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What makes children & young people safe and FEEL safe?

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Tim Moore

on 23 August 2016

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Transcript of What makes children & young people safe and FEEL safe?

How can you assess safety?
Safety is not only about
being safe
but also about
feeling safe
What makes children & young people safe and FEEL safe?
Assessing Risk
What can you see?
How are you responding and how are others?
How am I responding?
How are other people responding?
What have you heard and learned?
How confident are you - in yourself, in others, in things to protect you?
What have you experienced and what does that tell you?

On Friday 11 January 2013, the Governor-General appointed a six-member Royal Commission to inquire into how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission is tasked with investigating where systems have failed to protect children, and making recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in institutions.

The Royal Commission has developed a comprehensive research program to support its work and to inform its findings and recommendations. The program focuses on eight themes:

• Why does child sexual abuse occur in institutions?
• How can child sexual abuse in institutions be prevented?
• How can child sexual abuse be better identified?
• How should institutions respond where child sexual abuse has occurred?
• How should government and statutory authorities respond?
• What are the treatment and support needs of victims/survivors and their families?
• What is the history of particular institutions of interest?
• How do we ensure the Royal Commission has a positive impact?

The Royal Commission and Its Research Agenda
You should do something to get kids attention - make them want to get involved... Play some music, come in riding a unicorn... Surprise them... Make sure they know that you can be trusted... It might be something that makes them feel uncomfortable - like what you're talking to them about - so you have make them feel alright, trust you, feel relaxed, know what they're going to do and that
Why is it important to talk to kids?
‘Lots of adults don’t care enough about kids and this stuff is going to keep happening. Until they see us as having good ideas and believe us [when things go wrong] nothing will change.’ (MX-2)
‘I think that adults think they know what kids need to be safe but I don’t think that they do. They base it on what they remember from when they were kids and the world is different now. So they need to talk to kids and find out what it means to them.’ (YP-1)
Because they could be getting hurt (CH-2)
‘The world is unsafe for most kids, well that’s how they feel anyway. So if you’re going to make it safe you’ve got to make them feel OK... You have to ask them what worries them and fix that.’ (MX-2)
‘Every school should do what we just did... Talk about what risks there are and if it’s a big risk and what’s been done and what we think should be done. How else can they find out what young adults think and how can we hear what’s been done?’ (YP-3)
They told us:
Make sure you get [children and young people's] attention. Do something surprising like come in carrying a boom box...
dancing to music
or ride in on a unicorn
or throw around a footy
... It might be hard for them to talk about this stuff straight away so
they have to relax and get to know you first
Important messages from children and young people for the Royal Commission
Most adults are doing well
‘Tell them that adults are doing a pretty good job and that most of the time we’re safe.’ (YP-3)
‘Thank the good teachers – it means a lot to us when they listen to us and do stuff when we tell them things are bad.’ (YP-2)
‘They need to make time for kids – to be there for their kids. Like that’s how my mum found out – that she needed to spend time checking in with each of us every day. She might be tired as anything but we all get that time sitting next to them, even if you’re just on the phone sitting with them. That’s what kids want and if you’ve got two parents they can do it. It’s a lot easier. Because that’s what we want: time with you. Time to be with you and talk to you and that has to be a priority, to accommodate them.’ (YP-3)
Things aren’t as bad as many adults believe
‘Tell them that it’s not as bad as they think. Tell them that we can look after ourselves …most of the time.’ (MX-1)
‘I think [adults] over-think too much. They always think about the bad stuff and when they think about when they were young they only think about the bad stuff not how they were always safe... And they see stuff on the news, and it’s all about the bad stuff and they get over-protective.’ (YP-1)
The news might become more child-friendly
‘I think these days they advertise it a lot, how bad things, all the bad things that can happen and get it into people’s heads and because of that we think that things are worse than it really is.’ (YP-1)
‘When adults freak out, kids stop wanting to talk about things that are worrying them. [Adults] have to get the risk but do things that will make things better.’ (MX-2)
Of course we want to talk about this stuff. It's important! (CH-1)
What does safety and being unsafe mean to you?
Kids are all worried about adults these days – that every adult is going to be a paedophile or is going to throw them in the back of a white van... Like Stranger Danger… That means that kids don’t trust adults anymore and they won’t have anyone to go and get help from if something’s wrong or if they’ve been abused or something. How does that make them safer? I think they feel less safe because adults have tried to make them safer. Do you know what I mean? (FG-6)
“[Kids who are safe] have a smile”, “they might be laughing”, “maybe if they were peaceful”, “I’ve got two: they’d feel like happy and sometimes with different people they can feel silly, they can be themselves” (FG-1)
“I picked sad and sleepy because sometimes when you feel unsafe you just want to go away from everything because you don’t feel safe, you just want to shut out the world”… “You scrunch yourself up, make yourself small” (FG-1)

