When a child comes into care, more than ever they need to be surrounded by adults who support them, someone who checks in with them regularly, backs them up and provides the advocacy they need when navigating the world of living in state care.
When we recently heard about a heart-warming relationship between a young person and their case worker, we were keen to find out what makes their relationship work so well, so we sat down with them to find out.
As soon as Josh and Karen enter the room, it is clear to see the chemistry between them. A soft bantering flows easily between the two of them as they sit across from each other, preparing for the day ahead once our catch up is over.
When they first met one and a half years ago, Josh had just been placed in residential care. And while it has been an emotional rollercoaster ride for him, he and Karen have formed a strong bond and a passion for food (both talking about it and eating it!).
Karen’s open communication and being available when Josh needs her is something they both greatly value.
“I always leave our communication open. Josh knows he can call any time and that I am available,” Karen says.
“She’s there when I need her,” Josh agrees. “She answers her phone, except when she’s driving,” he adds as he teases Karen about her lack of navigation skills when she is behind the wheel.
Karen, a Family Development Worker for the Department for Child Protection, has been a caseworker for the last two years. While she is not professionally trained as a social worker and has a background as a financial counsellor in DCP, Karen believes her experience brings a different perspective to the role, while she is continually navigating the case management role and also learning so much from her peers.
“It has been a steep learning curve coming into the role, learning about all the complexities involved when working directly with young people,” Karen says.
“For me, what’s important is being upfront and honest. Sometimes we think that we are doing the right thing by not telling young people all of the truth, perhaps about the reasons they can’t see their family, but I think they deserve to hear it, being careful with that of course,” Karen says.
“Just being yourself with young people is so important. When you say you are going to do something, you follow through and do your best to make things happen. Your word is your word.”
Josh tells us the most special thing about Karen is that “she understands and listens”.
“Karen is goofy but she’s kind,” he adds.
“He’s a great kid, I like the way he talks,” Karen says.
“The time we spend together is really good. I’ve been educated a lot about rap music, and we discuss the lyrics, which is fun,” Karen laughs.
Karen and Josh chat on the phone a few times a week and try to see each other once a fortnight. In the school holidays, they like to catch up for lunch or Chai tea. Speaking of which, our chat turns to food again. Josh is talking about his growing culinary skills and the discussion soon moves to their lunch plans for that day. As they get up to leave the room, the noise of their laughter and chatter closely follows them behind.
Thanks so much to Josh and Karen for sharing their story with us. (And whose real names we have used, with permission.) Do you have a good news story to share? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.