Personal accounts tell a story of “abandonment and struggle” after state care in Queensland
Friday 29 April 2022
Queensland’s refusal to extend foster care for its most vulnerable young people is “bewildering” given most Australian states now offer care to the age of 21, national Home Stretch Chair Paul McDonald said today at the launch of a new series of videos in Brisbane featuring the lived experience of those in the foster care system.
Mr McDonald said the “humbling and confronting” videos being launched were a direct message from the young people to the Queensland Government.
“Each of the young people tell a story of the struggle, the sense of abandonment they felt from care being ended when they were not ready, and the difficulties they had in starting life on their own after a childhood in care. The Palaszczuk Government should take a moment to hear the voices of these young people they are responsible for ‘parenting’, and the lives they were forced to live as a result of the government’s decision to terminate their care at the age of 18,” he said.
In Queensland, residential care is terminated when young people turn 18. These are Queensland’s most vulnerable young people. Young people in foster care and kinship care (living with a family member) are not much better off, where their care is terminated at the end of their 18th year.
“The Queensland government is effectively sanctioning the abandonment of 500 young people in their care each year. Most young people still live with their parents past the age of 18, but in Queensland children under the care of the state have to go out into the world and fend for themselves – often with no responsible adults in their lives to give them any guidance. It’s no wonder that about a third of this group ends up homeless and jobless within 12 months of leaving care,” Mr McDonald said.
“Extended foster care to 21 years has now been adopted by five states and in the child welfare systems of every western country, because of the growing body of evidence that it works. It halves the homelessness rate among those exiting foster care, doubles their chances of finding a job and doubles their chances of going on to higher education as well.”
The series of four short videos were shown at the New Farm Cinemas on the final morning of the CREATE Foundation’s Voices in Action conference. Nine young people are featured talking about the immense challenge of having their foster care terminated at the age of 18. All were enthusiastic about the difference extending care could make to thousands of vulnerable young lives.
The young people featured in the videos talk about their experiences of needing to think about housing from the age of 15, living under bridges and feeling like no-one in authority cares about them.
One of the young people who appears in the videos is Jessie, who was placed in care at 14, exited care at 18 and has recently been studying human services.
“Leaving care was quite challenging to say the least. I know so many young people who exited care on the street and I watched that happening and it was really confronting,” she said.
“Not a lot of 15-year-olds that I have met outside of care are thinking about where am I going to live in two, three years’ time.”
Mr McDonald said the Palaszczuk Government has a fantastic opportunity of doing what a good parent does and supporting these young people till they are 21 years. By doing so they will expand the ambition for children at risk, including its expectations of what they can achieve as adults with the right support through to the age of 21.
“As the responsible parent for young people in the child protection system, extending care is the simplest and most effective reform the Queensland Government can make to transform these young lives for the better. It can be the difference between surviving and thriving, and it’s time the government got on with the job rather than giving us more talk,” Mr McDonald said.
“Extending care is a win-win-win. It’s a win for young people in foster care who have more time to get their lives on track, it’s a win for the Queensland Government because it will ultimately save them money, and it’s a win for the community because it helps reduce crime.”
Research by Deloitte Access Economics showed the following benefits of extending care to the age of 21:
- Every dollar invested would return $5.90 in future savings
- Homelessness among this group would be halved
- Rates of higher education participation would increase by 2.5 times
- Decreased arrests and hospitalisation
- Alcohol and drug dependence would decrease, from 15.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent
- Reduced costs of delivering additional government services
- Improved mental and physical health outcomes, reduced intergenerational disadvantage and an increase in social connectedness.