By Eliza Laschon.
West Australian children in state care say their concerns are not being addressed and they are not getting the help they need, a new report has revealed.
The report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People found children and young people in out-of-home-care fear not being believed, negative consequences and shame when speaking out about their problems.
Nearly 100 children and young people aged 8 to 24 were surveyed for the report, all of whom are currently living or have lived in out-of-home-care in WA.
The report asked those surveyed about the barriers they faced when they raised a concern or made a complaint, in an attempt to improve the care system.
But many reported that “nothing had been done” and “they felt they had not been listened to at all”.
“When we complain there’s been no response whatsoever. And some of the things we have asked for have got a response but they’ve taken a long time to respond to it. And some were just wiped off and not even looked at,” a 16-year-old girl who lives in family care said.
The problems included issues they had at school, with their placement and concerns for their future.
‘They always got angry if we spoke up’
Among the barriers that stopped some speaking out were fear of the consequences, being told not to, being unable to articulate their concern, fear of not being believed, shame and an imbalance of power.
“I was scared of what my foster carers would do because they always got angry if we spoke up about things. So I knew they would get angry and they’d say that we were lying. It would look like I’m the bad person,” a 15-year-old Aboriginal girl in foster care said.
Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit said having someone the young person trusted and who actions their concerns, was crucial to their safety and wellbeing.
“While many children and young people reported having strong, positive relationships with their case workers, many others did not,” Mr Pettit said.
“With more than 4,500 WA children and young people now under the care of the state, there is growing urgency to ensure we have highly effective systems to support and protect the welfare of this important group.”
Of those in care, 52 per cent are Aboriginal.
“Where children are listened to and have strong, stable relationships, particularly with case workers and carers, they end up having a very fruitful and productive life,” Mr Pettit said.
“But where that doesn’t happen … their personal development can be hindered if they don’t feel like they can be trusted or listened to.”
Andre May-Dessmann, 20, who went into state care at the age of 14 and is now a young consultant for CREATE Foundation, said it was crucial problems were acknowledged, even if they could not always be fixed.
“It doesn’t even necessarily have to be done, if there’s a legitimate reason of why it can’t be done, just relaying with the child and young person why,” Mr May-Dessmann said.
“Knowing that it couldn’t be done is just as good as getting stuff done … because then at least we know we’ve been heard.”
The participants identified a range of strategies that would help them speak out and access help.
In the report, the Department for Child Protection said the strategies would be explored to see how they could help shape a five-year reform plan that was launched in April.
The department has been contacted for comment.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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