Leaving Care: Strengthening support services for dual clients of Child Protection and Youth Justice

Leaving Care: Strengthening support services for dual clients of Child Protection and Youth Justice

10 December 2012

Leaving care is a major life transition that involves high levels of anxiety and complexity for the young people involved. The process is made more difficult when young people transitioning from Out-of-Home Care (OOHC) services are also involved in the juvenile justice system.

Leaving care is a major life transition that involves high levels of anxiety and complexity for the young people involved. The process is made more difficult when young people transitioning from Out-of-Home Care (OOHC) services are also involved in the juvenile justice system.

A recently-published study by researchers at Monash University looked at the inter-agency processes of Child Protection and Youth Justice systems in Victoria for state wards at the critical juncture of leaving care.

Their research reveals that leaving care is a particularly vulnerable transition for two reasons: it is during this period that offending increases; and the offending behaviour at this time is more likely to impact on the transition process and overall outcomes for the young people involved.

Findings from the study point to a number of interrelated factors that lead dual order care leavers to continue to offend:

  • A background of child abuse and neglect prior to entering care is identified as the most significant individual factor for reoffending. Young people’s offending behaviour is often related to the unaddressed trauma and attachment issues that make them more vulnerable.
  • An absence of formal protocols when young people who are dual order clients of Child Protection and Youth Justice exit the care system. This often results in a lack of trust and understanding of responsibilities and roles between the agencies involved, which in turn adversely affects the support services they are able to offer.
  • The custodial Youth Justice system is seen as providing an inadequate response to the complex issues faced by the young people from OOHC backgrounds.
  • The lack of sufficient levels of post-care supports including finances, advocacy and housing is also a major contributing factor for young care leavers to continue their involvement with the justice system.

Comprehensive leave care plans involving Youth Justice and community agencies could help to offset some of the factors contributing to these issues. There is also the need for more preventative and diversionary programs focussed on education, mentoring and therapeutic interventions.

Collaborative care-team approaches based on mutual understanding of programs, roles and obligations need to be developed to offer care leavers continued post-care, community-based support. These strategies would seek to reduce the likelihood of care leavers becoming involved with the adult justice system.

For the full report see:

Mendes, P. and Baidawi, S. (2012) “Pathways into youth justice: strengthening policy and program supports for young people in the youth justice system who are transitioning from out-of-home care”, Children Australia, 37(1), 10-22.

Further resources:

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has been contracted by DHS to conduct a longitudinal study looking at young people’s experiences as they transition towards independent living. More information can be found on the Beyond 18: The Longitudinal Study on Leaving Care website.

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Authors

Lalitha Nair

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