Should we extend the age of leaving state care beyond 18? – Poll results

graph of poll results

A huge ‘thank you’ to the 310 people who responded to the poll and particularly to the 177 who contributed to the over 11,500 words of comments.  It will take us a bit longer to prepare a report that will do justice to the quality and diversity of the comments.  In the meantime, here are the major themes.

The majority of respondents to the poll favoured the extension of support to young people in state care beyond the age of 18.  The reasons they gave were broadly of four types:

  1. Birth parents in our community frequently support their children with accommodation, education, finance and in many practical ways beyond the age of 18.   So should the state as parent.
  2. Children in care often have histories of neglect and abuse leading to developmental delays and the effects of trauma and their schooling is often affected by disrupted childhoods. This diminishes the capacity of many to cope with the responsibilities of adulthood at 18.
  3. High rates of homelessness, teenage pregnancy, mental health problems, substance abuse and unemployment and low levels of education and training demonstrate that many young people exiting care at age 18 are unprepared by the system to cope without further support.
  4. Recent research has demonstrated that human brain development and the capacity for self-regulation continue into the mid-twenties and beyond.

The right to opt out

Some respondents pointed out the legal and civil-liberties problems of extending the age of guardianship beyond 18.  Many stressed that it was essential that care-leavers should have the choice to opt in to the services provided and have a say in what services were made available and how they should access them.  Many stressed the right for young people to opt out of care situations they did not like.

How long should support last?

Many disputed the idea of setting a particular age at which support should cease and proposed that a marker could be used such as completion of education or training, stable accommodation or employment.  Others favoured a professional assessment against a set of psychological indicators to show when a person no longer needed support.

What services should be provided?

A wide range of services and supports were proposed which included financial and other support for foster and kinship families to enable young people to stay on beyond 18 at least until education and training were complete.  Some pointed out existing and proven services that could be extended and developed.  Others noted that current transition planning left many young people unprepared and that extra resourcing and new approach was needed to transition.

A fuller analysis of comments later.

Should we extend the age of leaving state care beyond 18?

picture of girl on jettyMany communities are questioning whether young people leaving state care at their 18th birthday are fully equipped to take on all of the demands of adult life.  Birth families often provide emotional and practical support to their offspring well beyond their teens.

One solution proposed has been to extend the age of leaving care beyond the current 18 years.  Does this deserve serious consideration in South Australia? Please contribute to the conversation via the Guardian’s 30-second poll.

Take me to the poll

We will post the results next week.

Should the age of leaving state care be extended beyond 18?


The public poll in which we posed this question opened on 22 May and closed on 30 May 2016. Thanks to the 239 people who responded to the poll and the 19 who left comments.

This is how you voted


Here is a summary of the comments:

All 19 of the commentators agreed in some way to the extension of the leaving age:

  • most 18 year olds are not mature enough to go-it-alone and many receive ongoing support from parents even beyond 25
  • many young people exiting care at 18 do not have stable and secure support groups at that time and need help and time to develop them
  • the trauma and disruption to their lives that many children in care have experienced means that their educational progress and personal maturity may be delayed compared to those in the general population
  • 18 to 25 is a critical time in education and support is critical and disruption is damaging during this time
  • 18 to 25 is a key time to intervene to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and abuse among young people in care
  • many young people become homeless after leaving care at 18 and support beyond this age would help
  • it is inconsistent that Centrelink has factored an expectation of continuing parental support to age 25 in its benefit structure while state government support cuts out at 18
  • money invested in supporting young people beyond 18 would be more than repaid in the saving from decreased contact with the welfare, health and justice systems later in life
  • young people with a disability should receive particular consideration

Many noted practical factors that should be considered:

  • young people are adults at 18 and so ongoing care would need to be voluntary and negotiated
  • current  post-placement services are insufficient to do the work that would be required and many more suitably trained people would be needed
  • continuing financial support for foster carers would encourage and support an ongoing relationship at a critical time
  • the relationship with a  foster family will need to evolve and develop as it does with other families as the child grows older
  • a young person at 18 should be allowed to discuss exiting care in an interview with an independent body prior to making a decision
  • perhaps there should be an extension to 21 years and then beyond that if the the young person is still in study

All of the comments are below in full and comments are still open if you would like to take the conversation further.

You may also be interested in the results of our last survey asking where extra funding should go to reform child protection in our state.

LSS helps break the barriers to tertiary success

It was great news when the State Government announced that there would be no course fees to undertake a Vocational Education and Training (VET) course funded under Skills for All TAFE courses for people under guardianship or formerly under guardianship. Getting tertiary training and qualifications is a proven route to employment that can provide financial stability and personal rewards.

Course fees, however, are only one of the barriers that can prevent young people with a care experience from entering and completing further education.

Learner Support Services (LSS) sets out to increase success by addressing those barriers so that students can focus their full energies on study. LSS Case Managers work individually with students in TAFE and some Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to link them up to non-Government and other service providers.

Barriers that students have overcome with support from their case manager are wide-ranging. Issues with transport, accommodation, relations with Centrelink, child care, alcohol and substance abuse and lack of basic skills all have the potential to de-rail student aspirations.

LSS is taking particular care to build relationships between TAFE and RTOs and NGO service providers to ensure that each understands what the other is about and how they can best work together to support students.

Sarah Marshall from the Policy and Intergovernment Relations Unit of the Department of State Development (DSD) explained that LSS was only one of the services to assist people with care experience and other potential students to enter training in TAFE and RTOs.

‘Student Services in any branch of TAFE will be happy to talk to prospective students about career options and learning pathways. Prospective students with care experience can also talk to Student Services about their eligibility to have fees waived, and to access case management support through LSS’, said Sarah.

