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Young people as experts: creating change in out-of-home care

Hear from young people and academic experts, including a leading US researcher, who are driving research that is changing the out-of-home care system, using creative methods for social change.

Young people have the right to be involved in decisions that impact their lives, but all too often their voices are not heard.  We hear this time and again, about their education, friendships and so on. But for children who have been removed from their parents to out-of-home (foster) care, they can have little say in the decisions about where they live or who they spend time with.

In this Sydney Ideas public conversation, get fresh perspectives and insights from experts including University of Washington Professor Peter Pecora; Professor Amy Conley Wright, Director of the Research Centre for Children and Families; and Fostering Lifelong Connections Advisory Group members Billy Black, Bobby Hendry and Tegan Whittaker.

Hosted by Professor Judy Cashmore, Professor of Socio-Legal Research and Policy at Sydney Law School and Professorial Research Fellow at the School of Education and Social Work within the University of Sydney. 

This event was held virtually on Thursday 10 March, 2022.


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More about the speakers

Billy is an artist who grew up in care, and since leaving the system has been involved in research programs, training carers and caseworkers, and represents the children's voice on a carer authorisation panel. She is now raising two babies of her own whilst completing her Masters. Billy is passionate about research and strengths-based therapeutic care and aims to use her experience to develop resources for staff and carers who work with children in care.


Amy is Director of the Research Centre for Children and Families and the Institute of Open Adoption Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research contributes to building the evidence base on promoting children’s best interests in out-of-home care, family support and disability services, within Australia and internationally. 

She is currently lead Chief Investigator on the ARC Linkage project Fostering Lifelong Connections for Children in Permanent Care and Chief Investigator on the ARC Linkage project Upholding the Right to Cultural Connections for Children in Care. She is also leading evaluation of NSW Family Group Conferencing as well as numerous other externally funded projects. These projects use a range of methods, including surveys, case file review, interviews and focus groups, administrative data analysis and systematic review. Her research is multi-disciplinary and has involved collaboration with colleagues in law, sociology and economics. 

Bobby is a graphic designer and photographer with a lived experience in the out-of-home-care system. She is passionate about using her creative skills and story to incite progress and change in the out-of-home care sphere so that her very typical experience of growing up with constant disruption and feelings of powerlessness and a lack of control is no longer the typical experience for other children and teens. 

Peter has a joint appointment as the Managing Director of Research Services for Casey Family Programs, and Professor, School of Social Work, University of Washington – where he teaches courses in public policy, child welfare program design, and human services management. He began his career working at a neighbourhood-based community center, group home for runaways, and as social worker in foster care in Wisconsin. Peter has consulted with a number of departments of social services in Australia, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, United States, and other countries to design risk assessment systems for child protective services, refine foster care programs, and implement intensive home-based services. 

Tegan Whittaker became a parent at 18 years old and has first-hand experience of the child protection system. She is passionate about using her experiences as a parent with a child in care to improve the system and wants to see things change so parents like her can be peer mentors. Tegan is currently studying psychology.

Judy is Professor of Socio-legal Research and Policy and School and Professorial Fellow in the Research Centre for Children and Families at the University of Sydney.

Judy has an extensive background in research relating to children’s involvement in legal proceedings and administrative processes that make critical decision about their lives, including children in the family law, child protection and out-of-home care systems. She joined the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney as Associate Professor in 2005 and has worked as a consultant to government departments and agencies in NSW, Victoria and Queensland and been involved in and chaired numerous state and federal government committees and non-government boards concerning children and families.  She has been a member of the Judicial Commission of NSW since 2004. She has a PhD in developmental psychology and a Masters degree in education.

Judy has published in leading international journals in law, social work, and criminology, as well as more applied publications to reach judicial officers, lawyers, caseworkers, and service providers. She co-authored a monograph on children’s voices in family law, co-edited and contributed to the SAGE Handbook of Child Research and contributed to two Oxford Handbooks (The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Commentary and The Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law). 

Header image: Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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