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Jul 09, 2024

Assignment Task

Case Studies

You are a youth worker attached to a local secondary college. Stephanie who is 18 years old comes to talk to you about recent events that have upset her. You know that Stephanie is doing ok academically despite having a minor learning difficulty. Stephanie`s life at home is difficult. Her parents are divorced, and her father has little involvement with her or her two brothers. She doesn`t get along well with her mother. He mother works full-time.

Stephanie tells you that she recently started a relationship with Zac who is one year younger than she is. A few weeks ago, she sent Zac some pictures of herself topless. Then over the weekend, she went to a party and Zac and his friends were there. She said that she had too much alcohol to drink. Zac took her outside with some of his friends and engaged in an intimate act with her while his friends filmed them. Stephanie is embarrassed and upset because the video has been sent around the school. She says Zac loves her and she loves him, and she still wants to be in a relationship with him. She firmly tells you that she doesn`t want her mother to know any of what she has told you.

Unit Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate knowledge about approaches to working with young people and their families.

2. Identify factors that increase vulnerability in young people and their families.

3. Evaluate current government policies of working with young people.

4. Critically analyse policies and practices around risk assessment and risk management of young people.

5. Identify ethical dilemmas involved in working with young people and their families.

1. Define ‘young people’

  • The UNCRC defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen.
  • The Youth Justice system in Victoria defines youth as 10 – 17 years old.
  • Services define young people differently e.g., many mental health services provide a service to 12 – 25 year olds. Other services only go up to the age of 18 years, or 21 years.

Tutorial Activity 1 - Discuss

  • Read the short reading: Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19
  • Discuss the ways in which COVID-19 is a wicked problem.
  • Discuss what might this mean for community services work, and working with young people and their families?

Tutorial Activity 2 - Discuss

  • Read the five characteristics of contemporary youth work presented by Cooper (2018)
  • Break into small groups and discuss what these characteristics might mean, 
  • Feedback your ideas to the class.

Who are families with multiple and complex needs?

  • They are often single parent families
  • Parents often have their own personal histories of trauma and adversity
  • They are often socially isolated
  • They often have limited opportunity to participate in positive social relationships
  • They often live in rural and remote areas

What is the impact on children and young people?

When parents have multiple and complex needs:

  • They may be preoccupied by their attempts to deal with their problems and the stresses in their lives
  • They may be unable to give their children the attention they need
  • They may be unresponsive, preoccupied, and neglectful
  • Or punitive and/or abusive
  • If parents feel constantly under stress, family relationships may become conflictual.

How is theory relevant?

  • Good practice is informed by evidence.
  • We talk about evidence informed practice (rather than evidence based practice)
  • Most evidence informed practice is informed by theory
  • Theory helps practitioners think about how they work with individuals and families and why they work in a particular way.

What is trauma-informed practice?

  • Workers and services have an awareness and sensitivity to the way in which clients’ presentation and service needs can be understood in the context of their trauma history
  • Without this understanding workers and services risk re-traumatising clients
  • Trauma-informed practice means aiming to do no further harm through re-traumatising individuals.
  • Workers and services acknowledge that ‘business as usual’ might be an inadvertent trigger for exacerbating trauma symptoms
  • A trauma-informed approach must move past cultural stereotypes and biases.
  • Responding to the cultural needs of clients means also recognizing collective and intergenerational trauma.
  • Trauma-informed practice might be described as being strength-based

What is the national vision and policy direction

  • the aim of The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009 – 2020 is that Australia’s children and young people are safe and well
  • To achieve this high-level goal, the National Framework highlights the importance of address the multiple and complex problems that are most commonly associated with poor outcomes for children and young people.
  • domestic violence
  • parental alcohol and drug abuse parental mental health problems and
  • poverty and social isolation
  • unstable family accommodation and homelessness
  • poor child and maternal health
  • childhood disability, mental health and/or behavioural problems
  • young people disconnected from their families, schools and communities
  • past experiences of trauma

The public health model

Enshrined in the National Framework is the public health approach to increasing children and young people’s safety and wellbeing.

  • Primary/universal services for all families (i.e., maternal and child health care services and schools)
  • Secondary services for vulnerable ‘at risk’ families (i.e., family support services and drug and alcohol services)
  • Tertiary services for children and young people who have experienced significant harm (i.e., child protection services and youth justice services).

