Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care

CFCA Paper No. 41 – October 2016


The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a significant social and developmental stage as well as a period of substantial brain development. It is a period of the life course that is recognised as requiring adequate resources and access to educational, employment and housing pathways and options, in addition to the emotional and financial support of family (Greeson & Thompson, 2014; Avery & Freundlich, 2009). Young people transitioning from residential out-of-home care (OOHC) or foster care, however, face this transition to adulthood without such resources, and often without family support or guidance, at a younger age than their peers. Further, children and young people in OOHC are one of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and traumatised populations in the Australian community, with many having experienced some form of abuse or neglect, family violence or parental substance abuse prior to entering care (Mendes et al., 2011b). Pre-care experiences may be compounded by poor or unstable OOHC care arrangements, inconsistent schooling, poor mental health and social exclusion during their time in care. These factors all contribute to young people’s transition experience, their ability to cope with the transition and their life outcomes following transition (Beauchamp, 2014; Cashmore & Paxman, 2007; Mendes, Johnson, & Moslehuddin, 2011b).

There is a large body of literature examining these outcomes for young people. This paper focuses on the needs of young people from a developmental or life course perspective. It examines the social developmental needs of young adults transitioning to adulthood in the context of leaving care, and then goes on to examine the literature on how best to support young people leaving care.