Should the age of leaving state care be extended beyond 18?


The public poll in which we posed this question opened on 22 May and closed on 30 May 2016. Thanks to the 239 people who responded to the poll and the 19 who left comments.

This is how you voted


Here is a summary of the comments:

All 19 of the commentators agreed in some way to the extension of the leaving age:

  • most 18 year olds are not mature enough to go-it-alone and many receive ongoing support from parents even beyond 25
  • many young people exiting care at 18 do not have stable and secure support groups at that time and need help and time to develop them
  • the trauma and disruption to their lives that many children in care have experienced means that their educational progress and personal maturity may be delayed compared to those in the general population
  • 18 to 25 is a critical time in education and support is critical and disruption is damaging during this time
  • 18 to 25 is a key time to intervene to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and abuse among young people in care
  • many young people become homeless after leaving care at 18 and support beyond this age would help
  • it is inconsistent that Centrelink has factored an expectation of continuing parental support to age 25 in its benefit structure while state government support cuts out at 18
  • money invested in supporting young people beyond 18 would be more than repaid in the saving from decreased contact with the welfare, health and justice systems later in life
  • young people with a disability should receive particular consideration

Many noted practical factors that should be considered:

  • young people are adults at 18 and so ongoing care would need to be voluntary and negotiated
  • current  post-placement services are insufficient to do the work that would be required and many more suitably trained people would be needed
  • continuing financial support for foster carers would encourage and support an ongoing relationship at a critical time
  • the relationship with a  foster family will need to evolve and develop as it does with other families as the child grows older
  • a young person at 18 should be allowed to discuss exiting care in an interview with an independent body prior to making a decision
  • perhaps there should be an extension to 21 years and then beyond that if the the young person is still in study

All of the comments are below in full and comments are still open if you would like to take the conversation further.

You may also be interested in the results of our last survey asking where extra funding should go to reform child protection in our state.

19 Responses

  1. Many young people are still studying well ito their early 20s.
    Most young adults still depend on support from parents/carers until 20-21 years.
    Most Teenagers are still finding who they are and by 21 years old you have more ideas and direction in your life.

  2. I find it incredibly concerning that we are expecting young people who have experienced developmental trauma, often very serious and cumulative abuse and neglect in childhood to leave care at 18 years of age. The post care support available for young people in South Australia is not sufficient. Relationships Australia only have 2FTE for the entire state and whilst services such as the Yarrow Place Intensive Therapeutic Care Program does what it can to support young people post 18 by trying to ensure they are linked in with appropriate adult services, complexities arise as many of these services are not suitable as they are not assertive in how they engage with young people. We know that young people exiting care are still so vulnerable and that they do not actively seek support for themselves and as a result these young people fall between the gaps and often expose themselves to further harm eg Homelessness, Domestic violence, isolation. Young people who have not experienced developmental trauma and are who still living with their parents are now staying at home post 25 years, why are we asking our young people who have been in care, who are so vulnerable, to be independent at 18 years and expect them to navigate services and support on their own?

  3. As a Foster Carer we have 3 Gom 18 children, who have no contact with their bio families. These children we consider, love & treat as our own. Who knows when they decide to leave home. However all 3 have special needs such as autism, none of them have the social skills or development level equal to their peers currently, we anticipate by the time they are 18, they will still need support & therapy as well as a safe home

  4. I believe 18 is too young. Of course if the 18yr old wants to be independent as a legal adult they can choose to do so. However, there is the issue of many 18yr olds not having had stable placements and don’t have any family support so find themselves homeless and vulnerable. Many Yr12 students turn 18 in their final year of school, imagine if they were homeless too because they had a birthday. It’s a very sad situation for teenagers to be abandoned without support, and to think that 16 and 17yr olds are worried about what will happen to them when they turn 18. Ideally there would be a transition period for 18-21yr olds, that is much kinder and will provide young people with a better opportunity to finish school, and perhaps have a brighter future.

  5. I think that this should be a discussion with the Young person and support ($, accommodation support , support to maintain foster care placements) should be offered to all young people . At 18 YP can be treated like your not our problem any more your 18. I am not suggesting everyone does that , but I have seen a few things in my 13 years of working in the department and my own previous welfare history.

  6. I think it is unrealistic to withdraw support for a young person at 18. Mostly at this age they are still in school, in the middle of yr 12! They certainly don’t need the extra stress of wondering where they are going to live, how they are going to pay their way, etc. Everybody needs a mentor as they enter adulthood. Someone to turn to, to ask questions, to help with stuff ( how to change a tyre, how to rent a house, mow a lawn, roast a chicken, etc) I think a foster family that has a good relationship with a young person is in the perfect position to offer this support. The relationship between family, young person and state will evolve as they grow more mature, until all three are on an equal footing.

