The Transition from
State/NGO Care to
International Best Practice
Children in Crisis Conference
Monday 7 October 2013
Dr Nicola Atwool, Senior Lecturer, University of Otago
Outcomes for care leavers
New Zealand research on care leavers
What makes a difference?
Where are we in New Zealand?
Current challenges
The way forward
Outcomes for care leavers
• Across the English-speaking world there is evidence of poor
outcomes for care leavers in all domains of their lives:
Educational attainment
Employment and Income
Social support and family relationships
Physical and mental health
Alcohol and substance abuse
Early entry to parenthood
New Zealand research
• Internationally attention has been focused on the needs of care
leavers since the 1980s
• First New Zealand research was published in 2000
• There have been no prospective longitudinal studies of care leavers
in New Zealand
• Trish Ward’s analysis of the case files of 35 16 year olds as at 1 April
1997 demonstrated that, like their counterparts in other countries,
they were a highly vulnerable group ill-prepared for independent
• 63% of case files made no reference to pending independence
• 29% of Orders were discharged early
• Deborah Yates’ in-depth exploration of the experience of 8 care
leavers reinforced these findings and the picture that emerged was
very similar to that provided by international research.
Impetus for change
• In his December 2000 Ministerial review of Child, Youth and
Family, Mick Brown recommended that consideration be
given to 16 year-olds in care with insufficient support being
placed in the guardianship of the Chief Executive and
supported constructively through their transition to
adulthood at least to the age of 20
• Cousins (2000) reviewed best practice models for young
people leaving care and recommended two models
developed in the UK and Australia as appropriate for NZ
• Cousins also highlighted the lack of specific legislative
provision for services for care leavers
More recent research
• Fitzgerald, Mortlock & Jeffs (2006) reported on interviews with 7
care leavers in Christchurch:
• All described having little support at the time they left care
• Recommended changes that could be implemented including:
• life skills, mentors, support to continue education and ongoing care to age
25 if needed.
• Pania Coote (2007) interviewed 5 care leavers in Southland. Findings
were very similar to those of Ward and Yates.
• Focused on loss of connection with family and recommendations
included revisiting Puao-te-ata-tu, more emphasis on family connection
and transition planning.
• Leoni (2007) interviewed 8 care leavers and 10 professionals and
community members. Her findings indicate similar levels of difficulty
and 2 participants had become isolated from whānau during their
time in care and remained so.
Other evidence
• The Welfare Working Group reported in 2010 that those most
at risk of long-term welfare dependence (around 2,400) enter
the system through Independent Youth Benefit, Emergency
Maintenance Allowance or Domestic Purposes benefit before
the age of 18.
• 60% of that group were reported to have had previous contact
with, or were in the care of, CYF
• MSD (2011) reports that most people at high risk of life-course
persistent offending were known to CYF before entering the
corrections system.
• People with CYF records account for 80% of those imprisoned
by age 20.
Other evidence
• ECPAT Child Alert (2010) interviewed
13 young people engaged in underage prostitution
• Six identified having been in the care
of Child, Youth and Family
• Of these many were homeless and
living on the streets at the time
• Two had been involved with
prostitution from the age of 12,
three at 14, and one at 16
Best Practice
• Care leaving process
• Programmes need to reflect 3 stages of transition: preparation;
managing the transition; post-care mentoring and support
• Focus on interdependence
• Networks of support with meaningful connections
• Inclusion of birth family and caregivers in transition planning
• Provision of a coordinated range of services
Living skills
Secure and safe accommodation
Access to education, training or employment
Financial support
Access to general health services and any specialist services
A designated coordinator for each care leaver
• Legislative and policy framework
Critical Factors
• Extending care beyond the age of 18
• Establishing and consolidating personal identity is a key aspect of
the developmental transition to adulthood
• Particularly challenging for care leavers if they do not have a
coherent narrative of their lives or have unresolved trauma
• Must have access to information and therapeutic support if needed
• Care leavers are not all the same! 3 groups have been identified:
• Moving on
• Survivors
• Victims
• Important to start with an assumption that all care leavers need
support and tailor this to the particular challenges each
group/individual faces
New Zealand situation
• In December 2009 there were 1,437 young people aged 14–16 in
the custody of CYF and 89 aged 17 or over
• By 30 June 2012 there were 834 14–16 year olds in the custody of
CYF and 24 aged 17 or over
• Young people exit care at 17, younger than any other Englishspeaking country
• CYF has a transition policy in line with best practice but there is no
legislation to back this up and indications are that application is
inconsistent and the most challenging young people are likely to
have an abrupt transition.
• OCC (2010) report on Children in Care noted that:
• Caregivers, social workers and lawyers highlighted this as an area of
• Many of the 47 young people interviewed expressed anxiety about
what would happen when they reached their 17th birthday
• The only young people who made any reference to transition support
knew about Dingwall’s Launch programme
Current challenges
• Accommodation has been identified as a key area of difficulty
• Limited provision of youth-friendly housing options
• High youth unemployment
• Creation of a new category of young people: NEET (not in
education, employment, or training)
16–18 year old young parents
16–18 year old partners of a person with a child
16–17 year old partners without a child
16–17 year olds not supported by family
• Two benefits: Youth Payment and Young Parent Payment
• Administered by Youth Service Providers designated by MSD
• MSD role is centralised
• Different providers in different areas
• Conditions attached
Implications for Care Leavers
• Complex system to negotiate
• Not everybody is aware of the changes further limiting the
support available to young people
• Obligation on young people to fulfil criteria
• Resources to support compliance are not necessarily available
Budgeting services
Parenting programmes appropriate for teen parents
Early childhood education services
Education facilities for teen parents (Teen Parent Units)
Some PHOs are at capacity and not accepting new enrolments
• No safety net for those who do not comply
Where to from here?
• White Paper
• Children in care are identified as vulnerable
• New multi-agency strategy for children and young people
in care
• Stronger transitions from State care returning to a parent, to a
Home for Life or to independent living as a young adult
• How can this be ensured?
The way forward
• Internationally progress has only been made when specific
legislative provision has been made for care leaving services
• Effective transition planning involves a multi-agency approach
and collaborative partnerships to ensure access to:
accommodation; education, vocational training and
employment; income support; mentoring; and social
• Research highlights that transition is a 3 stage process
involving in-care preparation, exit support, and after care
• Care leavers’ needs vary and support must be individually
• Models of best practice exist
• Current projects demonstrate what is achievable and where
improvements can be made
Amendment to CYPF Act 1989
• New section that applies to a person aged between 15 and 20 who
has been in custody or care of CYF, iwi, cultural or family support
social service, for at least 3 months
• Organisation must consider what advice and assistance the person will
need to become and remain independent after they leave care and
• Provide, or arrange for the provision of, that advice and assistance to
the extent that it reasonably relates to the period before the person
leaves care or custody
• Young person can request advice or assistance
Assistance with accommodation, education, training or employment
Legal advice
Financial assistance in exceptional circumstances
• We do not expect our own children to leave home at 17 and
become fully independent.
• All young people leaving care need on-going support
• Many will require comprehensive and coordinated support
packages that continue for three years or more
• It is extremely unlikely that such a service will be established
and funded by government
• The majority of care leavers are likely to be more receptive to
community-based support rather than continued involvement
with a government-funded service
• These are our young people and we have a collective
responsibility to ensure that they have the opportunity to
achieve positive outcomes

The transition from State/NGO care to adulthood