WORK IN PROGRESS: Children and Young People’s Participation Rights in Residential Care

Khadijah Williams-Peters – a member of the 50/50 Youth Cluster – shares with us a little about her current research…

Hi,

I am currently completing doctoral studies on children and young people’s (CYP) participation rights in Trinidad and Tobago. I have spent over two years observing decision making processes related to the day-to-day lives of children in care. My study also involves reviews of policy making processes affecting them and participation models in several countries including the UK, Sweden, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, South and West Africa, the US and Ireland so that a broad, cultural understanding can be achieved. Hopefully, an indigenous approach to operationalising children’s participation rights can be understood and applied, starting with the most vulnerable group of CYP.

In addition to being a student and lecturer, I am also a practitioner as you might have read on my profile, which means that I am constantly working to integrate theory and practice. My most recent project has been with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Trinidad and Tobago (an NGO), where I have developed a training model for mentors working with children in care. The model integrates social pedagogy and children’s participation to build positive adult-child interactions. The children have been instrumental is shaping the mentorship experience by providing feedback on policies and procedures which affect their lives. I have also recently completed work with CYP in care, preparing them to transition from a large-scale institutional setting to a small-scale family environment. The participatory approach I used was useful in helping the CYP to contribute to the living arrangements and organisation of their new space. This is work in progress… In fact, participation work with CYP is always work in progress.

In June 2013, I visited Investing in Children in Durham, UK, one of the leading agencies in the UK which promotes CYP participation, where I was able to get a feel of how CYP participation rights is operationalised. This organisation provides some useful examples of what is needed to make CYP participation really work. For instance, the experience of that organisation demonstrates that the following are needed to support participation work:

  • a good understanding of power relations;
  • adult willingness and preparedness to share power with children and to discard unhealthy assumptions about children and young people being incompetent;  and
  • adequate human and financial resources.

Against the background of my ongoing research, I wonder  how others view children and youth participation (CYP). So, let me end with a question for reflection:

When we talk about CYP participation, as adults, are we really ready to listen to children and young people, ready to take their views seriously by incorporating their ideas into plans, and to invest the necessary time to ensure that their participation is meaningful and share power with them?

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2 thoughts on “WORK IN PROGRESS: Children and Young People’s Participation Rights in Residential Care

  1. tgilbertroberts

    Thanks for sharing this Khadijah! I think many adults are willing to listen to youth; intend to take them seriously and are hopeful that they will be able to invest the time. However, many adults are not actually fully PREPARED for CYP participation. By that I mean, that the willingness, good intentions and hopefulness fades away when confronted with the frankness of children’s and young people’s views – especially the critical ones. Adults need better preparation to facilitate CYP participation.

    Reply
  2. pelauandchutneygirl

    Interesting and critical question Mrs. Williams-Peters. From a Caribbean perspective, I think there are adults that are willing to embrace and facilitate CYP participation and these numbers are going to increase as the actions of the under serviced and misunderstood youth continue to demand an audience.
    Critical to this though is the changing of the Caribbean Adult’s view of, respect for and appreciation of the CYP population. It is still tainted with imperialism and colonialism which is seen in the way we parent, teach, feed, police our CYP population. The Caribbean adult is still somewhat unsure of themselves, as a result becomes intimidated and antagonistic toward a challenge to their “is-ness”, authority and ideologies no matter how wrong or inadequate. Unfortunately the pseudo democracies of which we are a part seems to also stifle such a practice pushing to a continuation of “do as I say” “hush yuh mouth when ‘big people’ talk” mentality where adults with authority just don’t listen.
    But, as the research and practice models such as this are presented in more spaces (universities, teaching colleges, parenting seminars) I am very optimistic that more parents, teachers and care-givers would see the merit and embrace CYP participation.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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