In Queensland, young people are required to leave state care once they turn 18.
Suddenly they are considered to be mature and independent enough to manage the world themselves.
This is a big ask even for young people who have had a stable family life and an uninterrupted education. Many ‘boomerang’ home to understanding families until well into their twenties, sometimes multiple times.
Michael Waters, dad to a teenage son and a Home Stretch supporter, recognises the importance of that support.
“I live out near Bribie Island and my son is finishing school there this year,” Michael said.
“I couldn’t even imagine telling him at the end of this year that it is time for him to find his own way, get accommodation and live independently.
“It seems to me that it would have a direct, negative impact on his future if I was to say to him that my care job ends as soon as he turns 18.
“I am going to ensure he has a home with his dad available until he is 21 because then I think he will be much better placed, financially and responsibility-wise, to make that move successfully.
“If I turfed him out now, I would only give him a 50/50 chance of doing anything but going off the rails.
“So, why do we do that to children in care?”
Half of the young people leaving the out-of-home care system at 18 years end up in poverty, homeless, in jail or a new parent within the first twelve months of leaving state care.
These are horrifying — and unnecessary — statistics. There is compelling evidence to show that when the option of care is continued to the age of 21, education participation doubles and homelessness rates are halved.
Of course, there are post-care programs and support services available, and these are important investments in the future of our young people.
However, programs and support services do not take the place of a home. Home is a space we can make our own, helping us find the stability and emotional support to take on all the other parts of our lives.
Young people with challenging lives need that space even more than the rest of us. Too many will slip through the cracks without it.
It is everybody’s business to stop this happening — better for young people, better for us all as a Queensland community.
Please join us in our call to the Queensland Government to provide young people in state care the option of extended care to 21 — the same right that other young people in our community have.
How can you and your parish or ministry get involved?
- Sign the pledge to #makeit21
- Learn more and spread the word
- Become a Home Stretch Champion
- Show your support by attending the Queensland Home Stretch launch
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to hold an event, host a speaker or contribute in other ways as the campaign rolls out in Queensland