Home Stretch addressing the plights of young people when leaving state care.
There are 54,000 children and young people in Out-of-Home Care (state care) nationally.
Current state and territory legislation terminates this care to 3000 young people on their eighteenth birthday, whether they are ready for independence or not.
As a result of this premature exit too many young people leaving state care experience poor transitions to adulthood and unsatisfactory life outcomes. Over half of the young people leaving state care will end up homeless, unemployed, in jail or become a teenage parent within the first 12 months.
The latest national youth homelessness survey found that 63% of homeless youth had recently been exited from care. In contrast 50% of young Australians, between 18-24 years have never left the family home.
The United States, New Zealand, Canada and United Kingdom, having also experienced the poor social and economic outcomes of young people leaving stare care at 18, have reformed their child welfare systems by legislating optional Extended Care to 21 years.
International evaluations, where the option of Extended Care to 21 years is implemented have demonstrated remarkable results; with halving in the homelessness rates and doubling in education participation for this cohort.
Deloitte Access Economic found that we could also see halving in homelessness rates, reduction in arrests and drug dependence, tripling in education participation and improved mental health. In economic terms there would be an average return of $2 for every dollar invested in Extended Care.
The Home Stretch campaign has been advocating for four years, and has garnered support from over 200 organisations, 12,000 pledges, political parties and has received more than 20 philanthropic grants.
Philanthropy has been called on to help address the plights of young people when leaving state care. The Home Stretch offers a reform that can change the life chances of young people leaving state care with a single change by Government.
The campaign has achieved significant progress so far, Victoria has universal extended care for all young people, South Australia and Tasmania offer young people extended care in foster and kinship. Western Australia is undertaking extended care trials and the Australian Capital Territory is reviewing their extended care to 21 years policy. Queensland offers extended care to 19 years and the Northern Territory’s new government has indicated they will implement extended care this term. There are now approximately 500 young people nationally enjoying extended care to 21 years.
The campaign wants to now increase its advocacy in New South Wales as it stands to be the only state not introducing extended care.
For more information, visit www.thehomestretch.org.au