Leaving care - advice
This advice provides additional information regarding preparing a child to leave care.
Document ID number 2111, version 3, 11 August 2022.
See procedure Leaving care for tasks that must be undertaken.
To ensure young people leaving out-of-home care have optimal success, preparation needs to be considered as part of a continuous process of personal development, not as an event that starts only as a young person nears the end of their time in care. It is important that young people leaving care have the necessary support and skills to maximise their opportunities and feel ready and prepared to leave care. See Care and transition planning for leaving care in Victoria – a framework and guide.
Each young person who leaves an out-of-home care placement should do so in a planned and supported manner to enable a successful and sustainable transition. Young people should have:
- ongoing opportunities over time to develop independent living skills
- involvement in decision-making
- a detailed post placement support (or after care) plan and
- essential documentation, possessions and life records.
Members of the young person's care team share responsibility for the preparation of the young person for independent living.
Preparation for independence
The care team is expected to actively participate in the process of regularly reviewing care and placement plans. The LAC assessment and action record is a tool to assess developmental outcomes for young people in key life areas and can be followed up as part of the ongoing review processes in planning for the young person. The LAC assessment and action record must be completed annually for each young person in care.
The child protection practitioner must ensure that a young person's case plan is reviewed as required and contains all decisions made that the Secretary considers significant.
Preparation and planning for leaving care should ideally commence two years prior to a young person's transition from care. Young people need time and experience to learn the skills necessary for successful independent living. Young people learn through observation, role modelling, practice and support during times of success and failure.
Conversations should commence with the young person about what they see themselves doing as an adult. These conversations should occur incrementally to allow the young person to deal with these life decisions in a supported manner. Preparation for leaving care must be included as a component of case planning and include the following considerations:
- reunification with family
- an appropriate alternative long-term care environment, links into disability services if required
- remaining in the current care environment with a change of goals and timeframes for the placement, reflected in a revised placement agreement
- an independent or semi supported living situation, if the young person has sufficient living skills to safely sustain such an arrangement
- a less intensive care environment in the case of young people placed in intensive support care arrangements, particularly non family based care and
- whether a review of the existing child protection order is required.
It is not appropriate to attempt to complete any tool, for example the LAC assessment and action record, in their entirety in one meeting with a young person. All interactions with the young person should contribute to the assessment being made and should be part of the dialogue. Every effort should be made not to overwhelm a young person with questions or to alienate them if they are not willing to engage in a particular discussion. A question in these circumstances could be asked about whom they talk to or whom could they speak to about certain areas (using the care team).
The child protection practitioner must ensure that transition from care and assessment of living skills begins as early as possible (ideally two years) and is regularly reviewed as part of the case plan. In the case of young people with disabilities or high risk or challenging behaviours, consideration should be given to assessment commencing earlier and what specialist input may be required. Consultations with disability practice advisors should be sought to inform decision making, provide advice in relation to NDIS timeframes and processes, and support connection to appropriate services.
The assessment of living skills should consider the seven health and welfare dimensions of the LAC framework.
Young people leaving care may be entitled to a grant from the Commonwealth Government called transition to independent living allowance (TILA). This is a one-off support up to the value of $1,500 for young people (only CSOs can apply); refer to the June 2014 Operational guidelines. See Transition to independent living allowance service description.
As part of the case planning process the care team should ensure that the case plan clearly outlines who is responsible for the tasks that are required when a child or young person transitions from placement. These tasks include:
- to ensure access to the necessary supports to maintain the young person safely home, where the young person returns to their parent's care, or in their transition to an independent living situation (including links to community support agencies)
- to clarify any ongoing living, contact or respite arrangements between the young person and their carer
- to review the case plan for the young person, using the relevant assessment and decision making tools, to determine whether ongoing intervention is required to meet the young person's protection and care needs
- in relation to the carers:
- discuss the outcomes of the placement, including
- identified strengths demonstrated in managing the placement
- learning and support needs for future placements.
