of follow up support and training for leaving care
independence and leaving behind the comfort and assurance of ones family is
a difficult process for any adolescent. This report sets out to discover if
this is true of those who have been in the care of foster families or government
associations, because of the inadequacies within such systems to properly prepare
individuals to face the world.
The only way a horse will win a race is if you sit there and spend time with it. Show it that you are trying to help. Talk to, and get to know it (Nack, 1991). And if it fails, you can’t just give up, you must show even more support than ever before. Likewise, though admittedly a crude form of contrast, this is as true for those leaving care (leaving the protective confines of such bodies as foster families and government departments designed to shelter and develop individuals who have been abandoned, in danger or neglected (Zabar & Angus, 1993)) as it is for any horse. Unfortunately the present system within our social framework generally lacks the majority of these skills, which in turn creates such problems as a 40% homelessness rate for those departing care – 15% of whom become homeless within 3 to 9 months after leaving authority supervision, and an 80% unemployment rate within a 2 year period (Woolf, 1994).
It is the purpose of this report to review the current system of care, based on interviews and relative literature, and assess it’s inability to sculpt troubled youth into useful members of society whilst fulfilling their individual needs and desires.
Of the 6
adolescents interviewed, each had somewhat different surrounding factors relating
to their need care. Likewise, the interview group was made up of a broad variety
of different cultures (which include a representative of Australia’s indigenous
people) and age groups, which within itself displayed a reduced possibility
of bias within the data collected. The interviews tended to be semi structured
in nature, allowing for the subject’s own input through open ended questions,
whilst exploring relatively similar issues of all participants (standardised
interview techniques), for later cross-referencing and triangulation.
Of all the variables collected from this sample group, the majority centered on the needs of individuals, including amongst others - emotional, financial, and vocational. It is these ‘needs’ that this report will investigate, and how well they are met by the present system of care. In order to do so accurately, several independent Australian programs and literature (as well as some from other parts of the world), will be used for contrasting purposes.
A clear understanding regarding individual needs was easily ascertained from the 6 different responses once open coded. These ‘needs’ can be organised into the following areas * Vocational assistance * Emotional support * Accommodation and other basic needs.
Vocational assistance covers many areas ranging from the standard type of education (high school, university), financial budgeting, the availability of services such social security, right through to employment training and placement initiatives. Because most of the subjects had been removed from their natural families at early ages, and moved around so many times – "six primary schools" (interview 2) - that their educational requirements were never adequately met. When one subject was questioned if there had been any effort made by his care taker in suggesting application for courses or education, he replied "no" (Interview 5).
In regards to budgeting, results were varied. Some agreed that they had learnt to budget through care, whilst others simply said ‘No’ (Interview 6). The general perception that can be drawn here overall (particularly from interview 5 & 6), is that the majority of budgeting was learnt individually only after it was needed, and not from the caregivers. Interviewee 2, aged 19 is only now seeking financial counseling. "You should know this stuff before you go out into independent living", something that he is learning only now, 2 years after leaving care.
As such, emotional support incorporates not only the continued presence of others, but also an encouraging hand that gives direction, and is almost always present to fall back onto in times of need. The majority of the interviews (4 of 6) agreed that they had some form of emotional support whilst in care. One of these individuals even utilised support from the Independent Living people (Case 2). The others believed they had received little if any at all (2 of 6). In reference to having the emotional support of care workers after leaving, respondent responses were mixed. Some seemed to believe they could receive support if ‘need’ called for it (cases 1,2 & 5), whilst the other half seemed to believe that they had none. These ‘non cared for’ individuals believed that even if support did exist, they were either too scared to go back for it (Interview 1), or would not desire it because past experience had left them feeling "like a bit of paper work" (Interview 1). Emotional support from caretakers is an important factor in personal development for these youth because most lack any form of support from their real families.
Accommodation & Other Basic Needs
Accommodation, financial support, and food are but a few of the necessities of life required by all for survival and prosperity. Of the six interviews, mention was made only twice of accommodation after leaving care. Interviewee 1 noted that he had obtained good support from a disability group in finding somewhere to stay. On the other hand, interviewee 3 was disgruntled about the state of accommodation, particularly of how the government "had raised the money really high as in rent wise" even though a lot of people have little or no financial support after leaving care. The financial situation of many of these individuals is of great concern. It was also noted that departments such as "Independent Living aren't there for a long time, they discharge you at 18" (Interview 2) and you are left out in the cold, fending for yourself with basically no options. 5 of the 6 stated that they desired more money to survive on because either they were unable to obtain some form of social security payments, or the amount they received was inadequate to deal with expenditure – particularly if they were not part of a housing project – though this could be associated to a lack of budgeting experience. It has also been noted that those who have no financial support (or at least not enough of it), lack somewhere to live, or have no one to turn to, find little or no time and ability to purse any relaxation activities.
