Lessons Learned: The Implementation of a Community-Based Approach for Young People in Residential Out of Home Care

Ms Renee O’Donnell1, Mr Richard Watkins2, Mrs Soula Kontomichalos3, Professor Jane McGillivray3, Professor  Helen Skouteris3
1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, 2Victoria Police, Eastern Division, Australia, 3Department of Justice and Regulation, South East Melbourne, Australia

Young adults living in Out of Home Care (OoHC) are considered to be some of the most vulnerable young people in our community. With their childhoods typically characterised by neglect and/or maltreatment, these young people often develop maladaptive coping mechanisms to manage their complex trauma, including; drug and alcohol misuse, violent and offending behaviour. Subsequently, young people in OoHC are significantly over-represented in the juvenile justice system and without appropriate intervention, often develop complex and serious criminal records. Evidently, a collaborative commitment between key agencies (i.e., residential services and Police) is needed to divert these individuals away from the criminal justice system. To achieve this, Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Victoria Police collaborated to develop an initiative termed, ‘Community Around the Child’. The purpose of this initiative was to provide early intervention to young people in OoHC who were most at risk of engaging in criminal activity. In particular, this initiative implemented; intensive training to staff on supporting young people in care (both Victoria Police and residential staff) and protocol changes to the way in which members of Victoria Police and residential staff manage young people in OoHC, particularly during incidences of criminal activity. This paper reports on the learnings from implementing such an initiative with young people in OoHC, residential workers and Victorian Police members. These findings have significant implications for reducing the high incidence rate of juvenile justice reports among youth living in OoHC.


Ms O’Donnell is a Research Fellow at Monash University and is presently leading the development and evaluation of a number of interventions delivered within the community sector, for young people who are disadvantaged and marginalised. Ms O’Donnell’s expertise surrounds the delivery and implementation of theory informed interventions that effectively change problematic behaviours among young people


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