Hope someone will come and rescue me
People who stop others from hurting you
People you know & trust
Teachers, Police Doctors Firefighters
People who hurt you
Adults who use their power against you
People who you don't know
Adults who don't act like adults
People who make you feel weird
Relaxed Content Smiling Looked after
What does safety mean?
What we heard
“I don’t feel safe at SeaWorld: I don’t like people, I don’t like bears, I don’t like animals, … I hate the zoo and I’m worried the tiger will get out of it’s cage and it will attack me and I will die and someone will film it and it will be on youtube”;
Knowledge – knowing what is being done if something dangerous has happened. Like if there are strangers in the area knowing what your teachers and adults are doing makes you feel more safe rather than just knowing something bad is happening and worrying that you’re in danger.. But adults don’t always understand this. They think they should hide that stuff from kids to keep them safe but you feel more scared if you don’t know what’s happening.
“I feel safe when I’m with my nan: because she cares for me and hugs me and has good advice for me” (MX-1)
“I have a taste that I relate to safe: peanut butter and hot chocolate – I’m British… I sit and drink my chocolate and I feel better, I feel safe… I drink it and the world is outside and I don’t have to worry”
The closest we could get to a unicorn
Before starting the study we met with two groups of children and young people for advice on how to best talk about safety...
‘Sometimes we freak out when we don’t need to. We might have heard something and now we think that it’s a huge risk but it could turn out that we’ve heard the wrong thing or that it’s not really a problem.’ ‘But sometimes we feel weird but don’t know why and having an adult ask you questions, it doesn’t even have to be an adult but maybe it’s good to talk to an adult”’ (YP-2)
“Having a phone makes you feel safe – then you can call someone if like there’s a creepy man coming down the alley”

“Game consoles: when I’m playing video games I feel safer than being on the streets”

“Giggle and hoot make me feel safe because Hoot watches you overnight… I have the toy that sits on the bottom of my bed”, “I have a night light”… “I have so many teddies.”
“My dog makes me feel safe. He barks. He’s very vicious. He protects the house. He’ll sit in the yard and growl, and keep people out…
He didn’t bark at me when I rode past your house yesterday
he must’ve got used to you.. OK maybe he’s not that vicious”

Teachers: “some of them are awesome”, “ones with Blue Cards because there are some that don’t have ‘em” , “I don’t think he does: no one tells us”

Bullying by an adult
‘That’s pretty common. Adults can do whatever they like and you can’t challenge it.’ ‘Some adults can be on a power trip.” (YP-4)

‘[My teacher] called me fat last year for no reason.’ ‘She gives me the evil eye for nothing.’ ‘She made me sit in her classroom so I’d miss my bus.’ ‘It’s really harsh if you get bullied by a teacher because if you tell an adult they won’t believe you because they’ll always take the adult’s side.’ (YP-4)

Bullying by a peer
Coming across a
creepy adults
‘You’ve got this gut feeling; you can tell when someone’s not right.’ (YP-3)
‘You can tell by your body. Like when you’re nervous and that.’ ‘You get all sweaty’, ‘you start to eat a lot’, ‘you start to do things quickly, you can’t think straight’, ‘you start trembling, you act all nervous’, ‘you respond badly to something or someone.’ (CH-2)
How likely is it?
How bad would it be?
Child abduction
“You know that there’s a white van that has been driving around. It’s got tinted windows and a smashed headlight”, “my dad said that if you see a white van like that you should throw a rock and run”

