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.
I had an NGO caseworker. A week before my 18th birthday, this lady I never heard of called me from FACS. She didn’t know much about me.At the time I hated FACS and wanted the meeting to end quickly. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I was entitled to. I was probably too immature to plan properly.I was really worried about where I was going to live after I turned 18.At 18 I was on my own. I called my cousin who said I could live with him. I didn’t really know them but it was somewhere to go.Luckily kids like me get extra support during leaving care planning.A lot of kids go back home to their family thinking things will have changed but they may still have a lot of problems.
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.