Youth advisory group proves you don’t need a cape to make change

A group of young care leavers excitedly took the stage recently, to accept the award for The voice of children and young people at the Department for Child Protection’s inaugural SA Child Protection Awards. The awards celebrate the achievements of child protection partners who provide vital support to children and young people in care and those at risk of entering care.

The young care leavers are members of No Capes for Change, a youth advisory group established by DCP for young people to have their voice heard and help improve the care system.

We were thrilled to be able to sit down with two members of the group, Jaime Joy and Tahmika Richardson, and Isabella Daziani, the then DCP Senior Program Officer to find out more about their work and contribution to improving the system for current and future children and young people in care.

How did No Capes for Change come about?

The idea for No Capes for Change was inspired by DCP youth council groups, which not only gives young people in care a place to have their voice heard, but also allows case workers in those areas to better understand and connect with them. Drawing on the success of these youth councils, the department created No Capes for Change as a youth advisory group to advise DCP workers on improving projects, programs, and policies.

“Now there’s a clear framework and strategy within DCP to [seek feedback from young people] make it happen, and we have No Capes for Change supporting all these other [DCP youth council] groups,” Isabella said.

Who are No Capes for Change and what do they do?

No Capes for Change is made up of young people with a care experience aged 16 to 24. Current member, Tahmika, sees the group as helping to “get the voices of children who have had lived experience out there to make it better for current and future generations”.

Every month, DCP policymakers, project managers and researchers meet with the young group to seek their advice.

“We talk about our experiences, saying what we needed, and what they [current young people in care] want, trying to put it together to figure out what is best,” Jaime said.

DCP staff then shares the group’s learning with DCP executive, “I’m able to say, these are the things young people are saying are important, and they’re actually able to build it in. Their voices, what they’ve said, and their work, is changing the way we do things.” said Isabella.

As a founding member of No Capes for Change, Jaime expressed her surprise at how much the group has been able to work on within its first year.

“We have all these different people coming in and then you realise, people want to talk to us,” she said.

“They’re starting to see that we have a voice and experience, and we can help.”

The group have already begun to see changes happening through work they’ve contributed to, including helping to update the viewpoint survey for young people in care and improving practices for transitioning from care.

“It’s actually changing the way staff work with and engage with the young people that they’re case managing, which is really exciting… They really see a different light and experience from them,” Isabella said.

The award

It seems no surprise that No Capes for Change would win an award for the contribution they’ve made in just one year, but for Tahmika and Jaime, it came as a complete shock! When asked how it felt to win, Tahmika said she was “over the moon”.

“We were just so excited. Getting the award just makes you feel like this is doing something. We’re making changes happen,” Jaime said.

The future

So, what’s next for the group? For Isabella, she can’t wait for the young people themselves to take charge.

“We really want it to be run by young people for young people, and for them to run the agenda too. I think we can do that in the next 12 months,” Isabella said.

Jaime and Tahmika seem more than ready to take on the challenge, with big ideas of their own.

We congratulate all the young people who are creating positive change through No Capes for Change for current and future generations of children and young people in care, with a special thanks to Jaime, Tahmika and Isabella for taking the time to sit down and talk to us about their fantastic initiative. We wish them all the best of luck and can’t wait to see what the group can achieve in the future!

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