Even though a young person may no longer be on a Children's Court order with child protection, the Secretary has responsibilities under s. 16(1)(g) and 16(4) of the CYFA to provide or arrange for the provision of services to assist in supporting a person under the age of 21 years to gain the capacity to make the transition to independent living where the person
- has been on a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order. a long-term care order and
- on leaving the care by Secretary order is of an age to, or intends to, live independently.
The kinds of services that may be provided to support a person to make the transition to independent living include
(a) the provision of information about available resources and services
(b) depending on the Secretary's assessment of need
- financial assistance
- assistance in obtaining accommodation or setting up a residence
- assistance with education and training
- assistance in finding employment
- assistance in obtaining legal advice
- assistance in gaining access to health and community services
(c) counselling and support.
Working with young people to plan their transition to independence can be a rewarding and enjoyable part of your work, although with some young people this may be more challenging.
All interactions with the young person should contribute to the assessment you make and be part of the dialogue you have with the young person. Every effort should be made not to overwhelm a young person with questions or to alienate them if they are not willing to engage in a particular discussion when seeking to complete a LAC assessment and action record and supplementary tool.
All young people respond to someone showing an interest in them, their views, their life, their goals and their aspirations. Every effort should be made to open up discussions. By the time a young person is beginning to think about or is of an age where it is planned that their order will expire they will have views of what they want, fears for the future or uncertainty. This can be utilised in discussion and inform planning just as a young person giving no consideration to these issues should inform planning.
Every conversation and observation you make provides invaluable information and this should be reflected to the young person. For example:
- Consider advising a young person that the LAC review process is a means of assessing that they are receiving the care they require, that is, to understand that their carers are meeting their needs. For some young people this will be an opportunity for them to talk about their positive relationship with their carer whilst for others it could elicit an opportunity to hear about their issues and agree to a plan prioritising what actions will be taken and by whom. No matter what the meaning of such a question for the individual young person it gives two important messages, the first that someone is interested and secondly that they have a voice.
- A young person’s ability to advise you without becoming verbally abusive or disengaging that they are unhappy with a decision or a recent event provides evidence of their ability to communicate with you successfully as an authority figure. Such a conversation could be commented on and expanded by encouraging the young person to think about other occasions they have done this and alternatively occasions where this has been more difficult or where they think that some advice on this would be of use.
- Consider planning a visit around the young person actually preparing a snack or a meal. Could the young person do this at their residential setting or at their carer’s home? This may need to be discussed with the young person’s carer in advance of the visit but is an example of how self-care skills can be developed or demonstrated.
- By planning prior to visiting a young person, where a car journey may be involved, it is important to think about what you would want to talk about with a young person. Car journeys can provide invaluable opportunities to talk to young people and the information obtained should be used to inform assessments. These situations provide opportunities to reflect with the young person, to model and to explore in discussion, which would otherwise not be possible in another situation. A car journey can be used to assess a young person’s ability to read, use a road map, to plan a journey and allowing sufficient time for a journey.
- It is important to have an open dialogue with the young person about the observations you make as they inform your assessment. It is also essential that the young person is encouraged to think about themselves, how they feel they are doing and what areas they wish to work on.
- Work can be brought to life with visual aides. A young person may speak frequently about family and friends. Taking a copy of the young person’s genogram with you on a visit can be a valuable tool to discuss who is important to the young person, what contact they are having or would wish to have with family and significant others. Equally having the young person prepare an eco-map provides a visual representation of who is significant or where there is a poor connection to community and peers.
- Discussing with a person what their individual education plan is and attempting to expand discussion on how this is progressing, what their goals are or how their educational experience could have been made more enjoyable or can be improved.
- Feeding back on observations of a young person’s presentation for example when well groomed or when a notable difference is observed, using a strengths based approach, can contribute to self-esteem.
- Encouraging a young person to tell you how they are going. What have other people done before you that have helped them to say what is needed to make sure that their needs are understood and plans are made with them?
The seven LAC health and welfare dimensions to consider:
- Given the sensitive and personal nature of health information, respect needs to be given to the young person around discussing these issues. It is important to be honest, non-judgmental and to respect young people’s privacy.
