Home Stretch NSW – Extending Out-of-Home Care to 21
“If young people leaving care are to thrive as active citizens in our community, they need more supports than the average teenager, not less” – Jeremy Halcrow, CEO Anglicare NSW South, NSW West & ACT
For many young people in out-of-home care, approaching their 18th birthday can be daunting. The Home Stretch campaign seeks to extend the age of leaving care from 18 to 21, providing greater stability and security for young people who may already be having a rough time.
This is a state-by-state decision, and in May the VFFF Grants Committee approved a $50,000 grant to support the campaign’s work in NSW. Home Stretch is expertly led by Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, and steered by a NSW Committee including the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies, CREATE Foundation, Barnados, Catholic Care and many others.
Research shows that when young people leave care at 18, 29% are unemployed within the first 12 months compared with a national average of 9.7%. Additionally, 63% of all homeless young people under 25 have been in out-of-home care at some point in their lives.
With 85% of 18 – 21 year olds in Australia still living at home with one or both parents, Home Stretch aims to bring the same standard of security to those in out-of-home care, and a better chance to kickstart their adult lives and fulfil their potential.
In countries where this change has already been made (US, UK, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand), a wide range of positive social and economic ripple effects are seen. Evaluations from the US and UK indicated that for each additional year in extended care:
• Higher education enrolments increased by 10%
• Odds of employment doubled
• The amount of money in young people’s bank accounts increased by about $400
• Youth pregnancies decreased by about 38%
• Odds that a young person is arrested decreased by 41%
Analysis by Deloitte for Home Stretch NSW indicates that the NSW government would more than triple their return on investment for every dollar spent on keeping young people in care until 21, and save $222 million in government services.
Home Stretch has opened up a cultural conversation about how we view state care and welfare responsibilities towards young people, and currently has over 11,000 individual supporters, 200 supporting organisations and 700 foster kinship carers backing the campaign.