The Leaving Care Planner (LCP) was an idea that the Youth Care UPA team came up with after finding that there was a gap in the information for our 15, 16 & 17-year-old young
people when leaving care our care.
WHY DID WE DEVELOP IT?
On completing the FaCS Leaving Care Plans, our 17yr olds were stating that they felt confused, lost, unsure, scared and nervous about what leaving care meant, what they should be doing and what was next for them.
Despite Youth Care UPA Caseworkers and Carers providing the young people with emotional support and supporting them to complete their FaCS Leaving Care Plan, it wasn’t enough for most kids to make the transition to independence in a confident manner and we had nothing to guide us workers or our carers on all of the information and skills young people would need.
We spoke to some of our young people currently in the program and to a couple who had not long left and asked them what they thought they would need to know, what they would have found useful and what skills they found they were lacking.
After a few team meetings generating ideas and discussing what we had learnt from our young people, we decided that we needed to develop something that was totally different from the FaCS Leaving Care Plan; we wanted something tangible that young people could read, learn from and refer to as needed.
Instead of it being financial we wanted it to be information & skill based and something that young people would receive at 15yrs (not 2 weeks before turning 18yrs) so they would have time to prepare for their future, learn skills, ask questions, gain knowledge and have a better idea of what they wanted for themselves once left care. We wanted it to be something they could hold, read, write in and work through and not just papers that are stored on their file in the office.
We decided that we didn’t want to give young people all of the information at once as it would be too overwhelming and we didn’t want it to be viewed as homework or a chore so we decided to break it down into three sections 15yrs, 16yrs and 17yrs. They would then receive each section as soon as they reached those ages and each section was information we and they had felt was relevant at those ages.
We also decided that we didn’t just want to give them information that they would read but wanted to include checklists and self-assessments as a means of measuring their progress, we would set up appointments they needed to attend and have them partake in skill & knowledge building days where they could learn in an interactive way. As this is a working document it enables the workers, carers and young people to compare over the years what skills and information they have learnt and ensure that they were receiving a holistic approach to this learning.
We wanted to make it fun where we could so that the young people were excited about building on their skills and knowledge.
We then had to think about how the information would be presented so that it was kept all together and wouldn’t be lost or destroyed in some way. We also had to think about the information / documents they would be receiving just before or on turning 18yrs and how they could store that so it too wasn’t misplaced or destroyed.
We thought about worst care scenarios with kids leaving placements suddenly or walking out and leaving some of their belongings behind and so we wanted something that was easy to carry, easy to store and could safely contain all of the leaving and after care information together, something the young people could easily grab and take with them if necessary without having to look in many places for the documents/information they needed.
It was decided that the information would be presented in a zip lock compendium that would easily accommodate our three leaving care planner sections as well as additional documents, writing tools and a recipe book.
To enable us to have something on our files for the young people about Leaving & After Care and to clarify what parties have what responsibility we drew up LCP Agreements that stated what responsibility the Young Person had, what the carer/s had and what the Caseworkers had in regards to working through the planner; this way everyone was on the same page and knew what they were expected to do. We also designed Leaving Care Plans to help keep everyone on task.
WHAT'S IN IT?
After deciding on the three sections of the planner it was much easier to decide what information would be given/needed when Young People reached a certain age. Click on your age group to explore more about what’s in the LCP:
- Living & Social Skills
- Self-Care Skills
- Relationship & Sex Education
- Drug & Alcohol Information
- Personal Safety
- Food & Nutrition
- Employment Options
- ADHC Referral
- A recipe book and
- A Useful Numbers List
In relationship and sex education we take each of our young person to an appointment at SHAIDS, here they receive information on STI’s, STD’s, safe sex and contraception, they get to ask questions and receive a client number so they can return at any time for help and advice. If needed, we will also take our young people to an appointment at ACON for information and support on bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender issues.
