Few parents insist on their children leaving home as soon as they turn 18, and teens in foster care now also have the opportunity to establish themselves as young adults before leaving home.
This year the Victorian Government extended foster care to the age of 21 years after the Home Stretch coalition of more than 200 community welfare organisations campaigned for the extension to provide a better start in adult life for thousands of vulnerable teens.
It will make a difference to the lives of more than 20 young people in the Ballarat region a year who would otherwise have aged out of the foster care system.
READ MORE OF THE COURIER'S FOSTER CARE WEEK 2021 COVERAGE
"The Home Stretch is a great initiative for carers and children to continue with arrangements and be supported," said Berry Street Acting Senior Manager Child Youth & Families Balvinder Chohan.
"It's a decision made between the foster carer and child if they want to continue ... but means they will receive ongoing support as well as financial assistance until the child is 21."
Previously, children in foster care began the transition toward leaving care at 18 when they were just 15 or 16.
"Home Stretch means they have a more normative experience to transition out of care when they are ready to leave, how it is in wider society, as opposed to an arbitrary date to transition out ... meaning they have the opportunity to transition to adulthood without all those early adult burdens," Ms Chohan said.
Let's take a moment to reflect on the progress of extended care to 21 around Aus in #FosterCareWeek2021 🏠 75% of states/territories are on board!— The Home Stretch (@The_HomeStretch) September 14, 2021
NSW and Qld, when will you take action and #MakeIt21 for young people in care? pic.twitter.com/O8q7qqFAxU
"We don't expect children generally to be ready to exit and go at 18. More and more kids stay at home longer and even when they do leave they are generally quite well supported by their family and parents to develop those skills and manage that transition."
Research has shown that teens forced to leave foster care at 18 faced a bleak future.
"Each year, around 3000 young Australians exit the state foster care system with disturbing outcomes," said Home Stretch chair Paul McDonald.
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"Within a year, 30 per cent are jobless and 30 per cent are homeless. Many suffer mental health problems, are hospitalised, become drug dependent, pregnant, suicide or end up in jail. Governments were simply not giving young people in foster care the start in adult life they deserved.
"Add a COVID-19 pandemic to the equation and it's clear - 18 is far too young to 'evict' troubled young people into a world of high, and rising, youth unemployment and unaffordable housing."
A trial of extended care to 21 shows almost four in five young people were studying, and three quarters were employed - giving them a better start to adult life.
This week is National Foster Care Week.
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