Making Kids Central

Making Kids Central

31 July 2014
Making Kids Central

ACU has developed a toolkit to help homelessness (and other adult-focussed) services working with children to develop more child-centred approaches.

In 2007, the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University conducted a study that looked at the experiences of children and young people who accompanied their parents during periods of homelessness. We found that:

  • It is vital to connect with children and young people in their own right, engage with them as individuals, and listen to and acknowledge their stories. Children and young people may also need support to be able to talk with parents about what is happening for them, and to maintain and strengthen relationships during periods of stress
  • Children and young people need information about the events and processes affecting their lives, but this should be given in a way that recognises a young person’s developmental and emotional needs, their personality and their wishes.
  • Children from families experiencing homelessness often experience problems at school, with their health, and making and retaining friends.
  • Some of the factors that are recognised as ‘pathways’ into family homelessness - such as parental drug and alcohol use, family violence and parental mental-health issues - make children more at risk during periods of homelessness. High priority should be given to supporting parents to deal with the issues contributing to their homelessness.
  • Services should have detailed and up-to-date knowledge of other relevant programs and supports, and any referrals of young people to these services need to be well supported and coordinated and take place as early as possible in the life of a problem.
  • The effects of homelessness on children often persist beyond the periods of homelessness. High levels of change and insecurity in the child’s life make it important that support for the young person is sustained beyond the crisis period, and preferably provided through continuing contact.
  • Much of the fear and distress that homeless children and young people face relate to the insecure and sometimes unsafe nature of their temporary housing. Safe, secure and stable accommodation must be made available as early in the homelessness cycle as possible.

To help homelessness (and other adult-focussed) services working with children to develop more child-centred approaches we put together a toolkit that is based around six key principles:

  1. Children and young people’s safety and wellbeing are of primary importance.
  2. Children are individuals with unique needs and wishes.
  3. Because children are usually best supported within their family, every effort should be made to assist families to support their children.
  4. Environments surrounding children need to be child-friendly and provide them with opportunities to develop and grow.
  5. Children need to be provided with information and given opportunities to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
  6. The best outcomes are often achieved in partnership with others who can assist children and families in an ongoing way.

The toolkit includes key messages from our research, messages from children and young people who informed the development of the kit, tools for engaging with children and families on sensitive issues, “pulse checks” to help organisations to assess their level of child-centredness, and case studies to help build reflective practice.  

The Kids Central Toolkit is available online.  

To help services use Kids Central, a two-day training program is available where participants can learn more about the theory behind the kit, develop their skills in engaging children and trial the use of tools in practice.  

Further reading

You may also be interested in reading the recently-published CFCA paper, The good practice guide to Child Aware Approaches: Keeping children safe and well.

The feature image is by Rebecca Wong/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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Tim Moore

Dr Tim Moore is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University. For the past three years, Tim and his colleagues have spent time with children and young people conducting research for the Royal Commission that focuses on how to create child-informed responses to children’s safety concerns, including - but not limited to - child sexual abuse. As a former youth worker, Tim is committed to conducting research that influences practice, drawing on the lived experiences of children and young people most affected by policy and practice.

Debbie Noble-Carr

Research Fellow, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University.

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