In employment options young people are assisted to apply for a tax file number and write a resume so that they are able to begin work if/when they choose. The recipe folder contains many different meal recipes; it has plenty of writing space to add additional recipes or make notes. Useful numbers section includes emergency numbers, Centrelink, health services, legal services and plenty of room for additional numbers.
- Centrelink & Youth Allowance
- Financial Independence – Budgeting & Savings Plan
- Enrolling to Vote
- Getting Around – Travel & Transport
- Passport Application
- Refreshers – Section 15 Checklists and Self-Assessments
In budgeting, savings and financial independence we assist our young people to set up bank accounts (if they haven’t already) and apply for youth allowance. Young people currently receive approximately $215 per fortnight which we felt was a lot of money for the young person to spend on various, most often needless items so we devised a savings plan that we ask our young people to follow.
This savings plan is $100 per fortnight that is directly deposited into a 2nd savings account in the young person’s name but with a co-signature (usually a Caseworker or in the case of long-term placements a Carer). The young person then has the remaining $115 to spend on whatever they chose and by the time they leave care at 18yrs they should have saved about $5200.
The money always remains in the young person’s account and if they would like to make large purchases before leaving care they only need to speak with their Caseworker; we have had a few young people purchase their own car at 17yrs which they probably wouldn’t have been able to afford without the savings plan.
Young people can always refuse to comply with the savings plan as it is their money but it is encouraged by Caseworkers and Carers.
And if the young people are well informed about the purpose and benefit of savings they are happy to save. In the past four years that we have had it in place only one young person has ever refused to partake in it.
In the section on ‘Getting Around’ we have included information on young people applying for their L’s. To assist with their driving we allocate 10 x driving lessons with a driving instructor to any young person whom obtains their L’s to help them prepare for getting their P’s.
We included a section on passport applications in the 16yrs section after trying to apply for a passport for one of our young people travelling overseas with their carer’s. The young person had one deceased parent and with the paperwork being different for children in care it took over a year before the young person finally received their passport.
Although this case may have been a little different than others, we wondered what hope the young person would have had trying to apply on their own after leaving care. So while ever we are around to help fill out forms, chase up paperwork and jump through the hoops we wanted to make sure that we would do this for young people so they don’t have to worry about it later on.
- Leaving Care Preparation Timeline
- FaCS After Care Plan
- Original Documents
- Home Essentials
- Future Plans
- Driving – P1 & P2
- Buying A Car
- Access to Personal File
- Access to Savings
- Legal Advice
- How to Vote
- Refreshers – Section 15 & 16 Checklists and Self-Assessments
The original documents section contains a check list of all of the documents a young person should be given when leaving care.
If any of the documents are not currently in our or the young person’s possession, we make sure we get them on the young person’s behalf before they turn 18.
Under the housing section we take our young people down to assist them to apply for a T-number at department of housing, as the waiting lists are long we ensure they are placed on the list ASAP even if they are not thinking of moving from their placement straight away, this way they will have more choices if/when a place does become available.
The home essentials section was designed to give young people an idea of what they might need to set up their home/flat once left care. As suggested in the planner they can ask their Carers for some of the more expensive items as birthday/Christmas presents so they won’t have to purchase them themselves.
We have also allocated $300 for each young person to take them shopping and buy them some of the items they haven’t already managed to get themselves, this is done in the week leading up to their 18th birthday and the young people are not aware that we do it, that way they are encouraged to purchase some of their own items during the year leading up to their 18th birthday.
SUPPLIMENTARY: We have included as part of our LCP additional supports and interactive programs for the young people that are run during the school holidays.
They have all been extremely successful so far; cooking days are run by Caseworkers for up to 12 high school aged young people. During this day we incorporate many living skills not just cooking. We have run this in two different ways, our pilot cooking day was splitting the kids into two groups and working as a team, other cooking days have seen the young people cooking in pairs and individually, all have gone extremely well.
