Authors: Philip Mendes and Samone McCurdy
Government and parliamentary inquiries into child protection have historically exerted a significant impact on policy and practice reform. Yet to date, there has been no analysis of the impact of such inquiries on program and service supports for young people transitioning from out-of-home care (often termed leaving care). This article uses a content analysis methodology to critically examine and compare the findings of six recent Australian child protection inquiries (five at State and Territory level and one Commonwealth) in relation to their discrete sections on leaving care. Attention is drawn to how the policy issue is framed including key terminology, the major concerns identified, the local and international research evidence cited, and the principal sources of information including whether or not priority is given to the lived experience of care leavers.
All six inquiries identified major limitations in leaving care legislation, policy and practice including poor outcomes in key areas such as housing, education and employment. There was a consensus that post-18 assistance should be expanded, and most of the reports agreed that greater attention should be paid to the specific cultural needs of the large number of Indigenous care leavers.
Care leavers universally are a vulnerable group; leaving care policy should be informed by the lived experience and expertise of care leavers; governments have a responsibility to provide ongoing supports beyond 18 years of age particularly in areas such as housing and education, training and employment.