Young People in Care

Young people in care are a diverse group who share a common experience of being unable to live with their parent/s through no fault of their own. 

Young people in care may live in a range of places, such as in foster care, in kinship care, group homes or various forms of independent living.[1] Many young people in care face disadvantage that can affect their overall wellbeing. They may experience loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation and shame, particularly when disconnected from their immediate and extended family networks.

It’s vital workers support and influence the decisions affecting young people lives. Workers must also assist these young people to access sufficient social and community support, so that they can be given the same life opportunities as their peers. 

Ways of Working

Supporting Young People in Care

What does it mean to have the ACT Government as ‘parent’? In the Out-Of-Home-Care System the Territory takes on legal duties, powers and responsibilities parents would normally have in relation to their children. These duties, powers and responsibilities include: personal appearance and grooming; assessment of physical and mental wellbeing; people with whom the young person may or may not have contact; day to day aspects of the young person’s education, training and employment; medical treatment and other responsibilities set out in the Children and Young People’s Act.[2]

Young people in care may feel disconnected, isolated and poorly informed and can experience a loss of power, inconsistency in caseworkers, a lack of participation in decisions and separation from family. Below are some tips on how you can better support a young person in care.

  • Young people in care will experience a great deal of transition and change. It’s important to support the young person to have consistency and familiarity. Ensure you keep connected to the young person, and support the young person to strengthen other important and positive connections. The changes the young person may experience will not only include moving house and schools – the young person will see changes in their relationships, changes in the roles they assume in family and social environments, and subtle changes (such as a different daily routine).[3] They may also see a high turnover of caseworkers.

  • Do not try to minimise the feeling of loss experienced by the young person by talking about the benefits of change. Listen to the young person.

  • Young people need to be involved in making choices, have access to information, and be allowed to have a voice.[4] Support the young person to participate in the process. Assist them to attend meetings, to be involved in decision-making, and to seek answers for their questions. Help the young person get access to their files. Ensure the young person remains the centre of attention in the process.

  • Young people in care have priority access to health (including dental health) and housing. However this can be forgotten and young people can get lost in the system. If advocacy does happen, they might be able to get access to these services. 

Workers can access training and advice from Care and Protection Services (Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services). The Training Unit can also do in-services. Contact Care and Protection Services for more information.
Phone: 1300 556 728


[1] CREATE Foundation (Dec 2007) What is Out-Of-Home-Care? http://www.create.org.au/faq#329, as at 10 March 2010.

[2] Vardon, C (2004) The Territory as Parent – Review of the Safety of Children in Care in the ACT and of ACT Child Protection Management.

[3] Queensland Government, Department of Child Safety (2006) Practice Paper: Supporting Children and Young People in Care through Transitions, p1.

[4] Mason J and Gibson C (2004) The Needs of Children in Care. Social Justice and Social Change Research Centre, Sydney, University of Western Sydney and Uniting Care, Burnside, p 71.

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