Caring for children and young people with diverse needs

Diversity can refer to a person’s cultural background, their language, disability, sexuality or gender identity.

Caring for children and young people with diverse needs can be enriching and bring new experiences to you, as well as to them. It is important that their differences are responded to in a respectful and sensitive way.

Diversity can impact on a child or young person’s sense of identity and worth, development and experience of the world around them.

Caring for children and young people from diverse cultural backgrounds

Culture, language and religion go to the heart of a child or young person’s identity and how they connect to others. It shapes their sense of self and belonging, and impacts their health and wellbeing.

It is important that the child or young person in your care feels supported to express and understand their culture, language and religion. Children may have preferences connected to their religion or culture. You may need to seek guidance or advice to understand how to support these practices.

Everyone has culture. However, while we are born into cultures, we are not born with culture. Culture is something that we learn. It is dynamic and adapts to changing circumstances.

Some aspects of culture include our:

  • identity
  • ethnicity
  • age or generation
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • education
  • occupation and socioeconomic status
  • ability and disability.

Supporting cultural understanding and expression

In determining what decision to make or action to take in the best interests of the child or young person, the Act requires consideration to be given to the child or young person’s social, individual and cultural identity and religious faith, and their age, maturity, sex and sexual identity.

There are many ways you can support a child or young person to express and understand their culture, including by:

  • thinking about your own culture, aspects that are important to you and how it shapes your identity
  • thinking about attitudes or beliefs you may have about culture
  • improving your understanding of their culture on both sides of their family tree through research, or by contacting multicultural services (through your council). Gather relevant information and make it available to them
  • celebrating cultural and religious occasions with them
  • encouraging them to talk about their culture, extended family, religion and traditions, and what is important to them
  • identifying other significant people in their life who can help them to maintain contact with their culture, language or religion
  • if the child or young person is Aboriginal, making arrangements to speak with Elders who are part of their community
  • encouraging opportunities for them to speak and read their own language by accessing community groups, books, videos, toys, music or other resources that are related to their culture, language or religion (start with your local library)
  • encouraging them to participate in activities that involve people from diverse backgrounds and teaching them about diversity
  • recognising that they might be subject to bullying or discrimination due to their culture and language
  • supporting them with different dietary and food preparation practices, such as halal or kosher
  • being aware that a young person may choose to become involved in religious and spiritual practices as they develop their own identity, and to approach this with curiosity and an openness to learn about their area of interest, and why they are exploring a particular path.

Useful resources

Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria the peak body for ethnic and multicultural organisations in Victoria https://www.eccv.org.au/

FKA Children’s Services supports schools and childcare services to support the culture of children https://fka.org.au/

Interpreter services – speak with the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager for access to funded interpreters

Multicultural services – your local council should have a directory or list of community and multicultural services. Check their website

Children and young people with a disability

Children and young people with a disability have ambitions, skills and talents like other children and young people. They have the same rights as everyone in our society to participation, opportunities, development and self-determination in everyday life.

A disability is a physical, sensory, intellectual, cognitive or psychiatric impairment that affects the child or young person’s ability to undertake everyday activities. A disability can occur at any time in life. Children and young people can be born with a disability or acquire a disability suddenly through an accident, a condition, or from abuse or neglect. Some forms of disability are intermittent, while others are temporary or permanent. Some disabilities may be obvious, while others are hidden.

People with a disability are more likely to leave school earlier, earn less, have a higher level of unemployment, and are more likely to live in funded accommodation options. They are also more vulnerable to abuse and have higher levels of social isolation.

Ensuring that the disability-related support needs of the child or young person in your care are met is part of meeting their best interests and is a key role of the care team. As the day-to-day carer of the child or young person, you will develop important insights, skills and knowledge about their strengths and needs, including their disability-related needs.

Disability support

If a child or young person you are caring for has a known disability, their child protection worker or agency case manager will inform you about this, and explain the needs and supports for them. They may be receiving supports and services funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or from the department’s Disability Services in pre-NDIS areas.

If you are concerned that a child or young person in your care may have a disability and it is unclear if they have been assessed, discuss this with their child protection worker or agency case manager, who can contact the department or the NDIS to discuss an assessment and potential eligibility for support.

You can provide support for the child or young person with a disability in your care by:

  • seeing the child or young person and their individual personality first, and their disability second
  • supporting and advocating for their engagement in education
  • understanding the range of services that are available for them, and helping them to access those supports
  • ensuring they have access to the aids, equipment and services they require to achieve their goals and aspirations
  • maximising opportunities for them to socialise and particpate in community activities
  • learning what you can about their particular disability and ways to support them with their communication, and physical, social and emotional development
  • being aware of their additional vulnerability to abuse, and providing appropriate care and protection.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a national approach to providing individualised support and services for people with a disability. The NDIS is rolling out progressively over three years in Victoria from July 2016 to 30 June 2019. See the NDIS website for details about the roll-out schedule at https://www.ndis.gov.au/index.html.