- Is the young person aware that the doctor needs to know that they understand any medical treatment they are asking for before they will proceed and that the doctor could contact their parent/guardian if they do not think that the young person understands their health options?
- Do they know they have the right to choose their own doctor? Do they know that their relationship with their doctor is confidential; that what they say to their doctor will not be talked about to another person without their permission unless what they say to the doctor suggests they are going to or have harmed themself or another person?
- If they are not yet 17 years of age and the doctor holds serious concerns about their safety the doctor can speak to child protection.
- Do they know a good doctor? What would they want their doctor to be like? Who do they know that talks about having a good doctor?
- Would they feel comfortable to ask a doctor to give them advice on what should be put in a first aid kit or to ask if they will give them the items needed?
- Do they know that once you are fifteen years old, you can get your own Medicare card; with identification such as a birth certificate they can fill in a form and be posted a card?
- Do they know they can check with Centrelink to see if they are eligible for a healthcare card?
- Have they been to a community health centre before? Do they know that health centres offer services like counselling, contraception and sexual health advice and services, advice on drug and alcohol services and gambling? Where is their closest health centre?
- Who do they know that they can talk to about relationships, safe sex, contraception, or sexual health issues?
- Does the young person have access to the internet? Where can they get access to the internet in order to obtain information about a wide range of health issues including issues in relation to sex and sexual health?
- Is there a plan in place which addresses the young person’s specific needs particularly in relation to any health issues, disability or mental health issues?
- Have the NDIS support coordinator been invited to best interest planning meetings? Has a DFFH disability practice advisor been consulted in relation to the leaving care plan and potential NDIS supports? See Leaving care planning for young people eligible for the NDIS for further guidance on these processes.
- Has a consultation with Take Two occurred? Is further advice required?
- Young people should be given opportunity to discuss their skills and hopes for the future and to plan the best way to get where they would like to be.
- Young people should be encouraged to identify the things they are good at and their strengths.
- Young people will have some areas of education they enjoy(ed) or are/were most skilled in and can be encouraged to think about what jobs use these skills or alternatively to getting advice about this.
- Encourage the young person to talk to a careers teacher to help with a plan about what sort of training and employment options there may be.
- Talk to the young person about the option of the distance education centre Victoria if they have had problems attending mainstream school.
- Ensure that the young person is aware that permission is needed from the Department of Education and Training to leave school before 17 years of age if they have employment or an apprenticeship to go to.
- Explore with the young person if they feel confident to contact the Department of Education and Training to find out what educational services are available in their area or who they would wish to have support them to identify this.
- Young people should be advised that every October the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) publishes a booklet called the ‘VTAC guide’ that lists all courses available and processes including timelines for applying for a course. This is available from newsagents.
- Explore if the young person has an understanding of how they could gain entrance to a school, TAFE or university or knows who they could speak to or where they could go to get that information.
- Does the young person have all of the books, equipment, clothing and essential items they need for their course or training? Is a plan in place to obtain these? Who does the young person go to if items are lost or damaged in order to complete the training?
- Ensure that the young person is aware of the role of the specialist youth services within Centrelink.
- Additionally, ensure that the young person is aware of the need for a tax file number if they are working and that application forms are available at post offices and of the need to lodge a tax return. Explore who the young person knows that they could get advice on these things or whether they know of any local welfare rights centres or how to locate one.
- Does the young person know what a curriculum vitae or resume is and the benefits of preparing one if intending to apply for a job. Who do they know who could help them to prepare one and who do they know that may provide a reference for them if they did apply for work?
- Is the young person aware that they can get a learner driver permit for a car at 16 years and a learner’s permit for a motor bike at 18 years?
- Is the young person aware that they have to be 18 years old to apply for a licence to drive a car, that they must have driven a specified number of hours over a period of time to be eligible to apply and that there will be certain restrictions as part of their licence?
- At 17 years the young person can register for the electoral role but cannot vote until they are 18 years.
