The minister is the legal guardian of children and young people in out-of-home care. When young people turn 18 the Minister ceases to be their legal guardian. This can be an anxious time for many young people as this means their placement might end and they might need to look after themselves and find suitable accommodation.
It is important that at this time young people have the life skills they need to live independently. FACS need to ensure young people are adequately prepared and understand their entitlements. To prepare young people for this time, caseworkers begin leaving care planning from 15 years of age. Additional support is provided for young people with a disability.
A Leaving Care Plan is developed which addresses the needs of the young person. Under the National Standards for Out-of-Home-Care and the NSW Standards for Statutory Out-of-Home Care, every young person who transitions to independence from statutory out-of-home care requires a leaving care plan.
Some of the experiences of young people at this time are illustrated on the right.
- Often feel anxious about leaving care
- Do not have the skills to live independently
- Return to birth families without the necessary skills to keep them safe
- May be unaware of their leaving care plan and entitlements
- The plan is not in a friendly format for young people to read or access
- Leaving care plans can easily get lost as young people tend to be transient
- FACS can have limited knowledge about young people who are managed by partner organisations so it is difficult to develop a leaving care plan
- Young people may be disengaged or transient hindering co-creation of plans
- Identifying gaps in young people's life skills that need to be addressed to support independent living
- Challenging to provide young people with knowledge to support them due to their developmental stage
Things that will help
- Tasks and challenges that are of interest for building life skills
- Ability to track progress of objectives and tasks in building skills
- Online access to leaving care plan and entitlements
- Access to a timeline of their time in care making it easy to keep track of who they have lived with, where and when
- Ability to piece together their past, through 'my timeline' function to view photographs and life story information
- Access to current and historical genograms for their birth family
- An efficient way to understand the strengths, interests and life skills of young people
- Interacting with young people on their terms through technology which can help make life planning less confronting
- Information about healthy relationships, safe sexual practices, mental health, drug and alcohol, that teenagers can look at independently and privately
- Messaging capabilities for young people, their carers and caseworkers
- Caseworkers able to access information while working with the young person out of the office
- Field assessment tools that allow for better engagement with young people out of the office
Supporting ChildStory tools
The following tools can be used by carers, young people and workers to support life planning during leaving care.