SECTION 6: LEAVING CARE
PLANNING FOR LEAVING CARE TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY
BENCHMARK POLICY 6.1b
1 POLICY STATEMENT
Young persons leaving out-of-home care have the right to feel that they have been sufficiently prepared to live independently of the support of their family. They need to be well informed and confident in the knowledge that their choices and decision-making skills are well developed. They will also have ongoing advice, support, advocacy and assistance available.
For young persons to have confidence in their ability to live independently, they need to have been actively involved in preparing for leaving care. Planning needs to occur over an extended period of time with their leaving care being a culmination of achieved outcomes relating to case plans. Aspects of these plans should directly relate to preparation for leaving care.
Designated agencies need to promote independence in young persons, reinforce their strengths and assist them in gaining the skills that they need to live independently.
Planning for leaving care involves developing a structured decision making framework that is based on a comprehensive assessment of a young person’s life skills. This can be used to inform and coordinate the overall goals necessary for the transition to independent living. Within this, it is essential to incorporate programs and services designed to enhance life skills. Focus areas should include education, vocational training, income, financial management, nutrition, accommodation, health, legal rights and responsibilities, as well as the risks of alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex practices. Young persons also need to know how to access and use local services within their community.
Implicit in the process of leaving care is the support provided by the authorised carer, staff or other significant people in the young person’s life. Designated agencies need to work closely with significant people in the young person’s life to ensure that these relationships are positive and any conflicts have been resolved. They need to provide support to enable carers and other significant people in the young person’s life to assist them to achieve independence. Agencies also have a responsibility to support carers who may go through a period of grieving.
It is also necessary for designated agencies to provide young persons leaving care with relevant files and records of their time in care. This should include the reasons for their entry into care, family history, history of all placements, records of their life experiences which should include stories, photos, educational and health records and the names of significant people in the out-of-home care system with whom they may wish to remain in contact. Designated agencies need to ensure that this information is prepared while the young person is in care and can fully participate in the process.
As part of the leaving care plan, designated agencies need to help the young person find suitable accommodation and ensure that their income is sufficient to meet the ongoing costs. Provisions should also be made in regards to furniture and household items. Even if a young person leaves care in an unplanned manner, designated agencies need to work with them to ensure they have sufficient resources and emotional and social supports to live independently.
It should be noted that in some cases, young persons will be viewed as having left care if they run away over the age of sixteen years. This is not an accurate view if they are subject to a court order. They remain the responsibility of the designated agency until they are eighteen years of age or have applied to leave care. Designated agencies have a responsibility to assist and support them in terms of appropriate planning and achieving positive outcomes.
Part 6 of chapter 8 of the Children and Young Person (Care and Protection) Act 1998 relates to arrangements for and after leaving out-of-home care.
Section 166 of the Act specifies that designated agencies who have supervisory responsibility for a young person must, in consultation with them, prepare a plan before they leave care. Designated agencies have a responsibility to ensure that all young persons leaving out-of-home care are prepared for their move to independent living.
Where circumstances warrant extended support, section 165 of the Act provides for the provision or arrangement of assistance after leaving out-of-home care. Such assistance can be given until a young person reaches the age of 25 years. It can even be extended beyond this at the discretion of the Minister.
Legislative requirements also exist in terms of record-keeping and the provision of records to young persons. Section 167 of the Act stipulates specific information must be kept in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young persons. Further to this, ss168 and 169 of the Act relate to the rights and entitlements of all young persons to be able to access personal information held by the designated agency and/or authorised carers.
Section 170 of the Act outlines the responsibilities of agencies to retain records of children and young persons for a period of 7 years after they cease to have responsibility for their placement. At this time, such records become state records under the State Records Act 1998.
Section 10 of the Act outlines the principle of participation. Children and young persons must be given the opportunity to plan for leaving out-of-home care.
The state of being self-reliant or not dependent on another person. In terms of the Act, children and young persons need to be prepared to be independent. The role of a designated agency is to provide the means and training to enable children and young persons to make choices in their development towards independent living.
Skills developed by children and young persons that give them the capability or ability to care for themselves. These skills would range from cooking meals, cleaning, budgeting and washing, to providing their own income, finding accommodation, dealing with public institutions and the community and developing and maintaining relationships with significant people in their lives.
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