1. What are statutory child protection systems set up for?

To protect children and young people from abuse and neglect.

What do we mean by child abuse and neglect?

The commonly regarded five subtypes of child abuse and neglect are:

1. Physical abuse

2. Sexual abuse

3. Emotional abuse

4. Neglect

5. Exposure to family violence

Case Study

Cultural Difference/Physical discipline “A few parents might beat the children, especially if they don’t do well at school… Discipline is a grey area because you know that’s how they’ve been brought up. But you know, it’s normal for them.” (Migrant Resource Centre’s, 2009, Afghan People in South East Melbourne, p 28)

Case study - you are a child protection worker working with a Sudanese family and become aware that the father has beaten his son because he hasn’t done well at school. The 14-year-old son has visible welt marks and bruises on his arms. Is this child abuse or cultural difference? How do you understand and respond to this case?

2. What legislation underpins statutory child protection activity?

Each Australian state and territory have their own child protection system and related legislation e.g.,

  • Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT)
  • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW)
  • Child Protection Act 1999 (Queensland)
  • Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Victoria)
  • Children and Community Services Act 2004 (Western Australia)

What is out-of-home care?

  • Out of home care (OOHC) is statutory care of children and young people who are unable to live with their parents.
  • Generally placement of children within the OOHC system is viewed as a last resort – when all efforts to ensure the child or young person’s safety with the home environment have failed.

Why might a young person be placed in OOHC?

A young person under the age of 16, 17 or 18 (it depends on the jurisdiction) may be placed in OOHC if he/she:

  • has been, or is likely to be abused or neglected and does not have a parent who has, or is likely to protect them
  • parent/adolescent conflict and no adult who is or who is likely to protect them
  • placement breakdown
  • homelessness/no effective guardian (usually under the aged of 16 years).

What is OOHC like?

Many children and young people in OOHC experience:

  • Placement instability
  • School instability
  • Separation from siblings
  • Separation from community
  • Placement with other children who have complex and high support needs.

Are some populations over-represented in OOHC?

AIHW (2019) data show that in 2017-18:

  • In major cities, Indigenous children (72.7 per 1,000 children) were almost 17 times as likely as non-Indigenous children (4.4 per 1,000) to be OOHC at 30 June 2018 (Figure 5.3).
  • In remote/very remote areas combined, Indigenous children were 9 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in OOHC.

What happens to young people after young people leave OOHC?

Out-of-home care placements officially end when a young person turns 18 years (or earlier)

According to Swinburne University, 63% of homeless youth have a state care history.

According to the Home Stretch Program, within the first 12 months after leaving care:

  • 35% had five or more places of stay
  • 29% were unemployed
  • 28% were already parents
  • 46% of males and 22% of females were involved in the youth justice system

What is the purpose of the youth justice system?

According to the Victorian Youth Justice system’s website, the purpose of the Youth Justice system is to:

  • where appropriate, support diversion of young people charged with an offence from the criminal justice system
  • minimise the likelihood of reoffending and further progression into the criminal justice system through supervision that challenges offending behaviours and related attitudes and promotes pro-social behaviours 
  • provide supervision and rehabilitation through the provision of case management and other services to assist young people address offending behaviour and support successful reintegration into the community
  • work with other services to strengthen community-based options for young people enabling an integrated approach to the provision of support that extends beyond the court order
  • engender public support and confidence in the Youth Justice Service.

What legislation underpins the youth justice system?

  • Each state and territory has its own youth justice legislation.
  • E.g., in Victoria the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 underpins the youth justice system (the same legislation that underpins statutory child protection services).
  • However these two areas of legislative power occupy two very distinct and separate parts of the CYFA 2005.
  • Decisions made about children and young people’s safety and wellbeing are made within the Family Division of the Children’s Court
  • Decisions made about alleged offending occur in the criminal division of the Children’s Court.

What types of young people become involved in the youth justice system?

There is a strong correlation between young people’s involvement in crime and rates of reported neglect or abuse.

Research indicates that children and young people who break the law are likely to have a history of abuse or neglect, and to have been placed in out-of-home care.

Indigenous young people are significantly over-represented in all Australian youth justice systems.

