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.
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 www.actionstation.org.nz/wedontstopcaring