Poll: Participation

We heard Emily Delap speak about the importance of participation of children and young people in decision making.

We asked you to take part in a poll which will help us understand what you think about participation of children and young people in decisions about their care. Please note, the wording of this poll is written only in English.

Voting in the poll has now closed. Read further for Chrissie’s analysis of the poll results.

From the scenarios listed below, you were asked to pick the two you think best illustrate good practice for the participation of children and young people:

  • Peter is a 15-year-old boy who has been living with a foster family for 8 years. Although a social worker visits the foster family home every six months, it is very often a different social worker each time. The social workers talk to the foster parents and asks them many questions. The social worker does not usually spend more than 10 minutes talking to Peter.

  • Aaden is a 16-year old refugee now living in Germany. He arrived there alone. The social work department have provided Aaden with alternative care services and he lives in a small group home. A care worker is working with Aaden to develop a care plan for his stay in care and for the time when he will be old enough to leave care. Aaden cannot speak any German so his care worker makes sure there is always an interpreter available when he meets Aaden to discuss his care plans. Aaden has been told about different possibilities and entitlements. They discuss all the things that are important to him and what he wants to achieve whilst he is in care and when he leaves care so they can be included in his care plans.

  • Marguerite is 8 years old and lives in a small rural village in Ukraine. She has been sent there by social services to live with her grandmother because her parents have emigrated to another country for work. She does not attend the local school and she is very unhappy. The local mayor has visited her grandmother and met Marguerite. He is trying to get her into the local school.

  • Anna is a 7-year-old girl who has been living in a large residential institution for 3 years. She has moderate learning difficulties and a speech impediment. A social worker is working closely with Anna and her family but Anna’s mother is still unable to take care of her. There is a possibility Anna could be moved into foster care. Anna likes to draw. The social worker visits Anna regularly and is using art as a way of communicating with Anna to help her understand the choices she has about her care and to find out more about her wishes and needs.

  • Chen is 6 years old and living in a boarding school. He only gets to see his parents a few times a year. He was sent to the boarding school when he was 5 years old. There is a system in the boarding school where children can write down their complaints about the school and put them in a box by the school gate.

  • Nubia is 10 years old and lives with her parents in a big city. Because her father is ill and cannot work and they can no longer afford to send Nubia to school, other members of her extended family think she should be sent to live in a local home for poor children. Nubia’s parents ask a social worker to get involved. Nubia’s parents meet with the social worker and discuss the different possibilities for her care. Nubia is then told about the different options and asked what she wants to do. Nubia says she wants to stay with her parents. However, her parents and the social worker finally make a decision that Nubia would be better off going to live with a rich relative.

  • Emilio is 6 years old and has been living with a foster family for 3 months. Emilio’s mother has died and his father was not been able to cope. His father visits Emilio every week. This week there will be a meeting to decide whether Emilio’s father is able to start taking care of Emilio again. In preparation, the foster carers, with the support of a children’s psychosocial specialist and social worker, have been spending a lot of time with Emilio. They have been using different means including play, drawing, and carefully talking to him so they can understand what makes Emilio happy or sad, how he feels about his father and, whether he would like to go back and live with him or stay a bit longer in his foster placement.

Chrissie’s analysis of the poll results.

In the poll, the two cases that received the largest number of your votes were those of Aden and Emilio. You correctly recognised that people around Aden and Emilio are taking the time to support their participation in different and most suitable ways for each of them. Noella from Spain echoed what many of you wrote – that these two cases are examples ‘ of active participation of children’. Noella said that Aden and Emilio had been provided information to help them make decisions, they were being listened to and their feelings and choices were being considered. Paras from India wrote ‘ finally I chose Emilio as the foster carers are taking extra effort to know his views and in the family reintegration process both sides were being considered - the fathers capacity to take care of Emilio and Emilio’s willingness’. Hussein from Somaliland also recognised how the case workers were taking the time to consult with and listen to the two boys as well as providing them with information so they could make informed decisions. Hussein saw the effort being made to support Aden and Emilio’s participation. These two cases show how important it is to not only take the time necessary to listen to children but also to understand and seriously take their views and wishes into account. It also illustrates how it might need a group of different people around the child to help support this process.

The case that received the next largest number of votes was Anna’s. I think perhaps some of you may not have voted in the actual poll as many also chose Anna in the comments board in Step 3.10. In your comments some of you said you had difficulty choosing between Anna and Emilio and this may be because the type of participation was different. Juliet from Jamaica wrote about Anna ‘s social worker showing ‘care and concern as well as love and patience’ and how she ‘even tried creativity to allow her to become part of the decision making’. This case shows how important it is to support the participation of children who may need additional support if perhaps they are younger or have a disability for example, and that it is possible to find creative ways to make sure these children are not just heard but their views are taken seriously.

You recognised that in all the other cases, very little or no effort is being made to support the children to participate in decisions about their care. In the case of Nubia for example, although she was finally asked about her wishes, they do not seem to have been taken seriously and she had not been involved in the longer decision making process. Chen may be able to write his concerns down but then he his has to put them in a box. This is very impersonal and indicates that no-one is taking the time and effort to actually sit and listen to Chen and explore his concerns and wishes with him in a safe and caring environment. Peter’s situation is also very difficult as he is unable to build a relationship with any social worker and when his is visited they only spend 10 minutes with him. Marguerite is very unhappy but we do not see anyone trying to explore that unhappiness with her or listen to any her wider concerns and wishes.

Thank you so much for taking part in this poll and for the very interesting discussion you had on the comments board. I hope you found the poll interesting and I certainly enjoyed reading your different opinions and ideas about full and meaningful participation.

Child (age) % of votes
Peter (15) 1%
Aaden (16) 40%
Marguerite (8) 1%
Anna (7) 18%
Chen (6) 1%
Nubia (10) 3%
Emilio (6) 36%

All responses are anonymous and the results will not be used outside of the course. This poll is managed by CELCIS at the University of Strathclyde.

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This article is from the free online course:

Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

University of Strathclyde