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Child Focused Practice Online goes to Vienna

Deanna Rohrsheim shares with us how Child Focused Practice Online ended up in Vienna.

“In December 2015 I received an email confirming my abstract had been selected for the 33rd FICE Congress and 2nd CYC World Conference, in Vienna, Austria. I nearly fell off my chair!

With plenty of time to prepare, I eventually accepted that the story and impact of Relationships Australia SA’s Child Focused Practice Online was worthy of selection.

Presented by FICE (International Federation of Educative Communities) and CYC-Net (Child and Youth Care Network) the conference aims to bring child and youth care workers from around the globe to discuss policy and practice. From 22 to 25 August, 2016, approximately 1000 delegates attended over four days. With over 60 parallel workshops and panel presentations to choose from, I knew I was in competition for an audience.

With registrations and official opening out of the way, Professor James P Anglin keynote speaker shared his wisdom and proposed “child and youth care is not rocket science, its far more complex than that.” His words were heartening and I’ve since discovered Professor Anglin’s work in the field of therapeutic residential care models has been influential in Australia.

Keen to hear about Child and Youth Care in the African Context, I attended a panel discussion with the founder of Make Me Smile Kenya. This project currently supports more than 4700 orphaned or vulnerable children, as well as nearly 4000 adolescent girls and young women at risk between 10-24 years in western Kenya. These numbers are staggering in comparison to our work here in Australia.

Hearing about a project which reminded me of Together4Kid’s innovative work was a definite highlight. My Backpack is a narrative and creative therapies-based resource using puppets and digital media to assist social workers and foster carers to communicate with children about their foster placement. Developed in The Netherlands by Bep van Sloten and Rinske Mansens with and for children in foster care. My Backpack is currently implemented in Sweden, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Turkey. Of course I asked Bep if she would come to Adelaide!

Day four began powerfully with keynote presentation by Dr John Korsmo from Western Washington University, USA. He assertively proposed “we cannot effectively be anti-poverty with also being anti-racist” and “we cannot be effectively anti-poverty without also being anti-sexist”. Dr Korsmo’s words resonated and I was reminded (and grateful) of the rigorous Cultural Fitness work we do at RASA.

Deanna in Vienna

Deanna facilitates the Child Focused Practice Online workshop in Vienna.

It was then time for me to present. I admit I was a little nervous, but once I started it was easy. Sharing how we have effectively influenced child focused practice and policy within the South Australian homelessness sector is honestly a joy.  With nearly 500 people registered to do the course, I am constantly surprised by the positive feedback from people who complete Child Focused Practice Online. While the audience was small in numbers, I was pleased people from Canada, Scotland and Australia were present.  After all, child focused practice is a universal concept.

One final note. The Conference Dinner. Imagine a room full of child and youth care workers and a cover band singing Abba! It was a memorable night.”

Deanna Rohrsheim was supported by Relationships Australia SA to present ‘Child Focused Practice Online’ at the 33rd FICE Congress and 2nd CYC World Conference, in Vienna, Austria in August 2016.