Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care

Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care

Monica Campo and Joanne Commerford

CFCA Paper No. 41 — October 2016
Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care

The transition from adolescence to adulthood—emerging adulthood—is now recognised as a significant stage in the life cycle in developmental, emotional and social terms. Young people leaving out-of-home care (OOHC) face this transition to adulthood without family support and with significant extra barriers such as poor mental health, intellectual and physical disabilities, and developmental delays. They are further disadvantaged through structural impediments and economic and social policy factors, such as the lack of affordable or appropriate housing and high unemployment.

Despite state and national government commitment to better support young people leaving care, evidence suggests there are continuing shortfalls in policy and legislation. This paper examines international and Australian literature to identify the key areas of support that may help young people to successfully transition from care. Children and young people in OOHC are one of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and traumatised populations in the Australian community.

Key messages

The transition from adolescence to adulthood—emerging adulthood—is a significant social and developmental stage as well as a period of substantial brain development. Young people leaving care face this transition without the same social support systems or family safety nets as their peers.

Experiences of early trauma and abuse or mental health issues may further place young people leaving care at a disadvantage during the transition to adulthood and independence.

Stability of care and emotional security during time in care are significant predictors of young people’s outcomes. However, residential care does not seem to meet the needs of vulnerable children and may also exacerbate trauma.

Research suggests the leaving care transition needs to be flexible, gradual and well planned. This includes individual transition planning based on the young person’s needs, flexible post-care options and ongoing emotional and financial support until young people reach 25 years of age.

Housing and homelessness are recognised as significant issues for young people leaving care.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Monica Campo is a Senior Research Officer and Joanne Commerford is a Research Officer with the Child Family Community Australia information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The authors wish to acknowledge and thank Philip Mendes and Noelle Hudson for their review of the paper and helpful feedback.

Cover image: © istockphoto / Martin Dimitrov

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 41
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2016.
22 pp.
ISSN: 
2200-4106
ISBN: 
978-1-76016-105-7
Suggested citation:

Campo, M., & Commerford, J. (2016). Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care (CFCA Paper No. 41). Melbourne: Child Family Community Australia information exchange, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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