  7. I left home when I was 27. And my parents helped me as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life. And I came from a “normal home”. Not 18. We need to help them till they feel secure to leave.

  8. I think the age should be upped to at least 21 but if the young person is in further education then it should be upped to 25. Many families now have their children home well past 18 especially if they are undertaking further education be it at a university or other higher educational setting. Children who are under the guardianship of the minister are usually there because they have being through an awful lot so it stands to reason that they may need the support even more. It would also support the foster carers who still have them as part of their family a loving family and support is important for all children/young adults but vital for the children who have had a rougher start in life than most. These young adults are our future we need to invest in them.

  9. Please Please extend to at least 21. My first has just “aged out” at 18. The reality of this is that I now have to spread our income even further to include him. We would never abandon him but his Guardian, the Government did!!
    A disgrace when many of these kids are just beginning to mature and learning independence at 18.

  10. As a mother of a now 26 year old, he definitely needed support beyond 18 and I am sure children in care do too

  11. This is particularly an issue for those in state care who also have a disability.

  12. It has become apparent over the years working with young people and associating personally with young people that they require support in different areas in there life as they grow older, maybe if state care took this into consideration and shaped there services and support around moving from childhood to adolescent through to young adult hood 21-25 (depending on the young person capacity and needs) , young people would be able to understand their maturation better and access the supports they may require to move into each stage without too much grief To then be able to live independently…cutting off support at 18 is too young for most.

    1. I totally agree JoAnne. It is as if 18 years of age defines maturation when in reality it is a gradual on-going process.

  13. Where there has been a positive long term placement for a young person, post 18 years they usually remain with the foster family and the foster family continues to support them. When one looks at the Centrelink position parents are expected to support their children up to 25 years of age. Young people in the care system have usually had a tough time of it so ongoing support until 25 years seems appropriate. As a former foster carer, I continue to support the young people who were in my care and they are now well and truly adult with the youngest being 34 years. Parenting isn’t only until 18 years of age.

  14. YES! As children brought up in safe loving homes are often not ready to live independently, at or before this age, yet we expect children who may have spent much of their lives in cycles of turmoil or abuse to be suddenly independent. Lets not forget the life long damage early childhood trauma has on a child’s brain, and the disruption and trauma that can continue through events at access with family, or when mummy and daddy don’t turn up, again! The feeling of rejection repeated throughout childhood. Lets not forget that some abuse or neglect is not discovered, and a child not removed from that environment until a couple of years before they are expected to leave the system. Why have a system built towards protection if we are willing to cause more damage instead of provide that little extra support that could make the difference! The age should definitely be raised to 21 and have an option to extend this to 25, so those that require extra support to become well rounded individuals, are fully able to take care of themselves as adults.

  15. Young people once they reach the age of 18 should have the option of remaining in state care until they are 25. If a young person wishes to exit care at 18 they should have an exit interview first, conducted through the Office of Guardian or similar body, to find out why they wish to exit and to ensure they aren’t exiting without support. Opting back in should also be an option for young people.

  16. 18 is too young – especially considering the learning and developmental delays resulting from backgrounds of trauma. I agree with a previous comment that if the young person is engaged in tertiary education then the option to stay to 25 should be available – if working till 21. I would be interested to know how much a young person on the dole would cost the government ohh wait ******** Single, with no children, younger than 18 years, and required to live away from parental home to study undertake training or look for work $433.20 pf – Single, with no children, 18 years or older and required to live away from parental home $433.20 DHS website ..
    *********UMM and if they leave at 18 -don’t cope – don’t feel they can go back – turn to illegal activities and end up incarcerated what is that cost ???? Ohh Wait ********* It costs more than $300 a day to keep a prisoner in jail, and more than $600 a day to keep a juvenile in detention. As written in the CLA Civil Liberties Australia Newsletter. I am thinking that allowing GOM 18 to stay with foster carers to 21 – 25 will save the government some money short and long term. Imagine if with the little extra support they get qualified and go straight to work and paying taxes rather than struggling on government payments.

    1. Better for young people and cheaper for the government. Seems like a no-brainer. Why do you think it hasn’t been done?

  17. Considering that many 18yr olds in care (particularly GOM 18) may have no other support systems other than foster care/Families SA workers, I believe it is imperative that the age is raised – I would say to 25. Financial support for carers who have committed to continued support and care post 18 would also help to secure adequate ongoing help and security. Support should look ‘different’ to that of under 18’s as it would need to accommodate young people’s needs for increasing independence and guidance / support to meet the new barrage of challenges that face any young person at this time in their lives. Given that there are many young people in care who disengage from services as young as 14-15, I think the system needs a long overdue revamp in the way it supports youth and young adults who are already disenfranchised and vulnerable. Surely the statistics for inter- generational trauma and abuse highlights the need for us to provide intensive, appropriate, innovative support for our most-at-risk young people – 18-25yrs

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