline fire and rescue personnel, emergency health workers and prison officers.

By Joe Lepper

6 June 2018 

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6 JUNE

Australia: Inquiry to probe Aboriginal over-representation in youth justice

A major inquiry will examine the files of 250 Aboriginal children and young people in the state’s youth justice system to establish why Indigenous young people are so heavily over-represented.

About 16 per cent of young people in Victorian youth prisons or on corrections orders are Indigenous, yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people only make up 1.6 per cent of the state’s population aged 10 to 19 years.

Victoria's newly-appointed Commissioner for Aboriginal Children, Justin Mohamed, said the inquiry will look at the experiences of at least 250 young Kooris in the youth justice system to identify the underlying causes for their offending.

He said the Children's Commission will interview young people and work with Aboriginal organisations and other services to try to reverse the worsening trend.

Mr Mohamed, who began his career as a youth justice worker, said untreated mental illness and contact with the child protection system increased the risk that Aboriginal children would enter the justice system. A forensic analysis might reveal unexpected factors too, he said.

“Is the system in Victoria making the right decisions when a young person enters?” Mr Mohamed asked. “Or can you end up in a regional court – for example – where no-one knows about your background, your home life, and your mental health issues?”

Broadly speaking, the causes of over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system include intergenerational trauma, over-policing, broken connections to country and community and exclusion from mainstream culture.

Almost 40 per cent of children and young people in Victoria's youth justice system have been subject to a child protection order, and the figure for Aboriginal young people is likely to be higher.

Mr Mohamed said that Aboriginal children were also more likely to have been in out-of-home care and this could lead to early contact with the police. Police are called to residential homes to deal with behaviour by young people that would be unlikely to come to police attention if it had happened in a family home.

Victoria Legal Aid has represented children from residential care in court who have been charged for smashing a cup or throwing a sink plug.

Children’s Commissioner Liana Buchanan said her office monitors youth justice centres and is aware of some “pretty terrible” responses to Aboriginal children. “We see some of them come out more damaged and more likely to reoffend,” Ms Buchanan said.

Last year, the commission investigated the use of isolation in Victorian youth prisons, finding that at one centre Aboriginal young people were twice as likely to be subjected to isolation.

The seed for the commission’s newest inquiry was sown in 2016, when Victoria's youth justice system was plagued with unrest, including at the Malmsbury and Parkville youth detention centres.

The former Department of Justice secretary, Penny Armytage, and Swinburne University professor, James Ogloff, undertook the first review of youth justice in 16 years. They found a system in “crisis”, in need of serious cultural and systemic reform.

They criticised the failure to address the over-representation of Aboriginal children, saying the rate of incarceration had actually increased over the past decade, and recommended an inquiry.

In the 2018 budget the state government committed $10.8 million to target over-representation, including the inquiry to examine the cases of 250 young people.

The inquiry has similarities to Taskforce 1000 – conducted by former Aboriginal Children’s Commissioner Andrew Jackomos - which reviewed the records of 1000 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. If found that although legislation required that Indigenous children remain connected to family and culture, this rarely happened.

In response, the state government promised that by the end of this year, 80 per cent of Indigenous young people living in out-of-home care will have a case manager from an Aboriginal organisation.

Victorian Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos on Sunday said she asked Mr Mohamed to undertake the inquiry, with the terms of reference currently being examined.

"A similar examination of the cases of Aboriginal children in care has led to significant reforms and investment, including being the first state to introduce Aboriginal legal guardianship," Ms Mikakos said.

By Miki Perkins

4 June 2018

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4 JUNE

IRELAND

Minister announces open call seeking submissions on measuring outcomes for young people engaged with youth services

“Building on best practices and expertise to work towards our common goal of achieving positive outcomes for young people”

Statement by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone

Dr. Katherine Zappone T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, announced an open call today seeking submissions on measuring outcomes for young people engaged with youth services.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs want to learn about how organisations determine what difference is made by services for people who use them. This is part of a process to redesign how the Department governs a funding scheme which is currently valued at approximately €35m per year. The purpose of the redesigned scheme is to support young people to overcome adverse circumstances by strengthening their personal and social skills.

The Department are particularly interested in the measurement of skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, resilience and determination. Young people who develop these types of soft skills tend to achieve positive life outcomes such as completing education courses, gaining employment and staying healthy. These types of outcomes can be challenging to measure for different reasons and it can be hard to know the contribution services have made to their development. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the development of key elements of a new targeted funding scheme in the youth sector that aims to deliver positive outcomes for young people in Ireland today.

