Young people’s transition from out-of-home care – new book
A new book explores the experiences of young people leaving state out-of-home care in Australia. Making the transition from out-of-home care is a critical time for young people who have grown up in out-of-home care. They are often expected to become independent at an earlier age than most young people. The book, Young people leaving state out-of-home care: Australian policy and procedure (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2011) stresses the need for ongoing support and mentoring – the responsibility of government and support agencies does not end when a young person turns 18.
Many Forgotten Australians who made submissions to the Senate Inquiry described how the lack of aftercare services had a traumatic and lasting impact:
I left Burnside quite unprepared for life in the real world. I was afraid of everything . people, unfamiliar places, public transport, conversation, shopping, loud voices, being alone with one person, authority figures and so on. (Submission 276)
When I finally left that home I was so unprepared for the outside world that I fell into a world of alcohol and drugs which allowed me hide myself and my problems from those around me. I had no training in handling any of the things that I was confronted with and so made many mistakes. (Submission 20)
Even at eighteen, after leaving the state’s care, I had no idea how to catch a bus, or how to pay my fare, or any idea of the outside world after being institutionalised. It was very hard to fit into a society of which I had absolutely no knowledge or experience. (Submission 8)
I found the world was a lot different to what I knew in the ’Homes’. It was hard to adjust and I found it hard to communicate with people. Institutional life had protected me and now I was on my own. (Submission 153)
When I left Dalmar I could not deal with free time, I did not know what to do with free time as I had developed no interests or hobbies. Even when I had my own children I found it very difficult to play with them. (Submission 136)
There should have been support, counselling and follow up once I turned 18, especially since I had a history of suicide attempts. There was nothing at all available; I was dumped like a hot potato. (Submission 318)
This new book by Philip Mendes, Guy Johnson and Badal Moslehuddin is an important contribution to the literature. It is now acknowledged that Australian policies and practices need to ensure that all young people leaving out-of-home care are supported. Hopefully the stories of Forgotten Australians feeling abandoned by the ‘care’ system will not be repeated in the future.