The risk of homelessness for young people exiting foster care

A campaign called ‘The Home Stretch’, that aims to reduce homelessness by increasing the age young people can stay in foster care to 21, has been successful in South Australia and Tasmania (both have announced plans to extend care) and is now working towards the same reform in Victoria and NSW.

Research shows that young people leaving out-of-home care suffer high levels of homelessness. Out-of-home care is the placement of a child (aged 0 to 17 years) who is unable to live with their parents or other primary caregiver with alternate caregivers on a short- or long-term basis as decreed by state or territory authorities.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies identifies five types of out-of-home care:

  • Residential care – placement in a residential building with paid staff
  • Family group homes: homes for children provided by a department or community-sector agency, which have live-in carers who are reimbursed and/or subsidised for the provision of care
  • Home-based care – placement in the home of a carer who is reimbursed for expenses for the care of the child. There are four categories of home-based care: relative or kinship care; foster care; third-party parental care arrangements; and other home-based, out-of-home care
  • Independent living – includes private board and lead tenant households
  • Other – placements that do not fit into the above categories and unknown placement types. This may include boarding schools, hospital, hotels/motels and the defence forces.

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