The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre) is concerned by the recent findings of the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People, “Keep caring report”. The report identifies significant failings for young people aged fifteen to eighteen as they exit the Victorian out-of-home care (OoHC) system.
The report highlights significant adverse life events for many young people who leave OoHC. These include:
- At least one-third will experience homelessness.
- About half will present or be admitted to hospital due to acute mental health concerns.
- Almost one-quarter will have some involvement with the youth justice system.
- Forty four percent are not engaged with education and learning.
Of concern is the finding that less than half of young people required by legislation to have a leaving OoHC plan have one, and that most Aboriginal young people do not have culturally-informed transition plans to ensure they have strong connections to culture and communities, which is a known protective factor both in and transitioning from OoHC.
The Commission has identified that young people themselves are all too often excluded from leaving OoHC planning. Young people must be provided the opportunity to contribute to the planning for their own future, so that they are supported to achieve their own goals and aspirations.
The Centre welcomes the timely Victorian Government commitment and investment to extend OoHC for all OoHC leavers up to the age of 21 through the Home Stretch program, and the increased funding to Better Futures.
The Centre notes the enormous pressure on the child protection system through increasing numbers of children entering the system. This results in a system response that is crisis-driven, and means that the vitally important leaving OoHC planning is not completed for the majority of young people exiting OoHC.
As a community, we should expect that children and young people in the out-of-home OoHC system receive every opportunity to reach their full potential. It is not good enough that at least one third of young people leaving OoHC will experience homelessness. We would like to see increased funding in early intervention programs that support families to keep their children safe and out of child protection. This will reduce the pressure on the already overstretched system, and allow time and resources to be spent on the vital leaving OoHC planning that our young people deserve.