- Are they aware that they need to update their address on the electoral role each time they change address by completing a new form at the post office?
- Who do they know will help them, if help is needed, to fill out forms and applications?
- If you identify that the young person needs further information and seeks your assistance and advice refer to the ‘life skills’ resource for tools including a draft curriculum vitae and sample job application letter to assist you with this task.
- Is the young person connected to their culture and community?
- Does the young person relate well to their ethnic and cultural background?
- Is the young person able to engage in or perform tasks or activities where they can succeed however small?
- Does the young person go to religious services? Are there opportunities in their local area to practice their specific religion?
- Is the young person engaged in social, recreational or leisure activities?
- Is someone in the young person’s care team supporting them with these interests?
- See the self-assessment tool for other ideas.
Family and social relationships
- Is the young person in contact with their family? Do they know how to contact their parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents and any other significant people in their life?
- Does the young person understand that a particular adult may continue to pose a risk to them or their child? What is their plan? Do they understand that people around them would be concerned if they/their child had contact with this person?
- Who can the young person turn to for advice or assistance in a crisis?
- Who would the young person like to make contact with whom they may have lost contact with over time? For example, past carers, neighbours, school friends. Who can assist them with this if help is needed?
- All young people from 12 years of age should be told about CREATE Foundation and advised of the services and programs CREATE offers.
- Is the young person aware of the impression they make on others?
- Is the young person aware of the need to adjust their behaviour in different situations? Has this been observed? What opportunities exist to observe this?
Emotional and behavioural development
- Can the young person deal with frustrations, difficulties or anxieties with the support available to them?
- What additional support is required and who will offer this either within the care team or through specialist input?
- What ongoing emotional or psychological needs does the young person have? Have the appropriate referrals been made? Does the young person understand and agree to the importance of attending appointments? Who will monitor this/case manage?
- These are practical things a young person needs to know about independent living before they try life out on their own. They include:
It is essential that young people think through and are supported to consider their future accommodation. A range of issues including the young person’s age, the financial cost and location of accommodation may restrict their choices. Social isolation, proximity to friends, family and carers, proximity to work or training, accesses to public transport and shops, banks, doctors are important considerations when considering accommodation.
Some options to consider:
- living with parents or extended family
- placing a caravan in the backyard if room is not available
- remaining with carer(s)
- living with friends
- student accommodation (only available to students)
- renting a caravan or cabin in a caravan park (look in yellow pages or local paper)
- private rental
- renting a room in shared accommodation
- rooming house
- private board
- public housing
- supported accommodation and assistance program (SAAP)
- transitional housing management (THM) accommodation
- refuges and emergence accommodation – short term only.
Issues to consider:
- References are needed if applying for a rental property.
- It is important to understand the responsibilities of signing a lease and the consequences of failure to pay rent, any damage to the property (irrespective of whether the damage is done by them or someone else).
- Take care when signing the condition report on a property, noting any marks or other signs of damage that the young person could be held accountable for later if it is not noted.
- Be careful not to risk to the tenancy by breaking the lease, for example, by allowing friends to stay or police being called about noise or disturbance.
- If there is any damage to the property the bond money can be lost.
- If the rental agreement is broken there can be consequences for future rental applications.
- Return the keys as soon as practicable when ending the tenancy.
- All real estate companies have access to a national register of people who have been ‘blacklisted’ from renting for not looking after properties or not paying rent. Once someone’s name is on this list landlords are unlikely to approve an application for a property, no matter how good the person’s current references are.
- In determining what accommodation options are suitable the young person should be encouraged to consider:
- What accommodation is available in the area they wish to reside in?
- How long do they plan to stay there?
- How easy it is to locate accommodation at that time and in that area?
- What they can afford?
- If deciding to move into their own accommodation there are many things the young person will need. The young person should be supported and encouraged to plan ahead.
- Things to look for in accommodation:
- access to public transport
- shops and parking
- the possibility of keeping animals
- number of bedrooms /space
- windows that open and lock
- any leaking taps
- power points
- television aerial