AIHW (2016) data reveals:

  • Young people in the child protection system were 14 times as likely as the general population to be under youth justice supervision in the same year
  • Young people under youth justice supervision were 15 times as likely as the general population to be in the child protection system in the same year.
  • Indigenous young people in the child protection system were more than twice as likely to be under youth justice supervision as non-Indigenous young people in the child protection system (10.4% compared with 4.3%).
  • Young males in the child protection system were more than 2 times as likely as females to have youth justice supervision during the year (7.9% compared with 3.2%).

What are some emerging youth justice issues?

Problem sexual behaviours and sexually abusive behaviours in children and young people.

  • Studies suggest that 30 – 60% of childhood sexual abuse is carried out by children and young people towards other children and young people.
  • Such abuse often involves an older child or young person coercing or forcing a child who is younger, smaller or where there are marked developmental differences (e.g. if the victim child has a disability) into sexual activity.
  • It is important to be mindful about the terminology we use to describe child sexual abuse that is perpetrated by children and young people.
  • The language and terminology that policy makers, practitioners and researcher use is changeable.
  • On the one hand – it is important not to demonise the children and young people engaging in the abusive behaviour by calling them perpetrators or sex offenders. Labeling young people who are still growing and developing may shame them and may deter them and their families from engaging with treatment and support.

What do we mean by young people’s rights?

Children and young people have:

  • Best interest rights and
  • Autonomy rights

How might culture impact on views about young people’s rights?

There can be cultural differences regarding views about rights – e.g., to do with:

  • physical chastisement/punishment
  • expression of views
  • participation in decisions that effect young people’s lives
  • freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • freedom of association

Why is it important for young people to participate and have a ‘voice’?

  • There is official and widespread recognition of children and young people’s right to participation in decisions and policies that impact their lives.
  • Taking children and young people’s views into account is valued in many countries. Sometimes there is a policy commitment to it. Sometimes children and young people’s participation is mandated by law.
  • It fulfills the legal responsibilities required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – article 12 – “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
  • It fulfills the requirements of State and Territory Child Protection legislation that consideration and weight be given to a child’s view and wishes.

What are the challenges associated with giving young people a ‘voice’

  • There can be cultural barriers.
  • Practitioners, like many adults, often don’t recognize young people’s capacities.
  • They can underestimate what young people can do, what they know, and what they understand.
  • They can fail to create an environment which enables young people to articulate their views.
  • It can be difficult to know what it means to give a young person’s voice “due weight … according to the age and maturity of the child” (UNCROC).
  • In other words - how much weight should be placed on what a child or young person says they want, if what they want is not considered to be in their best interests?
  • This dilemma might be described as balancing a young person’s autonomy rights against their best interests rights.

How can we balance a young person’s autonomy rights with their best interest rights?

We must know our legal obligations (in our state or territory).

  • Mandatory reporting legislation
  • Failure to disclose and failure to protect legislation (in some States and Territories)
  • Age of consent laws (from last week’s lecture)
  • Telecommunications offences e.g., sexting (from last week’s lecture) (Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995)

What are some of the key principles of effective engagement and communication with young people and their parents.

  • Adopting the ‘whole of family approach’
  • Being strength focused
  • Working collaboratively with other services

How is engagement influenced by whether clients are voluntary or involuntary?

The distinction between voluntary and involuntary clients might be best viewed on a continuum.

On the one end of the continuum, there are those clients who are obviously voluntary e.g.,

  • a couple who seek relationship counseling because they both want to work on their relationship,
  • an alcoholic who attends alcoholics anonymous because he wants to bring about some positive change in his life.

What are some strategies for engaging with young people and families who are involuntary?

Whether clients are voluntary or involuntary it is important to:

  • have a whole of family approach to practice,
  • be strength focused,
  • involve and work collaboratively with other services.

The question of whether to challenge or not to challenge?

The task of challenging clients can be daunting:

  • If there is the concern that they might not like you any more
  • If there is the concern that by challenging them may become disengaged and alienated from services
  • If the young person or parents present as uncooperative or antagonistic and challenging causes them to act aggressively toward the worker.

How do we approach the key assessment and intervention phases of working with young people and their families?

In order to guide our thinking about the steps to go through as we work with young people and families I will refer to the following practice guides:

  • Miller, R. (2012) Best Interests Case Practice Model: Summary Guide. Department of Human Services
  • Robinson, E. & Miller, R., (2012) Adolescents and their families: Best interests case practice model specialist practice resource. Department of Human Services
  • Note: Although all state and territory departments have their own practice guides and models, the key elements presented in this model are common to all Australian jurisdictions.

