The hardest conversation you can have with a teen

File image.
File image.

It's easy to think back to early adulthood and remember mis-steps.

For most of us, those memories are tinged with gratitude for mum, dad or other family members who stepped in to help out.

Children in out-of-home care rarely have that luxury; the pressure is on to get it right the first time.

As a result, research shows, as young adults they are overrepresented in homelessness statistics; emergency department presentations and self-harm attempts.


Tracy Mayo, Executive Officer at CareSouth, said case workers have to begin to talk to kids in care about the reality of their life after 18 when they're as young as 15.

"Imagine having a conversation about leaving behind all the supports they've ever known with a 15-year-old child," she said.

"We're helping them make decisions about housing, about their career, that they're not developmentally ready to make. Especially for kids who have experienced trauma, their brains are playing catch-up."

Ms Mayo is part of the Children in Care Collective - care leaders who want the NSW Government to provide the cash to help kids in care transition successfully to adult life.

She said under the current funding model, kids must often pick between driving lessons or textbooks. Casework support drops from ten hours a week to an hour a month.

"We want ongoing funding to provide support to kids up to 21," she said.

"Personally, I'd like it to be 25. We can get them in stable accommodation, employment or training is really bedded down by then."

Not all kids in care end up homeless, in hospital, or face the justice system.

Many go on to complete degrees, start careers and buy homes of their own.

But they do it without the support of a family behind them - and without the luxury of a gap year, or the chance to change their mind about the career they're pursuing.

The Home Stretch Campaign wants kids leaving care to have the same opportunities to find their way in the world, and experience their teenage years without the pressure of being cast adrift looming over them.

"When a child leaves care the minister signs off on a letter to them," Ms Mayo said.

"It seems so tokenistic - how much money has gone into that year after year?

"I'd much rather see that money go towards things like driving lessons."

This story The hardest conversation you can have with a teen first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.