A State Government policy extending foster and kinship care payments to support young people up to age 21 is showing early signs of success, with many young South Australians opting to stay at home with their families beyond age 18.
Just over one year since the policy began in January 2019, the extended carer payments have so far been accessed by 38 young people, with a further 12 referred to the program.
It is expected more than 200 young people in family-based care will turn 18 over the next two years.
The Stability in Family Based Care program allows family-based carers to access carer payments to support the young person until they turn 21. Carers of young people who turned 18 after 1 July 2018 are eligible to receive fortnightly payments of $756.80.
Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson said better supporting young people to remain at home had a range of positive outcomes.
“We know that children who are supported in the family home past the age of 18 are going to do better in terms of their education, employment, friendships and importantly, their wellbeing,” said Minister Sanderson.
“The State Government’s Stability in Family Based Care program provides young people in our community with the extra security they need to branch out into the workforce, attend university or gain further training and it’s fantastic because many young people are choosing to remain at home well into their 20s.
“We want to make sure that young people in care receive the best possible supports as they grow into young adults, which is what every young person deserves.”
Research shows poorer outcomes for vulnerable young people who are not well supported into adulthood, including greater instances of youth homelessness, poor education outcomes and unemployment.
Foster carer Denise Scappaticci said the ongoing access to carer payments for her son Chau, aged 18, helped her to give him additional support.
Chau has been with Denise for 15 years, since arriving aged three in 2004.
“I have seen first-hand the struggle young people have when all of a sudden at 18 they are out and having to take care of themselves,” said foster carer Denise.
“This was never going to happen to Chau but I believe that staying in a secure home for as long as possible is what needs to happen, so if this payment happens seamlessly we may see more positive results from our young people leaving care as it gives them a few more years of maturity.
“I know this isn’t going to be the case for all young people, but 18 is so young to be on your own, even if you don’t have trauma to start with and this payment may be the difference between a home and a place to live, when you’re not yet properly equipped.”
As the sole income earner in the household, Denise said the payments helped her to support Chau through his final year of schooling, allowing him to participate in all the extra activities that go along with Year 12.
“There are a lot of extra expenses that go along with Year 12 and I felt very strongly that it was extremely important that Chau participate in all of that,” she said.
Chau currently has a part-time job and has started university this year.
The Stability in Family Based Care program is just one of a range of supports available for these young people to access.