Information gathering
(asking questions, listening, observing, and thinking)

Where ever possible (confidentially permitting) information gathering should occur from multiple sources and perspectives:

  • the young person
  • the parents
  • extended family members
  • the school
  • any other professionals who know the young person and/or family).

Analysis and assessment
(discussing, listening, and thinking)

After we have gathered information (asking questions and observing), comes analysis.

We consider what the information means ...

  • What does it mean for the young person?
  • What does it mean for their safety and wellbeing?
  • What is the experience of the child or young person?
  • What is the experience of the other family members?
  • What does the evidence tell us?
  • What is the assessment of other professionals?
  • What is the assessment/views/recommendations of specialist services? (e.g., If the young person and family are Aboriginal, or from another culturally and linguistically diverse background, then it is essential to consult with someone from that community, a migrant resource centre, or someone who has some specialized knowledge about that particular cultural group)
  • What are the risks?
  • What are the needs?

What is reflective practice, and why is it important when working with young people and their families?

  • Reflective practice is the act of examining our own professional and personal responses in relation to situations encountered in the field, in the office, in every aspect of the work we do.
  • It is where we ask ourselves “has it worked”, “have I, have we done a good job”?
  • Reflective practice should be something we exercise constantly – not just at the end of a prescribed process where we review outcomes.

What is risk?


  • is a difficult concept to define.
  • is not an objective reality.
  • is not observable or tangible.
  • is a concept, a way of thinking, an idea.
  • exists in social settings.
  • ideas about risk influence the way in which we imagine problems and deal with them.
  • is a way of thinking.

What is risk assessment?

It is a method of determining the likelihood and severity of a particular (usually negative) event occurring.

There are three main methods of undertaking a risk assessment:

1. Actuarial risk assessment

2. Professional judgment

3. Combined approach

What is risk management?

  • Risk management is in practice linked to risk assessment.
  • Risk management, unlike assessment, involves decisions about what is to be done.
  • Actions are taken to reduce risk.
  • Resources are allocated to minimize, reduce, monitor and control/manage risk.
  • Risks are managed to the achievement of a particular objective i.e.,
  • in child protection this is child safety,
  • in mental health it is the safety of the patient and others,
  • in criminal justice it is the safety of the community
  • in family violence it is the safety of the victim, family and community.

What are some examples of risk assessment and risk management activities when working with young people and families?

  • Family violence risk assessment
  • Suicide risk assessment

Family violence risk assessment

  • In Victoria, the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework is known as the Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF).
  • The CRAF helps practitioners from a wide range of fields understand and identify risk factors associated with family violence and respond consistently.
  • The CRAF is currently being replaced by the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM).

Youth suicide

  • Youth suicide affects families every day in Australia. It is the leading cause of death among young people. In 2017, around 400 young people aged 15–24 died by suicide. Research shows that in this age group, for every one suicide there are approximately 100–200 suicide attempts.
  • Although these numbers are alarming, the good news is that youth suicide is mostly preventable. Anyone, not just mental health professionals, can provide emotional and practical support to a young person experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Warning signs (risk factors) of youth suicide

It is not always possible to know when someone is thinking about suicide but some of the possible warning signs include:

  • talking or writing about death or about feeling trapped with no way out
  • feeling hopeless and withdrawing from family, friends and the community
  • increasing drug and alcohol use
  • giving away personal possessions
  • doing dangerous, life-threatening things
  • having delusions or hallucinations
  • regularly self-harming
  • significant change in mood.

Case Study

Jack is a 17-year-old young man from rural Victoria who has recently moved to live with extended family in Melbourne after a history of instability and trauma suffered in his family and hometown. He presents with symptoms of depression and anxiety. He is a daily user of cannabis and sometimes uses methamphetamines on the weekend. He has never lived in an urban environment and he is struggling to make friends at his new school. A few days ago Jack rode his bike while drug affected, and without a helmet, and crashed the bike. He sustained bruising and some broken bones.

  • Consider Jacks level of risk of suicide and/or self-harming behaviours
  • Consider appropriate interventions and referrals.
  • Consider how you might balance obtaining information about risk, supporting Jack, and intervening to build safety.
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