“its not that likely”, “yes, it is”, “it happens all the time”, “there’s always a threat, you always have to watch out for that even if it doesn’t happen all that much”, “you hear about white vans and kids being taken all the time”
“if a kid is getting bullied real bad and they cut themselves or kill themselves because no one did anything. Like if they told teachers and they said “get over it” or “just ignore it” and it kept happening and it got worse and the teachers saw bits of it and did nothing then they should be sued because it’s a big thing and they did nothing.”
A few words on bullying
Specifically, this study explores:

how children and young people conceptualise and perceive safety;
children and young people’s views on what gives rise to these perceptions;
children and young people’s perceptions of safety within institutions;
what children and young people consider is already being done to respond to safety issues and risks in institutions;
what children and young people consider should be done to respond to safety issues in institutions.

Research Questions:
Stage 2: Focus groups
“technically we’re all guilty of that. We all do it. We all bully each other, even our friends, each other. We all need to watch out for each other”, “people take it to another level, it’s more extreme”

Bullied by a teacher: “that’s happened to me, lots”, “I told my teacher she was being a shit”, “my teachers are so mean, especially Mr A”, “it does happen a lot when the teachers bully kids”, “a girl was telling me that she was being bullied by a teacher because her parents were divorced”, “one of the teachers judged the students for having a mental illness, for stuff like that”, “one teacher came up to me and said “what’s your problem?” because I was upset. But she said it in a mean tone and I said “I’m not going to tell you”. “they think you’re weak so they keep attacking you”, “they compare you with other students in front of everyone to make you feel small and weak”, “I think ‘yeah, I got that wrong’ but judge me against my other abilities because I’m not useless at everything, see that I’m good at some other things instead of trying to make me look stupid. Don’t pick on that one thing that’s a weakness”, “sometimes teachers have a group that’s their favourite, ones that are good at things, and they never let other people have a turn’

“there are lots of creepy teachers around”, “there are some teachers you don’t feel comfortable with”, “there's a pervert teacher he was looking at a girls boobs all the time and smiling”, “I told another teacher but he wouldn’t believe me because I’m just a child”

“with bullying kids can’t rely on adults to do anything. That makes them feel less safe because they know firsthand that they have to deal with it themselves… They’ve probably seen adults who don’t care or who don’t do anything about it and they lose faith that they can help you.. You start thinking you have to deal with it on your own”.

Being pressured into do things they you don't want to do (by adults / peers)
Protect yourself
Get help
Remind you of people who love you


locks on doors
‘They need to care a little more. Put kids first a little more.’ (YP-1)

‘Believe us when we say that we’re being hurt because why would we make that [stuff] up?’ (YP-4

‘There should be someone like the Royal Commission who comes in and does a check to make sure the organisation is doing what they say they’re doing. It should be a surprise and there should be real consequences if they’re not protecting kids properly.’ (MX-2)

Processes for responding to young people’s safety concerns need to involve children and young people and respond to their perceived needs
‘The Royal Commission should make it compulsory that young adults get a say in how this stuff is dealt with. We know what’s happening and like what should happen and they should talk to us about it when it’s happening.’ (YP-2)
‘At the end of the day they can’t do much so we need to know how to protect ourselves... Tell the Commission that we want more groups. We like talking about this stuff and it really helps.’ (YP-2)
Children and young people’s needs and wishes should be seen as a priority
‘Kids should be a priority. They shouldn’t be more worried about losing a teacher. Losing one teacher shouldn’t matter as much if kids feel uncomfortable.’ (YP-1)
It was good that the Royal Commission had a children’s research project and children and young people might like more interaction with the Commission
‘I don’t think that most kids would know about the Royal Commission so they wouldn’t know that they could have their say.’ (YP-1)

‘It would be good if they could tell us what they think of what we’ve said. It’s good that you are going to tell us all the things you heard from kids but it would also be good to hear what they are going to do and if it changed anything … I’m sad that they haven’t talked to kids and only adults who were abused when they were kids because it’s probably still happening and kids now need a say too.’ (YP-2)

‘I’m really excited that they [the Commission] are talking to children and that we can help things to get better … I hope they do - so this isn’t just talk because it’s not good when adults ask for our opinions but don’t do anything with it – because they know better than kids. That would be bad. So I’m curious about what they’ll do.’ (CH-2)
Participants told us that Adults and institutions can protect children & Young people by:
“I’m most safe when it’s quiet. I love the quiet”

