March 17, 2022 – 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Online - via Zoom

Youth in Focus – Insights to supporting at risk young people

Understanding and addressing the needs of at-risk young people remains a key challenge for family service practitioners. While there is no prescriptive model of success, the consistent message throughout the OPEN Forum – Youth in Focus was the importance of partnership and collaboration across services and with the young people, to achieve improved outcomes for young people at risk.

In the OPEN Forum – Youth in Focus, we heard from three innovative programs about what works to support at risk young people.


  • Ariel Couchman (CEO) from Youthlaw spoke about the Legal Pod program, a unique initiative that provides ongoing legal advice and support to young people leaving care through provision of pro-bono lawyers.
  • Melinda Lawley (CEO) and Frankie Doig (Quality & Research Coordinator) from The Bridge Youth Service spoke about Step Up + which has embedded the therapeutic model, Emotion Regulation Impulse Control (ERIC) across the agency.
  • Shorna Moore (Head of Public Policy & Government Relations from Melbourne City Mission), Tanya Corrie (Corrie Consulting) and Elvis Martin, Lived Experience Consultant discussed Amplify, a collaborative action research project which partnered with young survivor advocates, academics, and the sector to identify service and policy gaps for young people experiencing family violence.


Legal Pod (Youthlaw) – Is a innovative program that provides ongoing legal advice and support to young people leaving care through provision of pro-bono lawyers. The program was created in response to the lack of appropriate legal support for care leavers to address legal issues.

Taking into account Youthlaw’s 21-years of experience and research and key input from CREATE young consultant , the Legal Pod program was designed with a focus on building trusted relationships and long term assistance for care leavers. Since the launch of the Legal Pod program in 2018, the Legal Pod program has facilitated over 2000 hours of pro bono legal assistance to young people leaving care. It has helped young care leavers  navigate over 160 legal challenges in areas such as COVID-19 related fines, debt relief, Freedom of Information requests, victims of crime claims and housing.  Outcomes include reduced debt, access to care records and improved employment conditions. Broader client outcomes include greater confidence and knowledge of the law, increased housing stability and reduced criminalisation and victimisation.

A key success factor for the program was the ongoing nature of the support and engagement provided by their lawyer. It was identified early in the program design phase, that being allocated a consistent lawyer to provide advice and support would be critical to building trust and meaningful relationships between the lawyer and their clients overtime. Additionally, warm referrals to additional services, such as housing, supported clients to address the often multiple issues they were facing. Check out a recent evaluation of the program here.

Embedding ERIC (Bridge Youth Service) – Emotional dysregulation was seen to negatively impact on young people’s relationships across the programs provided by Bridge Youth Service. The Emotion Regulation Impulse Control (ERIC) is a therapeutic psychological skills model that promotes healthy social and emotional development in adolescents. ERIC provides practitioners with skills, practical tools and worksheets to build their capability to embed conversations about emotional regulation into their practice with young people.

While ERIC was used in the StepUp+ program which works with adolescent’s who use violence in the home, the Bridge Youth Services also implemented ERIC across all of their youth programs, organisation wide. Results were very positive, with those in the Step Up+ program reporting feeling their behaviour and thoughts around their behaviours had changed in a positive way following the program (based on pre and post intervention ratings scores -DERS-16).

Practitioners using ERIC attributed this success to the program’s client-centred design. It allowed practitioners to meet young people in spaces they felt comfortable in, provided flexibility to work with young people wherever they were in their journey and reflect on their progress along the way.

Amplify (Melbourne City Mission, Corrie Consulting, Lived Experiences) – In response to number of young people experiencing family violence connecting with Melbourne City Mission’s homelessness access points, the Amplify action research project was borne. Amplify, a collaborative research project between multiple organisations, aimed to identify gaps in service and policy for young people who are victim survivors of family violence in their own right, and map a way forward. The key systemic and structural issues they found facing young people who experienced family violence were the distinct lack of services and accommodation available to them, policies that treat children and young people as one homogenous group and lack of knowledge within the service system of young people’s rights and agency.

The research aimed to privilege the voices of young people by placing their insights at the forefront of the research. The reference group for the project had extensive sector experience of working with young people, ensuring young people were able to feel comfortable in voicing their own experiences. Young people were not expected to only share their stories, but were able to make a valuable contribute to the research direction overall. Researchers continued to check-in with young people in an iterative way, to ensure their findings were reflective of young peoples’ experience.

The report highlighted the need for a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive support scaffold which could facilitate tailored responses to each young person.

Key Messages:

  • Skilled trauma-informed practitioners are needed to provide suitable services for vulnerable young people –
    • With a strong understanding of the impacts of trauma on a young person’s life, service providers are better able to address multiple issues through provision of warm referrals and holistic, wrap-around support.
    • Service providers must build meaningful relationships with young people who have experiences of trauma and vulnerability in order to build trust.
    • A ‘no wrong door’ approach from service providers supports service entry and ongoing engagement for at risk young people
  • Strong collaboration and reflection promotes whole of organisation practice change
    • A shared language of practice supports implementation of new ways of working
    • Reflective practice can support and highlight opportunities to embed new ways of working
  • Privileging diverse lived experience is essential for improved engagement –
    • Young people’s expertise goes beyond storytelling and information sharing. It should be central to the design of service provision and built in across different spaces including governance.
    • Young people with lived experience will correctly identify their needs and outcomes without assumptions being made and will help to deliver successful and effective service.
    • Young people with lived experience play a critical role in developing resources and communications for young people.


Check out our resources hub on AVITH – it includes latest information about the topic, promising programs, snapshots, practice guides, research and much more!

Check out our Report Summary for ‘Amplify: Turning up the Volume on Young People and Family Violence’ here


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