ACT Government must support better education for out-of-home care kids


Shadow Minister for Families, Youth and Community Services Elizabeth Kikkert will move a private member’s motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly today, calling on the Labor-Greens Government to strengthen educational supports for children and young people in residential care.

Mrs Kikkert successfully moved a motion in April asking the government to commit to formally extending supports up to the age of 21 for young people who exit out-of-home care, as well as to better track what happens to kids as they become adults and leave the care and protection system.

“In Australia, half of those who exit care end up either homeless, in jail, or as new parents within the first year,” Mrs Kikkert said.

“Continuing to support them so that they can smoothly transition to independent adulthood is part of the solution.

“We can also reduce future disadvantage by better helping these kids whilst they are still in care. An independent review from 2019 found that children in out-of-home care in the ACT are three times more likely to not meet minimum standards in either literacy or numeracy,” Mrs Kikkert explained.

“Across the nation, poor educational outcomes are even more pronounced for children and young people in residential care.

"These kids cannot be placed in a home-based option, and they are often some of the most vulnerable in the system, presenting with significant and complex problems. Many of these young people fully or partially disengage with formal learning.

“We can improve their life outcomes, however, if we give them better supports before it’s too late. Research in Australia emphasises the importance of having carers who are connected to and can help with a young person’s learning, just like mums and dads regularly do.

“Staff who have worked in Canberra’s residential care homes have told me that they felt lost and unprepared to fulfil this role. They have made it clear that youth workers need better training and much better support, as do those who work with young detainees.

“I am calling on the ACT Government to ensure that staff in residential care homes and in our detention centre are given ongoing training to increase their capacity to support the learning of young people in their care,” Mrs Kikkert stated.

“I will specifically recommend that the government review Anglicare Victoria’s TEACHaR program, which provides one-on-one tutoring to kids in out-of-home care and also helps increase the skills of their carers. This program has been shown to nearly double the educational engagement of young people in residential care homes.

“Kids who have been removed from their birth families deserve every opportunity to access the learning and education they need to become happy, productive adults,” Mrs Kikkert concluded