As we navigate coming out of lockdown, too many Australian children are still in need of a place to call home: National Permanency Conference 2021

As we navigate coming out of lockdown, too many Australian children are still in need of a place to call home: National Permanency Conference 2021

On 13th and 14th of October the fifth Adopt Change National Permanency Conference #THRIVE2021 will seek solutions to the out of home care crisis by focusing on the eight key recommendations sent to government after last year’s conference. These recommendations include the importance of trauma-informed therapeutic services to be made available to all children in care and in all schools; support for carers on a national basis; preparing care leavers for a bright future; and listening to and acting on the advice of Aboriginal experts concerning Aboriginal children and young people in care.

Adopt Change is honoured and relieved the government and the sector are listening and the annual permanency conference is making a difference to the 46,000 children currently living in the out of home system, many of whom are moved from placement to placement, some residing in residential group homes for years and from a young age.

The Hon Michelle Landry says, “As the Federal Assistant Minister for Children and Families I can assure you that your recommendations paper from last year’s conference has helped our government to develop the new 10-year national framework for protecting Australia’s Children.”

Minister Landry will speak more to this new framework and the paper to be released in November this year at #THRIVE2021.

But there is more to achieve and this year is the first, since Adopt Change launched the National Permanency Conference in 2017, with support from all federal, state and territory governments.

We are also excited to welcome Shadow Minister for Families, The Hon Linda Burney MP; CEO of SNAICC Catherine Liddle; and the first Assistant Children’s Guardian for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, Richard Weston as speakers at this virtual conference.

International guests include trauma specialists Dr Bruce Perry and Dr Gabor Maté in live Q&A sessions. Paediatrician Dr Jane Aronson will look at the importance of relationships, and trans-racial adoptee April Dinwoodie will share her fascinating story. Dr Perry will also be in conversation with Adopt Change Founder Deborra-lee Furness to consider topics such as the link between children living in out of home care and a life of homelessness, substance abuse and incarceration.

In the session Deborra-lee Furness asks, ”A lot of our community from foster care, well they are full of traumatised kids, and then they’re re-traumatised. So what’s the exit plan? There surely has to be a healing plan?”

*To hear Dr Bruce Perry’s response click here.

Adopt Change CEO Renée Carter said, “In a year that has been difficult for so many, we are very mindful of what this is like for children who don’t have a stable and safe home. We are encouraged that with our conference, we are welcoming an incredibly strong line up of speakers to address this important topic, so that children and young people can thrive.

Importantly, this includes those with lived experience. They will be joined by global experts Dr Bruce Perry and Dr Gabor Maté; local government experts such as the CEO of SNAICC Catherine Liddle; and Community Services Ministers and government representatives from across Australia. We look forward to presenting the recommendations and outcomes to government after the conference, to continue to make positive change in the lives of children and young people across Australia.”

A rundown of the eight sessions of #THRIVE2021 representing the eight recommendations is as follows:

1.      ‘Unifying national child welfare and permanency’

Hosted by journalist and former ward of the state, Lanai Scarr, plenary 1 will feature international children’s trauma expert and author Dr Bruce Perry in conversation with Deborra-lee Furness, followed by a live Q&A with Bruce and Deborra-lee facilitated by Adopt Change CEO Renée Carter. Professor Paul Chandler; Minister Michelle Landry; and Branch Manager of Children’s Policy, Australian Government Department of Social Services, Tim Crosier will also present on this topic.

2.     ‘Integrating the voice of children and young people in decisions’

Hosted by Helen McCabe, plenary 2 is about listening to those who are in – or have recently left -the care system. It will feature trans-racial adoptee April Dinwoodie; National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds; Psychotherapist Danielle Schmid; Care Leaver Mentor Emily Backhouse with NSW Advocate for Children and Young People Zoe Robinson; and WA Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit.

