Tahlia’s story: Having a voice in out-of-home care
Written by Lauren Cooper Kimberley Lamb
Tahlia is a 16-year-old young woman who likes to be in complete control of her world at all times. She is as strong, articulate and as sassy as they come. Tahlia is an incredible advocate not only for herself but for all young people in care. She can recite the Charter of Rights and is well across which services she needs to access if she feels these are being breached. Tahlia currently resides in a 1:1 placement. Tahlia enjoys her own space and will tell you that living with others is something that is really difficult for her. Tahlia is always working on a project to improve her house, and for the most part, will say this is because she wants the place to feel like a home for the next young person who lives there. Tahlia views the world as a place for her to conquer. She has goals and ambitions and is not afraid to speak up about what she thinks is right. Tahlia has dreams to work in an office and be part of an administration team or a receptionist.
Setting the Scene
Tahlia likes to manage all her appointments via calendar invites, the same way we do in the office. Tahlia has a reoccurring calendar invite that she accesses via her phone or laptop that tell her when her meeting will occur. Tahlia likes to hold her meeting in the office. She feels as though the setting is more formal this way. It also gives Tahlia a chance to say hello to everyone working in the office and touch base with them. We book out a meeting room with a whiteboard that we can use to write up our Agenda. Tahlia likes to sit close to the whiteboard, so she has a great view for minute taking. Before starting the meeting, Tahlia will always go into the office kitchen and make herself a cup of coffee or tea. I think this adds to the formality for Tahlia and has become a ritual for her.
Involving Tahlia in the Care Team
Tahlia likes to be in control of her own decision making and the running of her house, so it is no surprise that I, the therapeutic Specialist take a back seat when it comes to the facilitation of her involvement in the care team. At the start of each meeting, I ask Tahlia to run me through each of the topics she wishes to discuss. Sometimes this list is long, and other times, it is fairly short. After this, Tahlia asks other members of the group if they have anything they wish to discuss, and it is added to our Agenda, which is usually written up on a whiteboard. Our Agenda is displayed so everyone in the room can see this. Tahlia and I have worked out over time that this helps us stick to the important topics, rather than being distracted by other little things that may come up as part of our discussion.
Tahlia generally likes to take the minutes for her meetings and assists in running and keeping people to the Agenda. There are times where we may not always agree on the decisions made about one of our agenda items, and this can mean that Tahlia opts to take a time out. Sometimes our time outs last for a few minutes, and in other cases, they mean our time together for the day is over. Tahlia would say at this point that our meeting is no longer productive, and its best, we continue at another time. I generally will agree, and we set a date and time to reconvene. Tahlia always asks for a calendar invite to be sent confirming this.
Tahlia has been a part of the care system for a while and feels as though the inclusion of care team meetings have significantly increased her participation in decision making. When asked what she likes best about her care team meeting, Tahlia said “I like that it gives young people in care the opportunity to have a say in the decisions that are being made about their life. It allows the young person to build strong connections with their team and provides opportunities for discussion about any improvements, changes, goals or setbacks. I like that everyone can communicate and be on the same page”. Tahlia is also very passionate about services for young people being individualised. Tahlia said, “it is important that you are always asking young people how they want their meeting to run, where they would like their meeting, and how they would like to participate”.
Reflections on the role of Care Teams and the Participation of Young People
What do you notice in Tahlia’s story in terms of the role of Care Teams in supporting young people in residential care?
Some of the highlights include:
- Setting the Direction: The Care Team is responsible for setting the direction of a young person’s care, education and other supports, and in Tahlia’s story, she plays a leading role. The meetings provide a space for her to exercise and extend her agency in collaboration with her team.
- Team Approach: Care Team meetings require a team approach, and Tahlia is clear that this is one of the key benefits of this approach. It allows her to build connections with key people in her life and be “on the same page”.
- Listening with curiosity: Tahlia’s story reminds of that supporting the meaningful participation of young people in residential care is as much about listening to young people—who they are an individual, their needs and preferences—as it is about response and decision-making.
To learn more about what the research says about the benefits of youth participation in residential care check out our research brief: Enabling Young Peoples’ Participation in Residential Care.
Tahlia, Young Person and Advocate
Lauren Cooper, Therapeutic Specialist, Lifestyle Solutions
Kimberley Lamb, Therapeutic Specialist, Lifestyle Solutions