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Helping young people transition out of care

Helping young people transition out of care

By Karin Derkley

Child Welfare Young Persons 


Giving young people the support to transition into the community from out-of-home care will help reduce the future burden on social welfare and the justice system, the Law Institute of Victoria and youth justice services say. But extending care past the age of 18 would further increase their chance of success.

The LIV has welcomed the announcement of a Victorian state government program that will give young people aged 16-18 who are leaving out-of-home care two years of access to housing and support services, including an education specialist and a worker to help them navigate the system.

The $14.2 million COMPASS program will be provided by provider partners Anglicare Victoria and VincentCare and funded by investors in Social Impact Bonds.

The LIV has been calling for more and better coordinated support for young people coming out of out-of-home care and has made this point in its preliminary state budget recommendations. Current support services for young people are insufficient and fragmented, the LIV president Belinda Wilson says.

"It is more socially and economically effective to provide individuals with greater support prior to the development of issues such as homelessness and those related to education, employment, health and the justice system, than it is to address these issues when they arise," she says.

Jesuit Social Services (JSS) CEO Julie Edwards says that given the close links between child protection and youth justice system, where 32 per cent of young people in the youth detention system have had previous involvement with the child protection system, the program was a positive step.

"If we can provide better support to those leaving care we can prevent young people from committing offences, which reduces the strain on the youth justice system and creates better outcomes for the whole community," she says.

Youth Affairs Council (YACVic) CEO Leo Fieldgrass says a 2009 study showed that nearly half of young people who had been in out-of-home care became involved with the justice system within a year of leaving care.

“Care leavers are among the most vulnerable young people in our community, so we welcome the program’s focus on intensive planning to help them get ready to leave care.”

The provision of a support worker with whom a care leaver can build an ongoing relationship of trust is a crucial step in helping young people transition their way back into the community, Mr Fieldgrass says.

The LIV would like out-of-home care to be extended beyond the age of 18. "Extending out of home care increases the young person’s engagement with education and employment, and reduces the future burden on welfare, healthcare, and other social systems," Ms Wilson says.

Both YACVic and JSS believe out-of-home care needs to be extended to the age of 21. "This would ensure that highly vulnerable young people receive an additional three years of support compared to the current system, increasing their chances of making positive contributions to the community," Ms Edwards says.

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