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An innovative service response to young people in care is in the spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 15th October 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> October -> An innovative service response to young people in care is in the spotlight

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Children and young people ‘self-placing’ has been a long stated concern with regard to their wellbeing. In the Brisbane region, an exciting and innovative response program aims to redress this issue.

The Brisbane Emergency Response Outreach Service (BEROS) is a consortium service funded by the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. Currently a pilot project, it’s a collaboration between the Community Living Association, Micah Projects and Kyabra Community Association. It provides services to young people aged 12 - 18 years who are in care and identify as 'self-placing' or sleeping rough in the Brisbane region.

The intent of the program was originally described in the invitation to offer tender as: a program to provide an alternate, safe, supportive and developmentally focused out of home care experience for young people that will see them either return to a safe placement, with ongoing support and access to services; or be supported to make safe and sustainable choices for independent accommodation while ensuring they continue to have access to services and intervention to ensure they are safe, connected and skilled.

In providing this service, BEROS works closely with the 7 Brisbane Child Safety Service Centres, the Placement Services Unit and After Hours Support. The service ideally aims to connect young people back with their previous care arrangements; either foster or kinship care or residential care. Another option is to find alternative care opportunities and accommodation for young people including working closely with family and kin and those they connect with whilst also supporting further connections. In doing so their relationships with a wide array of support services including cultural, drug and alcohol, mental health and accommodation services are essential in ensuring that young people are linked to the support services they require for their holistic wellbeing.

The BEROS team takes collaborative practice and networking seriously and has already spent significant time since their inception about 12 weeks ago in speaking to numerous stakeholders across Brisbane. The team is configured as follows:

* The Community Living Association has one Senior Outreach Worker and two Emergency Response Outreach workers to follow up and work with all referrals or self-referrals. They also provide ongoing case work.

* Micah Projects operates outreach to young people on a 6pm-12am phone service which links services such as after-hours Child Safety and the Queensland Police Service to the 4 Assertive Outreach Youth Workers working out of hours, seven days a week, within the BEROS Street to Home team.

* Emergency accommodation (with a maximum 2 nights stay for any young person) is provided via a Kyabra owned property available for 2 young people at any given time with overnight support. Kyabra’s Foster and Kinship Care services also form part of the support options.

BEROS provides outreach, connection and relationship building with young people whilst remaining focused on safety. Achieving sustainability by meeting immediate needs such as stable accommodation and care relationships as well as personal, family and community connections is also key. BEROS also provides developmental work such as linking young people to educational and other relevant groups, working towards supportive and positive peer relationships for young people and focusing on mentoring and enhanced family and cultural relationships.

BEROS team members: Chloe Warrell, Tamara McGuigan and Tracey Wrigley spoke about this innovative service at the AASW/PeakCare Child Protection Practice Group meeting last night. Those in attendance were eager to hear about this service and the experiences of the practitioners as they navigate the developmental phase of this program.

“The Outreach is active outreach. The team works with various organisations who know where young people are sleeping rough at various venues around Brisbane or accessing services such as food vans. Young people don’t need to come to us. We go to them. That’s conscious and deliberate” says Chloe Warrell, the Emergency Response Outreach Worker.

In further discussions about why so many young people ‘self-place’ and the concern regarding a lack of placements, Chloe and other group members were clear that a lack of placements isn’t the issue. Young people opting out of available placement options is. The discussion that ensued demonstrates that further conversations about the suitability of accommodation and support options within our current child protection system, options that haven’t been robustly debated for many years and appear to be somewhat outdated in our current society. That’s a topic worthy of note for another day and another practice forum!

In addressing the many issues currently evident with regard to young people and self-placing BEROS most certainly appears to have hit the ground running, especially in terms of

relationship building both with young people and colleagues across the sector. Their enthusiasm for the service and their ability to respond to young people ‘where they’re at’ through respecting young people’s capacity to identify their own needs and make decisions as experts in their own lives, with support and options offered without imposition, was contagious.

The team spoke about their commitment to this work, the desire of the sector over many years to have a program such as this and the importance of data to demonstrate need, demographics and impact. They’re intent on ensuring that the data they collect is meaningful in order to ensure that the needs of young people are evident and noted.

Most of all the team is determined to ensure that young people are centre stage in their own lives, decision making and processes. In order to achieve this practitioners are aware of their interactions with young people at every stage, including how they relate, the information they share and how they share it and even how they dress. They joked about having spare clothes in their cars to address the juxtaposition between images required in the dual spaces they work within. Balancing their roles within the sector with direct practice and building relationships with young people is something they’re aware of. In the various ways required, relating to young people and building rapport and trust is paramount.

All referrals to the Brisbane Emergency Response Service (BEROS) can be made to the Senior Emergency Response Outreach Worker Chloe Warrell from Community Living Association on 0447 385 199 or after hours to the Micah BEROS team on PH 3036 4444