The Age of Independence
Coming of age is a concept regarding a milestone and is usually synonymous with celebration. Most coming of age is filled with excitement, particularly when it involves children reaching adulthood. However, for many Queensland children who have grown up in state care, coming of age is far more complex and is the cause of significant angst.
At the age of 18 children in statutory care are ‘transitioned from care.’ In essence this means their time of support has ended and they are now largely on their own. Transition from Care (TFC) under the current Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) is a process that begins for a young person in care when they turn 15. For the next 3 years they will be supported through their ‘transition from care’ (TFC). Their case plan and support processes become focused on their journey to 18 by which time they are expected to be independent.
For the remainder of Australia’s children, independence is far more fluid. For example, our Federal government deems that children studying or those not working will remain the financial responsibility of their parents until the age of 24. We consistently hear that children are remaining at home far longer than in previous generations due to the costs of education and housing. Whilst all young people achieve certain milestones at 18 such as the right to vote and to consume alcohol their financial independence is dependent on various factors. Those factors largely interface with their parents’ status quo.
It is one thing to ask our children growing up in State care to reach total independence at 18 when we know without a doubt that we don’t expect the same of children growing up in our families. We add insult to injury when we fail to seriously and wholeheartedly hear, consider and provide what young people are saying they need. Our responsibility is to hear them and respond.
Even forgetting the total sum of the past trauma of pre and in care experiences, given the best case scenario at 18 our children in state care are probably in Grade 12 and hopefully focused on learning. The reality that they will be on their own at the end of the year of part way through this most intense year of study must be terrifying.
What if your parent is the State?
If you live in Queensland and your parent is the State, you will be informed at 15 years of age that you are being ‘transitioned from care.’ All being well, you will then receive significant transition from care (TFC) supports and at the age of 18 you will be independent.
Think about it. If your best friend, your neighbour, or a family member told you that they were talking to and preparing their 15 year old to move out the day of their 18th birthday, would you think this was okay? Should we be holding the state as parent to the same standards as Australian parents are held to?
Lorraine Dupree- Policy and Research Manger, PeakCare