Event Reflection: Legal support for young people and families
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare held the first AVITH in Context webinar on the 12th of October 2021.
AVITH in Context is a webinar series designed for child and family service practitioners to learn more about adolescent violence in the home (AVITH). Throughout this series practitioners share their experiences, practice expertise, and identify emerging themes in the AVITH space.
This webinar featured Family Violence Lawyer, Carmel Lohan, and Youth Practitioner, Caitlin Lester from Youthlaw. Carmel and Caitlin discussed how the Pre-Court AVITH program utilises a model of integrated practice to respond to AVITH. The integrated model uses a holistic approach to the needs of young people with legal issues and its goal is to provide positive legal outcomes based on legal and non-legal work.
The speakers provided several insights into issues faced by young people. These include:
- Legal issues do not occur in isolation – they need to be unpacked: Often, legal issues are just the tip of the iceberg, with young people experiencing concurrent issues that contribute to them entering the legal system at a crisis point.
- Violence at home can be multidirectional: It is important to acknowledge and address that young people can experiences of family violence that often contribute to their use of violence. Practitioners have the challenging task of addressing the young person’s safety in such a way that it does not condone the young person’s use of violence.
- Adult-centric systems are being used for young people: Young people who use violence can have highly complex, often unaddressed, needs (mental health and disability), and the legal system which is often tailored to adults, is applied to them without exploring their contexts. As a result, they end up entering a system that does not have the time or space to account for young people’s contexts/complex issues.
The speakers also spoke about possible solutions that could support young people who are going through such complexities. These include:
- Tools and support services to enable young people to manage their emotions: Practitioners have observed that young people want to work towards reducing their use of violence. They need tools and trauma-informed support services to achieve this.
- Need for greater understanding of complexities leading to violence: Many young people who are labelled as ‘perpetrators’ of violence have highly complex issues, and these have not been fully explored. It is often the case that young people who are incapable of regulating their own behaviour become criminalised. Therefore, interventions that accurately address the context of violence are of vital importance.
Carmel and Caitlin also touched on the impact of COVID-19 and the challenges of service delivery. They identified that it was difficult to manage safety and contact with clients, there were experiences of increased conflict within the home, limited service capacity to respond to AVITH, and that there was an absence of regular coping mechanisms for young people.
Overall, this webinar highlighted some consistent trends such as the failure to trust the young person as narrator of their own experiences. These issues can lead to a distrust of police and further feelings of disempowerment by young people.
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare is committed to being a part of discussions and continues to work with agencies to find better solutions and responses to AVITH.