Help Us Raise The Age Of Foster Care From 17 To 21


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Lifewise has teamed up with social agencies from around the country who work with young people in state care for a joint petition asking the government to raise the age of leaving foster care from 17 to 21. This change would give our most vulnerable youth the right to support and a home-base if required.

With Child Youth and Family currently under review, now is the perfect time to show that Kiwis from all walks of life support raising the leaving age.  

Young people are in state care through no fault of their own. Somehow we have got to a point where people are quick to judge young people in foster care, but they are the innocent victims of sometimes horrific abuse and neglect.

Our government is responsible for young people in state care, and we as members of the community also have a role to play in making sure that they have the support they need to thrive.

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Most families in NZ support their children well past 17, and young people who leave the nest can come back for support if times get tough. But that isn’t the case for young people raised in the state care system. These young people don’t have the option to come home if something goes wrong– they’re left isolated, without the skills or support needed to successfully navigate the adult world.

Tupua Urlich, now 19, left state care at 15. “For me personally, leaving state care was a horrible and heartbreaking experience. You have so much expectation that grows throughout your childhood of returning to a loving environment with all your family. Sadly that was not the case for me.”

Transitioning to life as an independent adult only gets harder when a young person has already had a disrupted life in-and-out of the state care system. Raising the age of leaving foster care from 17 to 21 would mean that young people can learn the skills they need for being independent, and those who choose to leave have the option of coming home if they need to.

If the age of leaving state care remains at 17, young people will continue to fall through the gaps. State care leavers are known to suffer disproportionately poor outcomes, including homelessness, over-representation in the justice system and being dependent on welfare long-term.

Not only is it vital that the Government provides the same level of care as a reasonable parent, raising the age of foster care from 17 to 21 is in everyone’s best interest. With better support, more young people will be able to make the transition to adulthood successfully, resulting in long-term economic, social and health benefits for us all.

“Leaving state care at 17 means teenagers like myself can end up on to the streets for years.”, says Tupua. “I’m asking for the age of foster care to be lifted because like every other young person in state care, I want to be a productive member of society and to live a happy life. We don’t want to just be survivors of our own childhood and upbringing”.

The Action Station petition asks the Child Youth and Family panel to raise the age of leaving foster care in NZ from 17 to 21, and was created in collaboration with Lifewise, Dingwall Trust, Youthline, Child Poverty Action Group, Wesley Community Action, Christchurch Methodist Mission and Action Station.

For more information and to sign the #WeDontStopCaring petition, visit


  1. This issue should cut across all political lines. It’s not a left vs right, National or Labour of Green or any other party issue.

    It’s very simple humanitarianism.

    It makes sense from a simple perspective of looking after young people. If their families fail them for whatever reason, or they don’t have a family, and the state provides care as a representative of our wider community, then we need to make sure they’re as well looked after as they can be.

    What happens to children and teens in state care should have us all hanging our heads in shame. Too many young people left in dangerous foster care situations, abused, neglected and uncared for. After having horrific experiences in their families the state is continuing their abuse as our representatives.

    These young people are our future. They live amongst us. Caring for them with more humanity and decency is the right thing to do. And we all need to put huge pressure on our government to take their situations more seriously and bloody well force state agencies and foster carers to do a better job where they’re failing.

  2. How could you take it to 21 when the real age of majority in this country is now 18 – vote, buy alcohol, marry without parental consent, enter contracts. I would be all for it being raised to 18 as a year in limbo at 17 leaves it wide open for all sorts of nasty occurrences, but I do see it being a bit problematical to raise the age of foster care to 21.

  3. It depends what powers over the life of the young adult that the ‘authorities’ would have. The age of adulthood is 18, so this proposal would create an anomaly. I would need to know more about the fine print of this before I could support it.

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