Key Resource: Enabling Participation

Gathering and responding to input and feedback from the children we work with is key to making radically personalised care a reality.

One of the key ideas behind Parkerville Children and Youth Care’s ‘Our Way Home’ model is radically personalised care; giving each child the ability to shape their experience based on their particular needs, preferences, and aspirations.

We know that when children are able to make decisions about what happens to them and trust that the adults around them will respect those decisions, we’re helping to build the confidence and sense of identity they need to grow into healthy, independent adults.

To make radically personalised care a reality, we need to deliberately and regularly open up conversations with children about what they want their lives to be like, and ask them for feedback about what’s working and what they wish was different about their care experience. It’s important for carers and other members of the Parkerville team to feel confident gathering input and feedback from the children we work with and responding appropriately and sensitively, even if we can’t give a child exactly what they’ve asked for.

Levels of participation

In all of our lives, we contribute and respond to decision-making at different levels. Some decisions relate to us directly as individuals, and impact on our personal lives, our homes, and the way we live day-to-day; while other decisions are made at a collective level and have impacts on whole groups of people; for example, decisions about what happens in our local neighbourhood, school, or city.

Parkerville is committed to supporting the children we work with to participate in decisions that affect them at three levels: the child's own life, shared life in a group home, and how Parkerville delivers care across all homes.

Children should be able to contribute and give feedback both about what happens in their home and their daily routine, and about Parkerville’s service delivery more broadly.

When it comes to children in care participating in decision-making, it’s also worth keeping in mind that:

Encouraging participation

There are many ways for children to have input into decisions that affect them and their lives. We can think about these different options as a spectrum of participation, ranging from lighter involvement to direct control over decision-making processes. Moving as many decisions as possible upwards on this spectrum offers the child more control and empowers them to participate more actively in important decisions.

You can find guidance about how to establish and conduct meaningful conversations in different formats - such as dinner table conversations and one-on-one discussions - in the Enabling Participation Practice Guide.

Listening and taking action

Taking action on the basis of the input and feedback children share with us is crucially important, especially in a trauma-informed approach to care where our goal is to build trusting relationships.

Commit to specific actions: When asking for children’s input or gathering their feedback about a decision, be as specific as you can about concrete actions you’ll take and the timelines for those actions, so children know what they can expect from you.

Follow through on commitments: When you’ve committed to taking action, following through on your commitment is key to maintaining trust. If you’re not able to follow through for any reason, apologising explicitly and transparently sharing the reasons why is helpful.

Give regular updates: Children appreciate being kept informed about decision-making processes that affect them, and about how their input or feedback is impacting those processes. Keep those conversations open, and be as transparent as possible.

For more information about how to create participation opportunities, engage in meaningful conversation and take action based on what you hear, see the practice guide.

Enabling Participation Practice Guide

Practice Guide

Practice Guide

A how-to guide for the Parkerville team