Foster Care Week highlights need to extend care for our most vulnerable as COVID-19 continues to bite
Wednesday 16 September 2020
The devastating effects of COVID-19 on the employment prospects of young people has heightened the need for state governments to universally extend foster care to the age of 21 across the country, Home Stretch Chair Paul McDonald said today during national Foster Care Week.
The Home Stretch campaign represents hundreds of organisations across the country calling for state care to be extended to the age of 21. Mr McDonald said the reform was in line with local and international evidence that it can halve youth homelessness and increase higher education rates in this group by 2.5 times.
“Young people across the country are studying for their final Year 11 and 12 exams, while managing the stress and distraction of a health emergency. Alongside that, many of those in state care are also thinking about how to find work and a place to live after they turn 18,” Mr McDonald said.
“Just as most parents don’t throw their kids out of home at 18, state governments should not fail this vulnerable group at a time when they are still very much in need of support. An 18th birthday should not be signal for governments to push the young people in their care out onto the street and wish them good luck for the future.
“Two in every five young people leaving care across the country at age 18 will be homeless within a year. Almost half of the young men leaving care will be in the criminal justice system during that period.
“At a state level, the governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia in particular are abandoning their young people leaving care. Extending care is not only the right thing to do – the public investment more than pays itself back in reducing the future investment needed in support services.
“Research shows that young people thrive when care is extended by just three years. It leads to major improvements in education and employment, physical and mental health and forming positive personal relationships,” he said.
Mr McDonald said during Foster Care Week it was important to recognise the thousands of amazing foster carers across the country.
“Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to have a perfect start to life. But we are lucky there are so many people willing to open their hearts and their homes to children in need,” he said.
“The family stress created by COVID-19 means there are now more young people than ever in need of care. I would encourage anyone who is willing to enquire with their local foster care agency and find out what is involved in becoming a foster carer.”