The Guardian for Children and Young People provides an advocacy service, and her staff (known as ‘Advocates’) are always there to take calls from and about children and young people living in care. This advocacy service offers information and advice about rights in care, and advocates for children and young people where extra support is needed.
It can be confusing to navigate advocacy and advice services, and it also helps to know about what to expect when you call the Guardian’s office. To help make that process easier, Advocates were asked what some of the most common questions they come across are.
Here’s what they had to say.
What do you mean by ‘in care’?
‘In care’ means children and young people under the guardianship of the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection. Children in care may be living with their relatives, foster family or in a residential care facility or independent living.
Can children and young people call the Guardian’s office directly?
Yes ABSOLUTELY! Wherever possible, Advocates love to hear from children and young people directly.
The Guardian’s information and advocacy service is primarily for children and young people – in fact, nearly a third of our enquiries come directly from children and young people.
What are some of the things children and young people call about?
There are a wide range of topics and areas that come through the call line, that relate to children and young people’s experiences in care. Some of the most common things are about contact with significant others, safe and stable placements and a young person’s participation in decision-making.
Some matters are straight forward and can be sorted out really quickly. Other matters are really complex and require a lot of discussion and work between lots of different people and organisations.
Can I call if I’m an adult who is worried about a child or young person in care?
The Guardian’s office often receives calls from adults who live and work with children and young people – such as teachers, health care workers, foster and kinship carers or birth family members.
When adults call, they are generally asked whether the young person could or would like to talk themselves. The preference is always to hear from the child or young person directly, as it is important that they have agency over any advocacy positions. In addition, it is important that the Advocates seek consent, and that their voice can guide any advocacy that may result.
There can be circumstances where it’s difficult for a child or young person to express their views – such as if they are too young, have a disability that impacts their communication, or it might be distressing for them to talk to us. In those situations, Advocates are always happy to speak with the adults in their life to assess whether there is a role for us to advocate in their ‘best interests’.
It is important to note that the Guardian and her staff are advocates for children and young people in care. Sometimes adults do call us to support or advocate for them. In these instances, the Advocates try to be as helpful as they can and refer to support organisations that have been set up specifically to cater to adult specific needs.
Where else might I be able to get help?
There are often calls from birth parents, extended family members and carers, who are worried about children who have been taken into DCP care and are understandably distressed and seeking reassurance that their children are okay.
Sometimes birth parents, other family members and carers might have concerns about how they themselves have been treated, or problems navigating DCP processes. While this is not something that the Guardian can help with, Advocates will often refer adults to other services that can help. This includes:
The Reily Foundation: This is a service available to parents who are navigating the Child Protection System. It is an independent, not-for-profit organisation offering free education and advocacy support to parents. Their information can be found here: Home – The Reily Foundation
Legal Services Commission: If you are seeking legal advice or information in relation to any family law, the Legal Services Commission provides free legal advice to clients around their rights and obligations and to help them understand what courses of action can be taken. Their free legal advice line is: 1300 366 424.
Connecting Foster & Kinship Carers (CF&KC): CF&KC is an independent body which provides support to foster and kinship carers across South Australia. CF&KC provide individual advocacy for carers, carer support through guidance from their Advocates, opportunities for carers to connect and information and
education about caring for children and young people. Their information can be found here: Home – Connecting Foster Carers – SA Inc (cfc-sa.org.au)
Is there anything I should do before I call the Guardian?
If you are a child or young person in care, you can always call for information, advice and support. Even if you don’t want the Guardian to become involved, Advocates can always provide you with information and advice about steps you can take to help work through issues yourself.
For adults, it is suggested that before you call (or support a child or young person to call us), you try to address the concerns with a carer or case worker from DCP first, or escalate the matter through the relevant DCP office. If the issues can’t be resolved with the DCP office, you or the child or young person can also contact the DCP Complaints and Feedback Management Unit on 1800 003 305, and their staff will take further steps to resolve the matter.
If you have already done what you can to try to resolve the issues yourself, and you are still worried about the child or young person, you can always contact the Guardian’s office, via phone: 8226 8570 or email: www.gcyp.sa.gov.au and Advocates will do their best to provide advice or advocacy.