Longer Foster Care Would Cut Suffering and Save Millions, Study Finds
24 October 2018 at 5:47 pm
Charities are pushing to extend state care in New South Wales to 21 years, with a report revealing extended foster care would save the state’s taxpayers $222 million over 10 years by reducing homelessness, mental health problems and crime rates among foster children.
Analysis from Deloitte found that compared with 18-year-old care leavers, those staying in care until 21 were half as likely to become homeless, 24 per cent less likely to suffer mental illness and 13 per cent less likely to be drug dependent.
After successfully petitioning the Victorian government to extend the leaving age of foster care from 18 to 21, the Home Stretch campaign is calling for similar action in NSW.
NSW Home Stretch chair Jeremy Halcrow said evidence of poor outcomes for people leaving care at 18 had been mounting for decades.
“A lack of appropriate supports in the crucial post-care years is leading young care leavers to experience high rates of homelessness, financial hardship and contact with the justice system,” Halcrow said.
In NSW last year, there were 17,879 children in foster care, including 865 who were 17. Indigenous children are ten times more likely to be in the out-of-home-care system.
Recent data from our Deloitte research report shows the alarming number of care leavers who experience homelessness, unemployment or fail to complete Year 12. Victoria, SA and Tasmania have extended the age from 18 to 21 and it’s time for NSW to follow suit. #MakeIt21 pic.twitter.com/FSIYmmww3C
— The Home Stretch (@The_HomeStretch) October 24, 2018
Rosie Curtis and Lily Herrera both entered foster care when they were eight years old, and are strong supporters of the Home Stretch campaign.
Curtis, who was placed in over 10 different foster homes by the age of 14, finally found stability living at St Saviours Anglicare in West Sydney but was forced to leave when she turned 18.
“It was quite daunting. All your mates were getting ready to turn 18 and I had to figure out how to get a job and support myself for the rest of my life,” Curtis told Pro Bono News.
“It was hard, especially having this support for so long and then having to go cold turkey and just be pushed out into the world.”
It was a similar story for Herrera, who was homeless when she came to Australia aged four, and found stability at St Saviours’ residential housing before the age of 18.
“After I turned 18 they let me stay a little bit longer because I was completing my HSC. But two days after I finished my studies, I was forced to move out of the house,” Herrera said.
While Curtis was given extra support from an Anglicare leaving care program, she still was forced to make sacrifices to make sure she could make ends meet.
“I was studying at TAFE, but had to quit my further education because I wouldn’t have had enough time to also hold a job and support myself,” she said.
“I was lucky to have extra support but it still wasn’t enough, and emotionally it was hard because you go from living in a house with people you know to being by yourself and having to 100 per cent rely on yourself.”
— Anglicare Sydney (@ANGLICARESydney) October 23, 2018
Curtis and Herrera – who are now 22 and living together in a rented property – urged the state government to extend state care so foster children would not be forced to endure the same struggles they did.
“It’s extremely important because at 18 you’re becoming an adult but you’re not fully an adult,” Curtis said.
“As you’re leaving school and entering further education, staying in the same environment and having the same support is paramount to pursuing a successful and normal life.”
Herrera added there were a lot of new things you had to deal with when you turned 18 that you never thought about beforehand.
“You have to learn how to do your taxes, how to register a car and how to set yourself up with utilities, so it’s really important to have stability and someone there to help guide you,” she said.