This month marks Child Protection Week (7-13 September) around Australia with the theme Protecting Children is Everybody’s Business. For the broader community, the initiative focuses on raising awareness about child protection issues including child abuse prevention, treatment, research, education, service provision and support for children, young people and families. For those in the child protection sector, it’s a time to consider our achievements and take a big breath in as we turn our minds to how we can achieve better outcomes for children in our work.
This is my sixth year of being involved with Child Protection Week through my role at the CREATE Foundation, where we work to improve the lives of children and young people who have an experience of out-of-home care. CREATE was formed in 2000 by a group of passionate young people and their supporters who wanted to make sure children’s voices play an integral role in how we run our child protection system.
Today our vision is that each one of the over 35,000 children and young people in care across Australia have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We about making sure children and young people in care know they are not alone; that there are others out there with similar experiences. Finally, we are about improving the system with the voices of children and young people, something often achieved through the courageous work of our Young Consultants; young people with a care experience who represent their peers and engage in advocacy to make the system better for anyone. As noted by US based foster advocacy group the Mockingbird Society, when it comes to young people and the care system “if you are not at the table, you are on the menu”.
Reflecting on six years working with children and young people who have experienced abuse and/or neglect I come back to what keeps me involved with CREATE and the care system; it’s the awe-inspiring strength and resilience of the children and young people themselves. I have witnessed such maturity, insight, inner strength and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity that I previously didn’t think possible from people so young. It flies in the face of the negative stigma about ‘foster kids’ that still lurks in the corners of our community. Oh and the goosebumps. So many times they have given me goosebumps. Let me leave you with just one example of a goosebump-inducing statement from Dillon, a 19 year old man who works as a Young Consultant at CREATE:
“You can’t give us a voice – we were born with one. Some of us are just too afraid or don’t know how to use it.”
Happy Child Protection Week!
Any children and young people (aged 0-25) who have spent time in care or are in care are eligible to become members of the CREATE Foundation. It’s free and is a great way to get access to exclusive events and giveaways and become linked in with our organisation. Joining up takes 5 minutes online.