3.     ‘Accessibility and timeliness of Permanency for children in care’

Hosted by Angela Bishop, plenary 3 will feature PCA Families Chair Margaret Carter who will give a sneak peek into research on the state of permanent care in Victoria; Yfoundations CEO Pam Barker who will consider homelessness as a bi-product of living in out-of-home care as a child; adoptive parent Michelle Roberts sharing her story through fostering to adoption. NSW Deputy Secretary at Department of Communities and Justice Simone Walker and NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Alister Henskens will also present on the need for timeliness of permanency solutions, as childhoods are fleeting.

4.     ‘Trauma-informed, therapeutic services to be made available for all children in care, and ensuring all schools are trauma informed’

Hosted by Joe Hildebrand, plenary 4 will feature Play Therapy Hub founder Helen Barrett, Professional Individualised Care CEO Jarrod Wheatley, Educate Change’s Stacy Blythe and Kaisey Hayes; Jonah Bobongie from Led by a Heartstring; and SA Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson. The need for trauma informed schools and services will also be discussed by our keynote speakers.

5.     ‘Community led child welfare’

Hosted by Dr Shellie Morris, plenary 5 will focus on the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to remain with kin and culture and that Community should lead the discussion. Speakers will include Minister Linda Burney, SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle who will introduce a new and invaluable initiative with Life Without Barriers Chief Executive Claire Robbs. The first Deputy Children’s Guardian for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Richard Weston will talk about increasing Community engagement to lead change; while Jeff Amatto from ‘More Cultural Rehab Less Jails’ will discuss why “mob staying with mob” is crucial.

6.     ‘Nationally supporting carers of children’

Hosted by cricket commentator and adoptee Lisa Sthalekar, plenary 6 will feature an interview between Lisa (also adopted from India) and Sue Brierley author of Lioness and mother to Saroo (Lion) and Mantosh; Chris Skinner will outline the MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY program; WA Minister for Child Protection The Hon Simone McGurk, Caretaker Specialist Child Protection Unit WA Mark Burgess; and Michelle Stacpoole from My Forever Family NSW will also present on the need to support our carers nationally.

7.      ‘Data and information sharing between services and departments’

Hosted by the ABC’s Louise Ransome, plenary 7 will feature Dr Jane Aronson presenting on what research shows us and how to put it into application; EY’s Mark Nixon and Kym Peake discussing the importance of sharing data between agencies, NT Minister for Territory Families The Hon Kate Worden; NT Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities Julieanne Davis, Tasmanian Minister for Children and Youth The Hon Sarah Courtney; and Principal Practice Manager, Children Youth and Families, Communities Tasmania Noel Fittock all discussing the importance of data sharing between services and departments.

8.     ‘Preparing for thriving care leavers’

Aptly hosted by Care Leaver Mentor Emily Hikaiti, plenary 8 will feature an impassioned plea from Home Stretch’s Paul McDonald to increase the age of care to 21. Also presenting will be ACT Minister for Health; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs; Children, Youth and Families The Hon Rachel Stephen-Smith; Simon Benn from Thriving Adoptees; Director Children, Families, Fairness and Housing Victoria Shane D Wilson; and Bernie Shakeshaft from Backtrack Youth

Works in Armidale and Zac Craig who has completed the program, will chat to Emily about how the program saves lives.

Breakout sessions on both days of the conference will: outline the work of The Department of Communities and Justice; discuss infant placement in out of home care; share the journey to accreditation as an out of home care adoption agency; give information on the OurSPACE program; discuss better placement matches; and discover telepractice in family work study.

While live National Roundtables will give delegates the opportunity to contribute to the discussion and help create solutions.

*An excerpt from Dr Bruce Perry in conversation with Deborra-lee Furness is available at the asterisk for review. The pair discuss how and why young people growing up in out of home care have a far greater chance of experiencing incarceration than those who do not.

For further information on #THRIVE2021 please click here

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Susie Riddell  0434 729 230