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Who Am I? Making Records Meaningful

Resources to guide Record-Keeping Practices
which support Identity  for Children in out-of-home care

 

 

Standards Supporting Identity

Contents of a 'Life Story Archive'

What Care Leavers Think

The Experience of Locating and Accessing Records

The Story of the Record

Writing the Record: Fairness and Accuracy

Writing the Record: Creating Memories of Childhood

Who Am I? Tipsheets and other Resources

 Links

Why are good personal records important?

Many of the children and young people who are in out-of-home care now will want to see their records at a later point in their lives. They may be looking for specific information about proof of identity, relatives or their own medical history, or they may be trying to understand what happened in their childhoods and how that affects their sense of identity. When we create records, we must assume that the child will read them at a later date, even if they do not seem interested now.  A number of Standards now promote the creation of personal records.

Introduction

How to use the training resource

Acknowledgements

Frank and Samantha talk about their experiences with their records.

  • Frank was in care during the 1940s and early 1950s.
  • Samantha spent 5 years in residential and foster care in the 2000s. She was 21 when she was interviewed.

To download this clip, click on the word "vimeo" and scroll down for the download link.
(Pop-ups need to be allowed.)

How does Frank’s account resonate with your own observations of the
quality of record keeping?

If Samantha left your organisation’s care today, would her reflections be
very different?
What has changed for better or worse?

Building a ‘Life story Archive’

Alongside the records created for administrative purposes – case notes and reports written for other professionals and the courts – are the personal records which aim to support children’s development, identity and well-being.

These make up a ‘Life story Archive’, containing the child’s information – about identity, health, education, history of care, memories of birthdays, holidays and other special events, certificates, etc. A Life story book is only part of the Life Story Archive.

What records do you keep for your own children or have your parents kept for you?

Think about all the information collected about children in care - which items do you think are part of the personal record belonging to the child?

Why do we keep records?

Records are kept about children in out-of-home care for a number of purposes.

  • Identity – The information held in records constitutes a resource for children in care, allowing them to build a history of their childhoods and develop a sense of identity.
     
  • Professional Communication – records are a way of sharing information between the many professionals involved in the out-of-home care of children and with these children themselves when they access their records.
     
  • Duty of Care – records allow professionals and carers to keep track of their work in caring for children and young people in care.
     
  • Accountability – records demonstrate to children and to the Children’s Court whether this duty of care has been fulfilled.

 

 

Click here to find out
what care leavers think

about their records.

 

Further Reading    -   
Creating a "Personal Record" which puts the child at the heart of recording practice

What happens when care leavers decide to access their records?

Imagine you are contacted by someone who was in care with your organisation some years ago, and who wishes to see his or her records.

What steps would you need to take to retrieve all the relevant records held by your organisation?
 

 

A child’s information may be stored in a number of locations – in government files, in care agency files, with carers, with children or their families. When children have experienced multiple placements with different care providers, separate files exist with each care providers. Medical records and reports are often only located at the relevant health service, and educational records are stored by schools and so on.

To apply for one's records is often a huge step to take.  Many people only do so after years of thinking about it. 

Care leavers have to find out which organisations have their records and apply to each one separately. Long waiting times can be filled with painful anticipation.

Actually viewing the records once they have been released is also an emotionally difficult process, and care leavers are advised to accept some form of support, even if they don’t think they will need it. Support helps with:

  • confronting one’s childhood
  • finding specific information and interpreting the context in which it was recorded
  • the impact of how the record is written where there is censorship, judgemental statements, gaps in information, or inaccuracies.

Want to know more?

               See The Experience of Locating and Accessing Records for further information.

 

    What you can do . . .

 

The Story IN the Record

How a record is written is just as important as ensuring that it is accessible over time.

  • Care leavers speak of how hurtful it is to find inaccuracies and judgemental comments in their records, both about themselves and about their parents and other relatives.
  • It is just as painful to find that a worker or caregiver has recorded an incident, leaving out the child’s motivations or version of events.
  • All records should be written in simple English, understandable by a layperson.

What strategies could be used to ensure that the child’s perspective is incorporated into records?

Is it difficult to create records that appear accurate, fair and non-judgemental to the child in question as well as to the professional audience? How can this be done?

 

What you can do . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to know more?

  For further information, see:

Writing the Record: Fairness and Accuracy

Writing the Record: Creating Memories of Childhood

         

How good are we at making out-of-home care records accessible?

The “case file” is made up of a range of different types of documents and materials, including reports, notes, computer files, certificates, digital photos, life story books and some memorabilia. At present, the files generated by each placement are stored by the agency providing that placement. This means that children in statutory care in Victoria, who have experienced multiple placements with different agencies, will need to apply to DHS and to each individual agency to get all their records. They will then need to somehow make sense of all these different fragmentary records.

Keeping personal records together could ease these difficulties. The Victorian out-of-home care system provides a strong framework for creating personal records through the Looking After Children framework and the emphasis on life story books. At present, however, transferring records from one placement to the next is not a routine practice, with the result that vital information is often lost both to workers and to the children themselves.

Keeping personal records together could ease these difficulties. The Victorian out-of-home care system provides a strong framework for creating personal records through the Looking After Children framework and the emphasis on life story books. At present, however, transferring records from one placement to the next is not a routine practice, with the result that vital information is often lost both to workers and to the children themselves.

 

 

How can you ensure that the records you are creating are accessible, now and in the future, for access by young people, care leavers and professionals?

  • in your personal work?
  • at team level?
  • at program or organisational level?

How can you use the Looking After Children Essential Information Record creatively to record important
information, including positive attributes and interests of the child / young person and memories.

Could someone unfamiliar with a child’s record find their way around it to obtain specific information and a narrative account of the child’s time in care?

What can you and your organisation do to make the child’s record easier to understand when it is accessed in later years?

Want to know more?

 See The Story of the Record for further information.

   What you can do . . .

        

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