Are we teaching children and young people in state care to be homeless?

Amanda Shaw - Senior Advocate

Children and young people are brought into the care and protection system through no fault of their own and have experienced abuse and neglect. Collectively, it is our responsibility to ensure that each child is provided with care, stability, security and safety to ensure their physical, cultural, emotional and social development.

The challenges facing care and protection agencies are well documented. There are increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect notifications, increasing numbers of children in state care and little choice in out of home care options.

It is a sad reality that some children and young people in state care are homeless; some use (what was called the) Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) services and some do not have safe, secure and permanent placements. Actual numbers are difficult to report but the monitoring of the circumstances for children and young people in care by the South Australian Guardian for Children and Young People provides anecdotal evidence of homelessness.

Early in my career I met a number of young people under the guardianship of the Minister who were temporarily accommodated in SAAP services. Additionally, CREATE’s Report Card 2009[1] shows that more than a third of young people leaving care at the age of 18 years are homeless at some point within a year.

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[1] McDowall, J.J. (2009) CREATE Report Card 2009 – Transitioning from Care: Tracking Progress. Sydney: CREATE Foundation.

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