The NDIS is a life-long insurance scheme that uses individualised plans to link people to the supports they need. It provides funding for reasonable and necessary disability-related support needs for eligible people. The NDIS refers to people with a disability in the scheme as participants.

As a kinship carer, you may be required to help the child or young person in your care determine the kinds of supports and services they will require.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is an independent Commonwealth statutory agency. The role of the NDIA is to implement the NDIS. The NDIA will provide people with a disability (including psychosocial disability associated with a mental illness), who meet access requirements, with the support and services they need to participate in and contribute to the community.

Supports are funded in a range of areas, including:

  • education
  • employment
  • social participation
  • independence
  • living arrangements
  • health and wellbeing.

Significant changes at a glance

Each person who meets the access requirements for the NDIS receives a plan of supports that are tailored to their individual needs and aim to help them achieve their goals. It is anticipated that, over time, the NDIS will contribute to greater service access, participation and self-determination by children and adults with disabilities.

People who have received disability support through the Victorian Government move to the NDIS at different times, depending on where they live and the type of support they receive.

NDIS eligibility criteria:

The definition of disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 is broader than the current Victorian Disability Act 2006 definition.

Two important additions to the definition include:

  • children under six with a developmental delay who will now be supported by the NDIS, rather than Early Childhood Intervention Services
  • people with a psychiatric disability.

To access the NDIS, an individual must:

  • have a permanent disability that substantially impacts a person’s functional ability to take part in everyday activities or meet the early intervention requirements; and
  • be aged less than 65 when they first access the scheme; and
  • live in Australia and be an Australian citizen, or hold a permanent visa or a Protected Special Category Visa.

New referral pathways

For eligible people living in areas that have transitioned to NDIS, access to disability supports is through the NDIA. The Local Area Coordination partners may assist with conducting the initial eligibility assessments of requests for NDIS participation.

NDIS eligibility assessments and planning requires specific information. Discuss this with the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager, who can provide support and advocacy through the process.

More information about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and how it works can be found at the NDIS website https://www.ndis.gov.au/index.html or call 1800 800 110.

Disability support – before the National Disability Insurance Scheme starts in your area

Existing Commonwealth and state-based services and supports will continue to be provided until eligible people start their NDIS plans.

The department provides disability supports for children with a disability over six years of age, who are yet to transition to the NDIS, and their carers. This can include individual support packages, facility and community-based respite, behaviour intervention services, therapy and case management.

Access to ongoing disability support is through an application process and registration on the Disability Support Register. Applications for ongoing support can be completed by the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager.


Useful resources

Action on Disability Advocacy Service is an organisation that aims to empower people with disabilities from ethnic backgrounds, their families and carers to access services https://www.adec.org.au/

Association for Children with a Disability is an advocacy and information service for families of children with disability https://acd.org.au/

Disability Discrimination Legal Service is a statewide independent community legal centre that provides free legal services in several areas https://ddlsaustralia.org/

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing disability support information https://dffh.vic.gov.au/disability

Information about the Disability Support Pension on the Australian Government Department of Human Services website https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/disability-support-pension

Exploring the Possibilities provides a range of post-school options available for young people with a disability at the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) https://www.daru.org.au/resource/exploring-the-possibilities-post-school-options-for-young-people-with-a-disability

Information sheet 8. Education supports

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) https://www.vic.gov.au/ndis.html

Raising Children Network includes links to a forum for parents of children with a disability and information about supporting siblings, or other children in the family https://raisingchildren.net.au/

Youth Disability Advocacy Service – a Victoria-wide disability advocacy service for young people aged 12 to 25 https://www.ydas.org.au/

Victorian Disability Services Commissioner – provides free, confidential and supportive complaints resolution for people with a disability https://www.odsc.vic.gov.au/

First Peoples Disability Network Australia https://fpdn.org.au/

Mission Australia – support for parents and carers https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/family-children-services/support-for-parents-carers

Australian Government – support for families, carers and children https://www.mychild.gov.au/families-carers/support

Pregnancy, birth and baby – information on disability and parenting support https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/disability-and-parenting-support

Intellectual Disability Rights Service https://idrs.org.au/makingsense/workers/

Scope https://www.scopeaust.org.au/age-group/early-years/

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