The Queensland Government must not abandon children in foster, kinship and residential care once they turn 18, say supporters of a new campaign launched in Queensland today. More than 160 organisations are part of the Home Stretch campaign demanding care be extended to the age of 21.
“Parents don’t abandon their kids once they turn 18 or 19 and neither should the state,” says Queensland Home Stretch Co-Chair Lindsay Wegener. “Around half of those leaving care face being unemployed, homeless, pregnant or in jail within the first year. This is unacceptable.
“The Government is taking a step in the right direction by offering care until 19, but they can and must do more. Most young people rely on the support of their parents until they are older and often return home as young adults. Not all foster children will choose to remain in care until the age of 21, but they all must have the choice.
“The Queensland Government has a statutory responsibility to protect children in care from harm and give them the best possible start in adult life. But the Palaszczuk Government is letting them down just when they hit the home stretch,” says Lindsay.
A report by Deloitte Access Economics reveals the strong cost benefit of extending care. It is based on international evidence from the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand where care is extended to 21.
“Many of the vulnerable young people we meet say that they need care to be extended,” says Queensland Home Stretch Co-Chair Jacqui Reed. “Over half of young people in care have the opportunity to stay living with carers. But the other half are without the care that others have until their 20’s.
“Most people aren’t ready to launch into the world once they turn eighteen. Many live with their parents well into their twenties. Foster kids don’t have that support. The Queensland Government is abandoning them before their parental job is done. It is not only cruel, it costs financially
“Deloitte Access Economics estimates the return on investment by extending care to 21 in Queensland would be $2.69 for every $1 spent. If the Queensland Government invests $20 million into extending care over four years there will be a $55 million benefit.
“Homelessness could be halved, education participation would more than double, and arrests, hospitalisation and alcohol or drug dependence would significantly decrease. The physical and mental health of those leaving care will improve and intergenerational disadvantage and poverty will be reduced,” says Jacqui.
Queensland has 10,248 children in foster care and 5,000 foster carers. Last year 639 people aged 15-17 years were discharged from foster care. More than forty per cent of those in care are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.