‘The Department of State Development also funds Career Services available free to people who are on unemployment benefits. You can call the Skills for All Infoline to have an initial chat about what you’d like to do and get information you need on careers, jobs and training. If you’re looking for work Career Services have qualified advisers who can help through one-on-one support.

‘‘We have found that, for many students once they have have started on their study pathway, the intensive, one-on-one service provided by an LSS Case Manager have contributed greatly to their eventual success,’ said Sarah.

For a chat to see what is available and what you are eligible for, call the Skills for All Infoline on 1800 506 266 or visit the Skills for All website at


link to GCYP twitter

Skills for All promises greater access to training for young people in care

The South Australian Government’s Skills for All program, which was launched by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) on July 1 2012, was especially good news for young people under the guardianship of the Minister.  Under the new arrangements, people from the age of 16 years who were formerly or are currently under guardianship of the Minister, will be eligible for a full fee waiver for all subsidised courses that attract a course fee.  This removes the former 25 year cut-off age and promises access to a lifetime of fee-free further education through service providers approved by DFEEST.

‘We know that many people who have been in the care system may take years to decide what career path to take or to achieve the personal skills, confidence or stable life circumstances to enable them to commit to and stay in further study,’ explains Families SA Senior Policy and Program Officer, Lisa Henderson.

‘When DFEEST released it’s Skills for All discussion paper a couple of years ago, Families SA, through the Rapid Response initiative, took the opportunity to put forward the particular needs of guardianship young people in great detail.

‘We were delighted with the support we received from within DFEEST – it was clear that they grasped the social justice issues and understood the needs of our young people.’

One person who will benefit from the new provisions is Wallaroo resident Tamica who is studying for a Certificate 2 in Community Services.

‘Year 11 didn’t really hold much for me and I left about half-way through.

‘After that though I studied for certificates that let me work in a bar and in a gambling venue.  I have my name down everywhere, but there is not a lot of work here so I decided to do some more study.’

Tamica studies part time by correspondence and is more than half way through her current course.  She likes to work in intensive bursts when there are few distractions and it fits around caring for her young son and looking for work.

Like many people today, Tamica expects to have more than one career in her life.

‘I don’t want to be stuck with just one option.  I might think about studying for something that will enable me to work in the mining industry and let me travel around Australia and give me the money to buy a house.’

Lisa acknowledges that the launch on July 1 was only the start of the work for Families SA.

‘Since the offer of support for further education and training is retrospective, we now need to ensure people who have been under guardianship are aware of this opportunity. This will need to be done in a sensitive way, recognising that some people will not want to be identified.

‘We also need to make sure that other practical supports are in place to give people returning to study the best chance to succeed.’

‘This initiative from DFEEST gives the Across Government Guardianship (Rapid Response) Steering Committee a great deal of encouragement and we continue to look at other areas of opportunity in areas  such as housing and health,’ she said.

For more information call the infoline on 1800 506 266 and ask about fee exemptions for people who are or have been under guardianship of the Minister.

Follow education and training developments for children and young people in care on our Twitter feed.

link to twitter

Designing for leaving care

As the 2010 academic year winds down, 80 third-year architecture students at UniSA will be finalising designs that are tailored to the specific needs of young people who are exiting the care system.

Lecturer in Architecture, Angelique Edmonds, explains that this year’s design studio exercise is a repeat of last year’s successful and award winning project that challenged architecture students to use their design capabilities to address an important social need.

‘We partnered with two community organisations and a private developer to identify three real sites which became the briefs to which the student had to respond.

‘Students heard about the circumstances of young people leaving care from the Guardian, Pam Simmons, and from two young women who had transitioned out of care. They were also given eight client profiles, in the form of narratives, of real but anonymous young people and their situations.’

Architecture student Tess Pritchard, now in her masters year, recalls how the lives of her young clients were much different to her own.

‘Many were isolated with no feeling of belonging anywhere and with very little money and support from family and friends.  I had no idea about what they were experiencing.

‘In my design I tried to provide good private living spaces where they could develop their independent living skills as well as common areas where they could come together to build social networks.

‘I provided a garden space where the residents could grow food for their own use or to sell at a nearby market.’

Former CREATE worker Emily Rozee, who presented to the students, said that young people rarely have the opportunity to provide direct input into the design and development of their physical environment.

‘Many of the UniSA students had not previously been aware of the issues faced by young people who are unable to live with their birth family.’

The 2009 pilot project received a UniSA Chancellor’s Award endorsing it as ‘an example of a best practice community engagement activity’.

Are we teaching children and young people in state care to be homeless?

Amanda Shaw - Senior Advocate

Children and young people are brought into the care and protection system through no fault of their own and have experienced abuse and neglect. Collectively, it is our responsibility to ensure that each child is provided with care, stability, security and safety to ensure their physical, cultural, emotional and social development.

The challenges facing care and protection agencies are well documented. There are increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect notifications, increasing numbers of children in state care and little choice in out of home care options.

It is a sad reality that some children and young people in state care are homeless; some use (what was called the) Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) services and some do not have safe, secure and permanent placements. Actual numbers are difficult to report but the monitoring of the circumstances for children and young people in care by the South Australian Guardian for Children and Young People provides anecdotal evidence of homelessness.

Early in my career I met a number of young people under the guardianship of the Minister who were temporarily accommodated in SAAP services. Additionally, CREATE’s Report Card 2009[1] shows that more than a third of young people leaving care at the age of 18 years are homeless at some point within a year.

[Read the rest of this article in a PDF file.]

[1] McDowall, J.J. (2009) CREATE Report Card 2009 – Transitioning from Care: Tracking Progress. Sydney: CREATE Foundation.