This research examined the housing, homelessness, mental health, alcohol and drug and juvenile justice service usage pathways for out-of-home care (OHC) leavers in Victoria and Western Australia.
Children and young people up to 17 years of age may be placed in OHC if it is unsafe for them to live with their primary caregiver(s). Types of OHC include foster, relative or kinship care; family group homes; residential care; and, for those usually over 16, supported independent living arrangements.
Despite the presence of national and jurisdictional standards which require that leaving care planning start at the age of 15 and involve the young person, there is minimal or no monitoring of this practice. More than half the 1,848 Victorian care leavers in this study (using data from leavers during 2013 and 2014) accessed homelessness services in the four years after leaving care, while one in three had multiple homeless experiences. Participants with experiences of residential care and multiple foster care placements were more likely to experience housing disruptions.
During the study period, 534 care leavers (29%) made applications for public housing as the primary applicant; of these, 158 (30%) received an independent tenancy. To avoid homelessness, more than half of the young people returned to their family of origin, which was not usually considered a ‘safe’ option or one that would promote wellbeing. In addition, care leavers had more than twice the rate of hospital admissions compared with all Victorians aged 15–24 over the same time period.