Individuals or organisations with an interest in youth, personal or social services are encouraged to make a submission by completing the submission form available on the DCYA website and sending relevant materials to YRSP@dcya.gov.ie by Friday 6th July at 1700. The submissions will be reviewed and a number of organisations or individuals may be invited to share further details with the Department.

Commenting on the announcement of the open call today, Dr. Katherine Zappone T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs said:

“I am delighted to announce an open call seeking submissions on measuring outcomes for young people engaged with youth services. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am keenly aware of the important contribution youth services can make to young people’s lives. In recognition of the commitment and dedication of youth service personnel across the country, my Department are building on best practices and expertise to work towards our common goal of achieving positive outcomes for young people.”

Further details on the submission process are available below:

DCYA open Call for Submissions

 31 May 2018 

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1 JUNE

CANADA

Ontario youth transitioning out of foster care will receive free smartphone plans from TELUS

Young people leaving foster care in Ontario will be able to stay connected with their vital support networks thanks to a new collaboration between TELUS and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada (CAFC). TELUS is expanding its Mobility for Good™ program to Ontario, offering youth transitioning from care a free smartphone and fully subsidized plan from TELUS for two years. The program will assist up to 7,200 youth in the province who qualify to stay connected with friends, potential employers and peers, helping to prevent social isolation during a vulnerable stage of their lives as they transition to independent living.

“For youth transitioning out of care, a smartphone is a lifeline to helping them achieve independence,” says Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. “TELUS’ commitment to provide these youth with a life-changing and potentially life-saving connection not only helps to bridge the digital divide in Canada, but it will enable these young people to search for somewhere to live, look for job opportunities and stay in touch with friends and support networks, which is so important when you are living on your own for the first time without the support of a permanent family.”

The expansion of TELUS Mobility for Good in Ontario builds upon TELUS’ commitment to bridge the digital divide for Canadians, and strive for social and digital equality in our all-connected world. The program first launched last year in British Columbia, and earlier this month, expanded to Quebec. The program provides youth transitioning from care with a smartphone and TELUS mobile plan at $0 per month, including unlimited nationwide talk and text and up to 3GB of monthly data usage. While TELUS is providing the service to youth for free, the bills will appear in the youth’s name to help them build positive credit and gain the skills required to manage their finances in the future. TELUS and CAFC plan to expand the program to more provinces across Canada later this year.

“At TELUS, a cornerstone of our social purpose is our heartfelt commitment to helping youth rise above and realise their full potential,” said Darren Entwistle, TELUS President and CEO. “The TELUS Mobility for Good program is one way we can help Canadian youth transitioning out of foster care remain connected to the many opportunities that encourage their full participation in our digital economy. Working with the incredible team at Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, we are proud to extend TELUS Mobility for Good from B.C. into Ontario and Quebec, and look forward to inviting young people in other provinces to participate later this year. Indeed, through the expansion of our successful program, TELUS and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada will ensure thousands more young Canadians begin their independent lives feeling safer, more connected and better prepared for their future and the opportunities and challenges it entails.”

Each year approximately 2,300 youth, as young as 18, age out of Canada’s child welfare system, and are no longer eligible for the type of support they have been receiving while in care. They are often underprepared to transition to independent life and do not have the support of permanent families to help them get on their feet. Without the proper resources available, many young people leaving care find the transition to independence difficult to navigate.

In addition to Mobility for Good, in 2016 TELUS introduced Internet for Good in British Columbia and Alberta, which offers $9.95 per month Internet to low-income single-parent families who receive financial or disability assistance from the provinces.

“After transitioning out of foster care at 16, I had to figure out how to live on my own and the one thing that kept me going was being able to stay connected with others through my cellphone,” says Chantal VanLeeuwen, a Mobility for Good recipient. “I now see first-hand as a child protection worker that every youth who transitions out of care faces the challenge of requiring a cellphone and thanks to the Mobility for Good program, they will get a helping hand to connect with the support needed to build their independence.”

For more information on the TELUS Mobility for Good Program in Ontario or to apply, please visit: http://www.cafdn.org/for-youth/telus-mobility-good/

31 May 2018

Source: TELUS Communications Inc.
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THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net)
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