If a young person is unable to return to the care of their family due to concerns for family conflict, lack of suitable support options, or significant risk of harm in the family home, the Department of Health and Human Services looks to out-of-home care services to manage their care needs on a day to day basis.
There are different forms of living arrangements such as foster care, family group homes and residential care. Out-of-home care can range from short to long term care and provides for children of all ages. However, once the child turns 18 the order placing them under the care of the Department of Health & Human Services ends.
The unfortunate result of a lack of planning for these young people means that half of Victorians who leave out-of-home care are homeless within one year, according to the Australian Housing and Research Institute. Disadvantages such as homelessness are linked with difficulties in finding employment, reduced mental health and increased chances of being arrested. In one report by the Melbourne-based Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, it was found that 12% of young people had spent time in detention in the year after leaving out-of-home care. In addition, the Australian Institute of Family Studies found one-in-five young people living in out-of-home care in Victoria had been cautioned or charged by the police in the last six months.
Other challenges that those coming from out-of-home care face include employment, where they will experience an unemployment rate three times higher than other Australians according to data from the Create Foundation. They are also more likely to be underemployed and earning lower wages.
On the 15 February 2018, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos signed the agreement for the COMPASS Social Impact Bond in a great show of support for young people leaving care. This is a joint venture between VincentCare Victoria, Anglicare Victoria and the State Government.
The Social Impact Bond will allow investors to fund the $14.2 million COMPASS program. The program is designed to give 200 young people leaving out-of-home care a support network including secured housing, care workers and linking them with education, training and job opportunities.
By providing young people out of care with a proper support network they can get the same chances as most young people who are helped past the age of 18 by their family. Anglicare Victoria’s studies shows that extended support helps achieve better life outcomes. The program’s success will be measured against targets of reduced homeless, improved health and reduced involvement in the criminal justice system. Achieving those outcomes benefits the community and the participants of the program.