We have always set the menus and worked out a budget that we would like the kids to stick to, they work out what ingredients they need and how much and then we take them shopping to purchase their ingredients, if they have money left over they can buy additional items to enhance their meals. During the day/s they also learn hygiene, safe food handling, safe kitchen procedures, team work, food presentation, table setting, table etiquette and of course how to cook many different meals, snacks and desserts.
At the end of the day the young people are presented with a certificate stating their achievements, they also take their recipes to add to their recipe book, keep their aprons and keep one of the cooking trays to add to their home essentials pack.
We have run information days on drugs & alcohol, sex education and budgeting. During this day we have had speakers come in from SHAIDS, the neighbourhood centre and community health. They aren’t always as interactive but young people get to ask questions, try on ‘beer glasses’, learn how to use a budget etc. We provide a pizza lunch and they are again presented with a certificate.
Our ‘Job Skills’ days are over two days. The first day sees young people learn to write their own resume, find a job advertisement, write a cover page addressing essential criteria, and apply for the job, learn appropriate telephone etiquette, appropriate self-grooming, researching a company and putting together a portfolio.
On the second day every young person arrives neatly groomed with their completed portfolio, we then begin with each young person being given $50 to purchase their own interview outfit, we then travel to the interview location, discuss potential interview questions, young people change into their interview outfits and one by one attends their mock interview. Once all interviews are completed they receive constructive feedback. All young people finish the days with an interview outfit, a resume, portfolio, attendance certificate and practical interview experience.
Within two weeks of running the initial Job Skills Days we had two of our young people find full time employment in their local area. This was a fantastic outcome for them! They stated that by participating in the Job Skills Days they “felt better prepared” to find a job on their own and had “more confidence” when knowing how to prepare, how to behave and what to say during an interview.
We hold Trivia Luncheon’s where we all get together to have a meal. Appropriate table etiquette, table settings, using eating utensils etc are discussed and demonstrated as well as lots of general chatting and laughter! We then have the young people break out into teams and go through trivia questions relating directly to the LCP. At the end of the day the winning team is presented with a basket full of home essentials and a certificate. All young people that attend are presented with participation certificates and a home essentials item.
The next prac days that we are incorporating into our Leaving Care Program are ‘Health and Hygiene’ and ‘Transport & Services’ which will be designed as an ‘Amazing Race’ type of event requiring young people to find their way to different service providers using public transport. The idea is that they will be able to identify the places they need to go to access the services they need and will be able to get there on their own by catching a bus, taxi etc.
We have engaged a Mentor to work with many of our young people and for those old enough to have a LCP, within their Mentoring plan we can target specific areas/skills that need support Eg. If a young person has no concept of money or budgeting, we utilize the Mentor to build up their skills by engaging in activities such as taking them to the shops to buy something that will require them to hand over the correct amount of money or work out what change they should be given.
MONITORING: We monitor the progress of young people working through their planner during the young person’s and their Carer’s regular visits with their Caseworker; we also identify additional supports and needs to action which are discussed and endorsed during their biannual case conferences.
It has been via this process of consultation and communication over the past four years that has enabled Youth Care UPA to continue to develop and refine the LCP to ensure that young people are receiving the most current, informative and useful information and skills relevant to them. The overall look of the LCP books has also been redesigned to include graffiti-type writing and pictures which are more appealing to the young people using them.
OTHER AGENCY INVOLVEMENT: The LCP has been presented to other agencies locally and out of area with a number of agencies in currently trialling and using the LCP. So far all feedback has been extremely positive with comments such as ‘fantastic resource’, ‘really informative’, ‘excellent tool for our kids, just what they need’.
The great thing about the LCP as it is a generic information source that can be used as a guide and individualised wherever necessary. Agencies, Carers and Caseworkers can be as creative with using the LCP as they need to be in order to deliver the information and ensure it is being utilised in the most appropriate way for each and every young person.