As a major provider of Out of Home Care services across Victoria, Berry Street is a strong advocate for better support for young people when they leave the protection and care system. Without adequate support services, the outcomes for young people leaving care are relatively very poor.
In Victoria, about 400 young people between the ages of 16 and 18 leave care each year and most of these young people must make the transition to independence without the support of family.
Without adequate support services, the outcomes for young people leaving care are relatively very poor with the CREATE Foundation’s 2009 Report Card finding that for Australian young people transitioning care:
28.5 % were unemployed;
35% were homeless in the first year;
45% were involved in the youth justice system; and
63% did not have any plan for their transition from care.
Across four Berry Street regions, we have a range of initiatives related to Leaving Care. The programs delivered in Gippsland, Hume and the North are all funded by the Department of Human Services as part of their suite of Leaving Care responses.
In partnership with Whitelion, we deliver a Leaving Care mentoring program aimed at promoting healthy personal relationships. Young people in care aged 15 years or above can be referred or self-refer. Each young person is matched with a volunteer mentor who provides personal support. The young people also receive access to outings and activities to enhance community connectedness.
In partnership with Central Hume Support Services and the Rural Housing Network, Berry Street offers a Leaving Care program for care leavers who are assessed as being at risk of long term homelessness. The program aims to assist young people to acquire suitable accommodation, develop independent living skills and community networks.
Berry Street delivers the regional Post Care Support, Referral and Information Service that assists care leavers aged 16-21 years who require support in transitioning to independence. Young people receive support from a case worker as well as access to brokerage money for items such as accommodation, recreation, education and health.
Within our case management, residential and home based care services, we are committed to developing individualised leaving care plans for young people. Our approach includes extended transition support with local partners and active inclusion of young people in the planning process.