Let’s maintain our investment in resi kids until they are 21
Resi care workers invest an enormous amount of time, energy and expertise into supporting some of the most vulnerable kids in the out-of-home care system.
The work can be challenging but there are also success stories, of kids learning to trust or connect with others, re-engaging with education or getting a part time job.
Today hundreds of people who work in Victoria’s residential care homes are meeting at Resi Rocks to discuss how we can provide the best possible care and create better futures for the 600 Victorian kids who live in resi-care.
But much of the great work being discussed today is at risk of coming undone, once these kids turn 18 and are ‘evicted’ from state care.
That’s why the Home Stretch is at Resi Rocks today to spread the message among residential care workers about our campaign to have all states across Australia extend care to 21.
Working with young people with complex needs day in and out, resi workers see firsthand the many obstacles facing young people in out-of-home care. They understand how devastating a lack of stability, safety and certainty about the future can be for a vulnerable child.
A change of address should not mean a change of care. If the option was to be available to extend care for young people in resi-care they would continue to have support from a case worker, resources for education and/or employment and be housed in a lead tenant type arrangement.
Yet across Australia, from about the time they are 15, young people in residential care are told to start thinking about their future and how they will support themselves once they are 18.
Many parents would never dream of asking their kids to leave home at 18 and to start thinking about it when they are 15. Yet these are the tough conversations people working in the residential care system have with our most vulnerable children.
That’s because in a country where most young people don’t leave the family home until they are well into their 20s – governments across Australia routinely abandon our most vulnerable children on their 18th birthday.
Decisions about the future are difficult for the most privileged teenagers, let alone young people who have been subject to fractured childhoods of abuse, trauma and neglect.
For many kids, the countdown to leaving care can be a period of high anxiety and uncertainty and they are right to be worried.
In Australia, kids who have left state care make up two thirds of our homeless youth. Within a year of leaving care, many others will be unemployed, on drugs, in contact with juvenile justice, experiencing mental health issues or be parents themselves.
All of the money that governments have invested in these children up until they are 18 is wasted once they are left on their own without support. It can also be frustrating and heartbreaking for those who have put an intense amount of time, energy, expertise and emotional investment into working with these kids.
Evicting kids from care doesn’t make moral or economic sense and it is out of touch with international trends, where New Zealand, the UK and the US have extended state care to 21.
To read more about the campaign and sign up visit thehomestretch.org.au If you are at Resi Rocks today (16 June) you can also sign up in person and talk to us about our campaign.