"Often if you’re in a situation that you’re comfortable with, you know what will happen, you’re with people you’re familiar with, you feel safer"



Block your worries out
Distract you
Places & Times
School Camp

Things are fun Where people love you Set up for kids Tidy & orderly
When you're alone
Before adults are drinking

Before it gets dark
Things that can hurt you
Things that are thrilling
Being taken advantage of Being pressured
Ways bad people can contact you
Places that are for adults
When its dark
When there's no one to protect you
“I feel safe when I’m with my nan: because she cares for me and hugs me and has good advice for me” (MX-1)
‘No tension’, ‘feeling comfortable’, ‘friends’, ‘silk: because it’s soft’, ‘and clothes – you feel safe when you’re wearing clothes’, ‘the people you hang around, your friends’, ‘laughing, because it’s fun and it doesn’t make me feel unsafe’, ‘being at home’, ‘warm hugs’, ‘people looking out for you’, ‘those [safe] houses [where] you can go if you need [to]’. (CH-2)
You feel it in your body & Demonstrate it with your behaviour
You feel safe when you are with people you know & Trust to protect you
Familiarity is safe
- People you know or people like you
- you know what to expect
- you know what to do
‘It’s not that black and white so you can’t tell little kids not to trust people who look a certain way because they’ll take it literally’, ‘like not everyone who has tats is unsafe’, ‘and they’ll think that because you didn’t tell them about a certain type of person that they’ll think that that person is safe.’ (YP-1)
Safety and power
‘Adults can do whatever they like and you can’t challenge it.’ ‘Yeah, some adults can be on a power trip.’ (MX-2)
Safe things
things that protect you from harm
things that comfort you when you are unsafe.
“I have a taste that I relate to safe: peanut butter and hot chocolate – I’m British… I sit and drink my chocolate and I feel better, I feel safe… I drink it and the world is outside and I don’t have to worry”
“Having a phone makes you feel safe – then you can call someone if like there’s a creepy man coming down the alley”

“Game consoles: when I’m playing video games I feel safer than being on the streets”

“Giggle and hoot make me feel safe because Hoot watches you overnight… I have the toy that sits on the bottom of my bed”, “I have a night light”… “I have so many teddies.”
YP1: “My dog makes me feel safe. He barks. He’s very vicious. He protects the house. He’ll sit in the yard and growl, and keep people out…

YP2: He didn’t bark at me when I rode past your house yesterday

YP1: "he must’ve got used to you..
OK maybe he’s not that vicious”

Bad grades
Parents dying
Being attacked by a snake
Doing something stupid and everyone seeing
Car accident
Getting cancer
Fights with friends
Parent losing job
Getting lost
What worries kids & what safety concerns do they have?
What do kids need?
What do adults / institutions do well?
What don't adults / institutions do so well?
What gets in the way?

What advice would you give?
Image from: http://cache.trustedpartner.com/images/library/MentalHealthPBC2009/Content/LTC%20%28color%29%20Logo.jpg
What does safety mean? and who, what, when & where is safe & unsafe?
‘You can tell by your body. Like when you’re nervous and that.’ ‘You get all sweaty’, ‘
you start to eat a lot
’, ‘you start to do things quickly, you can’t think straight’, ‘you start trembling, you act all nervous’, ‘
you respond badly to something or someone
.’ (CH-2)
Children's Safety Study
What we did
What we found
get their attention!!
Safe & Unsafe
- what
- who
- when
- where+
Response Matrixes
Group Agreements
Key messages for the commission
Worry Matrix
Some adults need to develop their skills and institutions need to better deal with safety concerns
But not everything always works...
definitely get a unicorn - then they'll think you're magic
‘Not everything [little kids] fear is imaginary. That’s what parents get wrong. They think that ’cause they’re little they’re not telling the truth or they’ve imagined it but most of the time they’re telling the truth but people don’t believe them because they’re little. And anyway it’s real to them so adults should listen.’ (YP-3)
Concluding Remarks:
We would argue that there is a need for:

• adults to understand how children conceptualise, experience and deal with safety issues;
• adults to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and other safety concerns;
• adults to help children and young people better understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and other safety concerns, and how adults and institutions are managing risks;
• adults to develop trustworthy relationships to enable children and young people to raise their concerns;
• adults to take children and young people’s concerns seriously;
• institutions to engage children and young people in participatory processes.