Upon gazing at the 6 interview transcripts, it is clear that the transitional stage between care and independence is in fact plagued by inadequacies. Not a single interviewee went without criticising some aspect of leaving care. Even interviewee 3, who seemed the most satisfied with the present system, had a negative perspective because he was in a position to see that "one hell of a lot of people out there need to be helped".
to make recommendations for care programs, topics commonly referred to by each
interviewee included the better teaching of life skills, budgeting, housing
information, and a channel for kids to talk to others and work out their problems
– or "just be noticed" (Interview 5). The majority of these individuals
did not disagree that some attempts had been made in these areas, but evidently
not enough. One realistic possibility for this deficit in ample development
or education may be directly attributed to a lack of desire - or a blocking
off of sorts - on the behalf of the youth, who may have been either scared or
untrusting of care workers. This concept is extended further when we consider
that "there are generally limited opportunities for children and young
people to participate in the decision making processes that affect them…. and
are deemed in their best interest" (Usher Report, 1992). This becomes even
more feasible when we consider that any individual plucked from their familiar
surroundings would be apprehensive and definitely not open to suggestion. On
the other hand, if we were to remove someone from surroundings that were detrimental
or dangerous to their health, then they would most likely be grateful – as per
This brings up an important question. Were these individuals in fact plucked out of harms way? If the answer is no, then our system of intervention needs to be reviewed. If the answer is yes, then we must review the care system itself, and ask questions such as - are those employed to care, trained well enough to cope with the difficulties of bring up these youth? Are they patient and understanding? Do they strive to develop trust? These issues are in fact important parts of developing a bond – which in turn alleviate any inadequacies in the ability to pass on information and training. This is particularly evident when we look the Washington case of Casey versus Jay – a young person who came into care at age 14 following a violent history of trauma and abuse, a criminal record, an addiction to drugs, and refusing all forms of help. "Yet his foster mother and social worker stayed connected to him and were vital links to the resources in the community that finally enabled him to kick his habit, establish a work history and to stick with vocational training. He is now a chef at a highly respected restaurant in Seattle, married, a committed father of a small child, and dedicated to speaking for your people in the system" (Massinga, 1999, p3).
In reference to our own 6 interviews, previously mentioned program results, and studies such as that conducted by Janet Taylor named "Leaving care and homelessness" and "project Triple care" (Sydney City Mission, 1993), it is evident that young children are being released from care with the expectation of being self sufficient without adequate training. Furthermore, few state programs exist (one of which is the Queensland Department of Family Service’s ‘Friends From Care’ program) to support these individuals, and little is know about them after discharge because there is no follow up system by which to monitor their progress (Horin, 1990). This failure of state welfare and health authorities both to provide appropriate and timely assistance… is a serious indication of the willingness and capacity of those authorities to discharge their legal and social responsibilities (Freedman & Robinson, 1993).
It is the state’s responsibility to protect each individual’s liberties, rights, and to make sure that no harm ever comes to them. Unfortunately it is not enough, and defeats the purpose to simply pluck troubled individuals out of dangerous surroundings or harms way, only to place them into yet another potentially dangerous situation such as that of inadequate care.
If we are to look at ‘Maslow’s Needs Theory’ (Appendix 1), we distinctly see that the basic needs of any individual’s development must be satisfied before growth motives are fully expressed (Coon, 1989, p318). This begins with safety, security, and other basic necessities such as financial support, accommodation, and food. This is exactly what the current system of care lacks, due to negligence or an inability to cope on the behalf of care workers. It simply comes down to the fact that at present, "the states are ill equipped or unwilling to offer appropriate services, and the Commonwealth regards the matter as a state responsibility. These children, in particular then, fall through the nets of support, inadequate as they may be" (Freedman & Robinson, 1993).
One possible solution to this entire situation would be the introduction of more government funded private organisations to take on the responsibilities of training youth. At the same time, a government scrutiny program must be incorporated to watchdog over these private enterprise activities. Only when positive results of "completion of vocational training, attainment of employment, and stable housing" (Massinga, 1999, p3) are determined, should funding be allocated/transferred. This will mean any private body employed will strive to attain results, and in turn deliver the basic needs that were uncovered earlier.
Coon, D. (1989), "Psychology,
Exploration and Application", USA: West Publishing Company
Freedman R., Robinson L. (1993) "Leaving care – the difficulties that confront young people", Australia: Leaving Care Work Part
Horin, A. (1990), "Governments not fit parents: Report on state awards", Sydney: Herald
Massinga, R. (1999), "Post foster care independent living programs", Congressional Testimony, URL – http://www.elibrary.com
Nack W. (1991), "Only way that a horse will win is if you sit there and spend time", URL – http://www.elibrary.com
Woolf M. (1994), "Youngsters kept off streets", URL – http://www.elibrary.com
Usher (1992) A party to the proceedings, "The Usher Report", Australia: Spinney Press
Zabar P., Angus G. (1993), "Children under care protection orders", Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Publisher Unknown
Author Unknown (1993), "Project Triple Care", Sydney: Sydney City Mission/Spinnery Press Australia
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs/Motives
Image taken from ‘Psychology – Exploration and Application’ by Coon D. (1989)
Written By Evan Sycamnias