Cara, young people in care and the Charter of Rights

Cara CEO Denice Wharldall signs the Charter certificate watched by Guardian Pam Simmons and the Cara executive team.


Community Accommodation and Respite Agency (Cara) became the 48th organisation to endorse the Charter of Rights when it received its certificate on June 27th.

For over 60 years, Cara has provided accommodation and respite support services across South Australia for people with severe and multiple disabilities and their families.

Todd Williams, Executive Manager, Respite and Client Services, explains that ‘the incentive for us to engage with the Charter has been our relatively recent involvement with providing accommodation support for young people under the care of the Minister.

‘While we have always been involved with young people in care as part of our respite programs and camps, it is only in the last 18 months that we have taken on a more specific role.

‘Under an arrangement with Families SA, we provide a therapeutic care model of support to 11 young people under guardianship in three locations. Cara works with them to provide stable, safe and nurturing environments in preparation for adulthood, ultimately supporting their transition into suitable long term accommodation.

‘We have long recognised the value of having dedicated developmental educators working in our programs. Known as Program Coordinators, they work on site directly with the young people but also to support the other workers to create a consistent therapeutic living environment.’

Todd explains that the success of the program hinges on cooperation between the Team Leader and Program Coordinator who share leadership roles at the houses and between the support workers and the Program Coordinator to sustain the therapeutic environment.

‘We also work very closely with Families SA staff on the critical selection and matching of young people for each house.

‘Our values and our focus on rights already align with the Charter pretty well so endorsing was straightforward for the Board and the leadership team.

‘Where the Charter has been useful to us is to act as a kind of checklist that we can use to challenge ourselves and to guard against complacency about our clients’ rights.

‘The right to be heard and make choices, to be fully involved with decisions about what happens in the house and to have a secure private space to call their own, all these are strongly stated in the Charter and also very important to young people living with disability, learning to manage their behaviour as they develop as citizens and move towards more independent living arrangements.’

Cara has incorporated the Charter into its policies and practice and features information about the Charter and a link on its website.

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