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View from the frontline with Steve Jacques

by PeakCare Qld on 28th August 2014

Home -> Articles -> 2014 -> August -> View from the frontline with Steve Jacques

An Interview with Steve Jacques

What is your current position/role?

“I am currently a Director with Key Assets – The Children’s Services Provider and in September 2014 will take on the role of Chief Operating Officer for Key Assets International.”

How did you initially become involved in the child protection sector?

“Growing up I had always planned to pursue a career in acting and from the age of six I attended Drama School. It’s funny how life circumstances impact on career choices and for me a couple of life events made me think about how I wanted to ‘help people’ rather than entertain them – in particular my first cousin, whom I was extremely close too, died of a heroin overdose when I was 14.

“During a session with a career counsellor at school I was clear that I wanted to become a social worker. When I applied to do my degree they told me that I was too young and inexperienced for the social work course so I took myself off to Amsterdam, Hong Kong and China to do voluntary work to build my experience – this was life changing – I worked in an orphanage, a Vietnamese refugee centre and with drug users and sex workers.

“Throughout my social work degree I was clear that my career pathway would focus on Children and families and my first job was as a child protection social worker in Barnsley – a medium size mining town in the north of England.”

What motivates or inspires you in working with or on behalf of children, young people and/or families?

“I am motivated because I believe in what our sector does – I have seen, over 20 years, the capacity of children, young people, and adults to turn their lives around, not only because of their own resilience but because they have had people championing them and supporting them along the way.

“In my early days of social work my first supervisor, Phil Jones, taught me that at the core of what we do is relationships and that this is key – this is a value that I still hold on to and allow to permeate the work that I do. I am inspired by people and this job exposes you to lots of people, all the time. Ultimately I am inspired to make a difference both at work and outside of work. “

What is your greatest achievement working with vulnerable children and families?

“In 2005 I was the founding director for Key Assets in Ireland (known as Fostering First Ireland) – at that time the government was very hostile to the idea of an NGO delivering fostering services although they were referring children to the UK for intensive foster placements.

“Many people told us that it would not work, in 2015 we will celebrate our 10th anniversary and I know that our staff and foster carers have made a massive difference to the lives of hundreds of children and young people – not only because I see it but because the young people tell me too. Replicating that here in Queensland and New South Wales has also been an amazing experience too!”

Do you think things are improving for vulnerable children and families in Queensland?

“As a newcomer to the State it’s hard for me to comment on time prior to 2010. What I can see in the 4 years (and a bit) I’ve been here is the dedication and hard work of people involved in the sector to want to make a difference and deliver quality services. I really love the energy and collaboration that I see in the sector – this is not always reflected in other parts of the world!

“I am always hopeful and optimistic that things are improving but I am always reminding people that we, you and me, are responsible for these improvements – it doesn’t sit elsewhere as ‘we are the sector’. I think that young people and foster carers have a better voice than they did in the past – I also think that there is a renewed commitment to work with families to improve their opportunities for stability and to prevent the need for their children to enter the care system. When I think of other parts of the world I recognise that we are fortunate to have a service system which can capture children and families when they are vulnerable and in need.

“For the children and young people I see every day I know their lives have improved because of the difference their foster carers and those supporting them are making in helping them heal, recover, learn and grow!”

What do you think are the greatest challenges that we face in the future in improving outcomes for children, young people and/or families?

“Wow, the greatest challenges!?!

“What I have learnt over the last 20 years is that there will always, sadly, need to be a service system that responds to the needs of vulnerable children and their families and room to improve that system. Our challenge is to adapt and respond as the world changes – we cannot sit still but can ensure that we stay motivated and when we stop being motivated then we look for another job – I think we underestimate the damage we can do to others if we loose sight of why we came in to this sector in the first place.

“Money is a big factor and I have learnt that trying to do anything on the cheap in this field is counter-productive – our organisation’s name derives from the idea that children are society’s assets and we have a responsibility to invest in them well and nurture them so that they can not only break any cycles of vulnerability but grow in to contributing citizens – that is our greatest challenge and our greatest goal!”