‘It was good that you talked to us about this stuff and let us have a say … We had fun and even though it was like serious for bits it was OK because it’s something we should talk about and think about and it’s good to hear what other people think because we don’t talk about this stuff that much.’ (YP-3)
‘Adults and youth think about different things when they’re trying to work out what’s going on. I think adults make a quick judgment while we watch, look out for things more. Adults probably have more experience so they can decide quicker but that doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. Maybe because we’re watching we see things they don’t see.’ (YP-4)
Understand and overcome barriers to children and young people getting the support they need
• the child or young person doesn’t realise how big an issue they are facing;
• they feel embarrassed or ashamed about asking for help;
• they don’t have confidence that adults can help;
• they don’t know who to talk to;
• they think that raising their concerns will make things worse;
• they think that there will be retribution if they raise a concern about an adult or institution;
• they have had bad experiences in the past – when they weren’t listened to, when adults’ reactions weren’t helpful, when there were consequences for them or others.

Children and young people also felt that adults did and thought things that prevented children and young people engaging with them, and prevented adults responding in a helpful way. Participants felt that unhelpful adults:

• don’t spend enough time with children or young people;
• don’t care enough about children and young people or their concerns;
• don’t appreciate the extent to which children and young people feel concerned;
• are not available or accessible;
• have other things they need to do and can’t resolve every issue;
• don’t appear to have the interest, skills or authority to resolve the issue;
• don’t like coming across children and young people who are uncomfortable, at risk or in pain;
• believe that the issue or concern relates to something outside of their workplace/environment and think it’s not their place to respond;
• think someone else is dealing with the issue;
• don’t think that it’s their role to respond.

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Each activity aimed to build on the previous one
Only issues that were raised and approved by children were discussed in subsequent activities
Conversations were negotiated at different points
Safety Maps
Concepts of safety
Worry matrixes
In & out-of-scope
Institutional safety
Signs of safety
Positive Engagement
(mostly fun)
‘It’s important that young people have an opportunity to talk about this stuff but it has to be done safely so, you know, it doesn’t make life worse for them … But I think that even though adults are scared to talk about this stuff because it is uncomfortable, it has to be done if things are going to change.’ (YP-2)

There are a number of key assumptions that underpin and drive this project. These include:

1. Children and young people understand and experience the world in different ways than adults do:
There are differences in the way children and young people understand safety and being unsafe, the way that they ascertain whether they are safe and unsafe, and the way that they evaluate how useful existing strategies are in responding to safety issues.
Children and young people have different standpoints and can reflect not only on what it is to be a child or young person, but also on what it is to not be an adult, what they believe adults think and feel about and experience differently in their worlds and how these differences influence what children and adults do.
This should influence the way that research is conducted with children and requires ongoing dialogue between adult researchers and children and young people about what language is used, what tools are adopted, what meanings are being communicated and what emerging issues are important.
2. Children and young people are able to articulate their needs, views and wishes when adults adopt appropriate methodologies and methods, particularly when children and young people themselves guide these.
3. Children and young people are consumers of services and are the targets of many strategies that can be improved if their perceived needs and concerns are responded to.
4. Children and young people can benefit from their participation when it:
a) validates them as individuals and places value on their views and experiences;
b) provides openings for them to raise their needs and issues;
c) provides opportunities for them to reflect on their experiences and to hear the views of other children and young people;
d) allows them to influence change for the benefit of other children and young people, and when they feel this is occurring.
5. Research can be practised in such a way that children and young people are protected from harm. Practices can be developed to deal with any concerns and issues that might emerge through the research process.
6. Participation in research is not inherently problematic. The impacts of talking about sensitive issues are not significant, are short-lived and when they do exist they can be mitigated in dialogue between researchers and children.

Key Assumptions
Conducting the study ethically: Our approach
Inclusion of children and young people in research
Understanding potential harms
Developing child-sensitive methodologies
Recruitment of appropriately skilled staff
Creating safe and supportive environments with clearly communicated processes
Responding to disclosures
Full transcript