In this day and age, how many 18 year old Australians are emotionally and financially capable of leaving their family home and finding affordable, safe accommodation whilst also trying to pursue full-time study or land a permanent job? I know I certainly wasn’t.
Tasmania is Australia’s most recent state to release its official report into its Out of Home Care (OOHC) sector. Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Morrissey, has painted a clear picture of the shortcomings of the state’s provision of safe, child-focused care for many of the 1,100 Tasmanian children in the system. In the introduction of the report, he acknowledges that his state has, for some, been a “less than ideal parent” and has “the lowest recurrent expenditure per child in OOHC, and the lowest expenditure on OOHC per placement night.”
Commissioner Morrissey has presented seven key recommendations for change, including that the Tasmanian Government:
- Develop and adopt a set of standards for the provision of OOHC and develop an Outcomes Framework specific to Tasmanian children and young people
- Establish an ongoing consultative panel of young people who have had experience in the OOHC system
- Provide the resources and funds required for successful service redesign and ongoing delivery
- Ensure that mechanisms are in place to seek out and listen to the individual voices of children and young people in the OOHC system
Improving long term outcomes
Whilst offering steps for a positive and actionable way forward, there is one recommendation absent from the Commissioner’s report which is growing in popularity both nationally and internationally:
Why doesn’t the government extend the provision of out of home care to the age of 21?
As Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, believes: “Young people kicked out of care at 18 is not good enough, by any standard.” In this respect, government and service providers need to develop strategies to improve children’s outcomes not only during their time in care, but also setting them up for positive long-term outcomes. According to Commissioner Morrissey’s report:
“Far too many young people in OOHC have poor outcomes across the developmental spectrum…This includes lower educational achievements, homelessness, mental health issues, anxiety and attachment issues, lower rates of employment and entry into the youth justice system.”
It is these unacceptable truths that the Improving Outcomes in Out of Home Care conference will be addressing in Sydney this May. Bringing together senior government representatives, directors of service providers, peak advocacy bodies and international thought leaders, this event will be a dynamic forum to share practical strategies for change. Most importantly, it is placing the interests of the child at the centre of the discussion.