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Transition to Independence Month Launch is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 10th November 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> November -> Transition to Independence Month Launch is In the Spotlight

Townsville put on a fabulous show to begin Transition to Independence (T2I) Month 2016. This month is an opportunity to hear the stories of young people, celebrate their journeys and successes and highlight policy and practice issues that ensure the road to independence is a journey to success for children and young people as they move through the Queensland care system towards independence.

Transition to Independence Month is coordinated by G-Force, a sector-wide working party chaired by the CREATE Foundation and made up of government and non-government organisations as well as young people. Each year in Queensland, over 500 young people leave the child protection system to live independently. Assistance for these young people often comes from family, carers and community members, as well as government and non-government service providers. However, a number of young people make this transition without the support of either family members or a wider support network.

At the Townsville launch of T2I Month, Master of Ceremonies, Taz, welcomed dignitaries, guests and young people. The Welcome to Country was offered by the Gurambibarra Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners. They acknowledged the difficult work undertaken by community and government workers and the need for children and families to be supported. They also recognised the struggle for many in need to reach out for support. “This is hard and sometimes we need to see those who struggle and offer a hand”. The importance of communication was highlighted - all channels must be open. Resources must be available and used appropriately. One person can make a difference and everyone must make that effort. Grass roots level work was highlighted as really important. We need to focus on the grass roots and minimise administration.

Lucas Moore of the CREATE Foundation Queensland offered a brief history of CREATE. He stated they had 2,700 members in Queensland and 15,000 members nationally. He was clear that the journey to independence was more realistically and appropriately a journey to interdependence, given that the aim is that young people are all connected to culture and have others in their life they can rely upon. He thanked the Townsville care system and Kelly Bucknall from CREATE for their effort in ensuring a successful launch of T2I Month 2016.

Lucas also highlighted the T2I Month 2016 photo competition and urged workers to participate by uploading a non-identifying photo related to a young person and naming a quality in that young person that they see in them that they wish they saw in themselves. This involves using a hashtag # and then stating the qualities they admire. He closed with a quote from a young person: “Adulthood isn’t always easy. That doesn’t mean it has to be hard from the get go.”

Teena Ingram, the acting Regional Director of Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services North region, spoke of the really special occasion that T2I Month presents. It is a month of focusing on young people transitioning to independence. “As a region we’re committed to young people transitioning successfully and in doing that we all work together. There are 6 Townsville T2I month events planned. There are also events in Mackay and Mt Isa.” Teena paid respect to the carers and acknowledged their significant contribution to the positive outcomes for children and young people. She then thanked young people for their involvement and support.

Telica then shared a really positive story of her care experience. For her being taken into care meant moving to a new home with new people and new rules and this was really daunting. She experienced panic attacks. With the support of those around her she learned important life lessons. Telica significantly notes that she had the same committed CSO throughout her duration in care. She felt heard and supported. Her CSO and carer supported safe reconnection with family and assisted her and her family in building and maintaining ongoing positive relationships. She felt everyone supported her decisions.

Transitioning from Care she stated was extremely difficult because she felt she was leaving so many important relationships and connections behind. Even though she had a really positive transition, she still struggled emotionally with the loss.

She spoke about the difficulties for young people when they are struggling making sense of the experiences and potential consequences of their behaviours when things are hard: “When you’re right in the middle of a storm you don’t understand what your actions will mean when you’re out of it.”

Her advice to workers was “Just be there and provide needs, not wants”. Her advice to young people transitioning to independence was that there is so much responsibility it is important to make sure you have a positive support group. She stated that whilst young people had less restrictions once they transitioned, they had much more responsibility. She emphasised that it is important to: “Remain true to yourself, love yourself and love others.”

Aaron Harper MP for Thuringowa spoke on behalf of Minister Shannon Fentiman. He thanked Telica for being inspiring and brave. He then spoke of his 25 years in the Queensland Ambulance Service and the learnings he’d gained from that. He stated that mentors were really important for young people and we all need to do all we can to mentor children and young people and to make our communities safer and stronger through relationships and connectedness.

Tammy Williams, Commissioner, Queensland Family and Child Commission spoke of spending a month recently in the far north including Townville and Palm Island. She spoke of the importance of acknowledging the vast expanse of Queensland and the significance of working with and spending time in all areas of Queensland to ensure all Queenslanders were part of our connections and relationships. She particularly noted that all need to be strong and supported in their natural environments. This strength translates to transitioning in that it then allows the next generation to come through with more positivity. She spoke of transitioning as a normal process of life: “Independence is a journey and it means moving to a next stage. It doesn’t mean you are alone”.

Commissioner Williams was clear that the traditional owners offering welcome was significant and she thanked them for their welcome to their country. She further noted that welcome to country isn’t political correctness, it is an opportunity to remember the importance of culture and connection to land and waterways.

Belinda Mayfield, acting State Director, Life Without Barriers (LWB) spoke of the significance of Next Step After Care (Next Step). Most significantly she applauded the vital role young people with a care experience played in the advocacy, design, development and roll out of the program. Next Step were awarded the Child Protection Award for 2016 for Youth Participation. Belinda stated that over the years young people had been offering feedback about their fears regarding transitioning from care at age 18. “Where am I going to live?” and “What will I be doing?” summed up the key concerns regularly raised. Belinda applauded young people’s patience and efforts in advocacy and after sharing their stories over and over we now have both T2I month and Next Step that ensures young people can thrive post 18 years.

Belinda ensured that everyone in the room took out their phone and listed the Next Step number: 1800 639 878 / 1800 NEXT STEP. She stated the importance of continuing to speak up for young people and carers.

Celine, a 17 year old young woman shared her story. This young CREATE consultant has been in care since she was 3 months old and her story demonstrates the complexities of care experiences and relationships. It also demonstrates the importance of listening to children and young people. Celine was placed with Kin in an environment in which she was really happy until the marital relationship broke down. She was suddenly moved a significant distance away from the people she loved and felt close to. She was bullied at school for being a child in care. Her single parent brother was struggling and found it difficult to cope. When he ‘lost it’ one day, she was removed. No communication or discussion took place. She was moved to another far away place without her input or consent. The loss of relationships and friendships weren’t considered either. She was moved. She was moved many times. 14 placements in all.

She spoke about advice she’d received about surfing the high end of the wave when you can see it all and it offers clarity but when you hit the impact zone – it’s just a blur! You need to change perspective at times, she argues, just like with a scary movie.

Finally, she found a carer who was really loving and nurturing. This changed her perspective and her future opportunities. This carer really heard her and worked with her. Finally, she was reunited with non-biological family members she’d been removed from but felt connected to. This occurred because those caring for her heard what she said and responded to her stated needs.

Overwhelmingly the feedback of young people at the Transition to Independence launch was to be honest, trust yourself, say what you feel and communicate as much as possible with all those who care for you such as your family, CSOs, carers, community visitors, workers and friends. Most significantly the message of relationships and connections to family, culture, community and a network of support was identified as a key to transitioning from care and building a positive future.

Many events are being held throughout Queensland during T2I Month. For more information and resources please go to the CREATE Foundation website or visit the Transition to Independence Facebook page.

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