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Belinda

Belinda Wainwright

Year of Award: 2014 Award State: Western Australia Education > General
Social Welfare > Children Care And Protection
Social Welfare > Indigenous
The Department for Child Protection and Family Support Churchill Fellowship to explore opportunities for improving education attainment for children with an out of home care experience, especially for Aboriginal children - Canada, USA
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About Belinda

In 2017 Belinda Wainwright travelled to sites in Canada and America to explore initiatives to enhance and improve educational outcomes for Children with an Out-of-Home care experience. Belinda focused particularly on gaining an enhanced understanding of promoting outcomes for Aboriginal students, who already experience significantly poorer education outcomes irrespective of care status. 

 

As well as exploring innovations, she aimed to identify barriers to successful education experiences for Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) children in care. Belinda returned with a range of strategies and innovations to improve a child’s ability to tap into and achieve their potential. These include support programs, initiatives for preparing children for and guiding students through post-secondary education, programs with a strong sense of cultural focus and safety, child advocacy / engagement programs, as well as training initiatives for carers, child protection staff and educators. 

 

In her current role as District Director (Murchison District) for the Department of Communities - Child Protection & Family Support, she is conducting trials on these initiatives and focussed on implementing systems to ensure collaborative education planning that includes the child; cooperative funding in schools for additional assistance for targeted children; enhanced training for local schools on trauma informed practices; and culturally safe practice in liaison with carers, children and schools to achieve best outcomes. 

 

Belinda will soon be embarking on youth forums – or ‘listening tours’ for children to express their views about their care (inclusive of outcomes areas such as education), which will also include engagement with the Commissioner for Children and Youth

 

 

Report Excerpt

 

Appropriate access to and engagement of children and young people currently in out-of-home care or with a care experience is a key focus of many systems and countries globally. Whilst innovation in this area is growing in scope and scale, this cohort of children remains one of most vulnerable to poor educational outcomes and, anecdotally, they are underrepresented in both high school graduation rates and of those engaging in post-secondary studies. There is also wide-ranging acknowledgement of the alarming gaps between the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students when compared to their non-Aboriginal peers. This project aims to explore innovations and successful strategies in the provision of education and educational support to children with an out-of-home care experience, particularly Aboriginal students, as well as to understand the barriers and challenges inherent in addressing this issue.

 

A sincere highlight of undertaking this project was the variety of people I encountered who are passionate about supporting children who have an out-of-home care experience and who are sincerely invested in trying to ensure positive outcomes for them. Interviews and meetings were undertaken with professionals from statutory Child Protection agencies, specialist schools, government Education agencies, Community/Non-Government support organisations, Charitable Foundations, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, young people with care experience, Foster Care Groups, University staff/programs and Advocacy agencies.

 

Of interest, there were far more similarities than differences identified in the challenges and barriers experienced in provision of quality education and, in fact, child protection services to children with a care experience across jurisdictions. There were also similar “population” trends, for instance the over-representation in Child Protection involvement of groups considered to be of a minority in population, and these trends were reasonably consistent across all areas visited.

 

One of the challenges of this project was the varied way in which both Child Protection and Education services are structures, provided and governed across jurisdictions and agencies. In addition the complexities involved in how services and funding is provided in First Nations “Reserves” including their schools makes comparison of rural/remote education for Aboriginal students vs. those residing in urban areas difficult.

 

Conclusions & Recommendations:

 

I identified across most areas of my travel that it is largely the humanistic factors that are driving success in the area of Educational Support for children with a care experience. That said, there are a number key themes identified and innovative programs explored in this report that also evidence solid systemic approach to improving outcomes for children and young people in this cohort of vulnerable population. The innovations explored include support programs, initiatives for preparing children for and guiding students through post-secondary education, programs with a strong sense of cultural focus and safety, child advocacy/engagement programs, as well as training initiatives for carers, child protection staff and educators.

 

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