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New study aims to improve the lives of children living in out-of-home care

Media release

A new Curtin University-led research project aims to improve the outcomes of young people transitioning from out-of-home care to independent living and adulthood, in a bid to reduce the high levels of homelessness, poverty and unemployment they often face.

The four-year research project, run in partnership with the WA Department of Communities and Wanslea Family Services, will explore the pathways and outcomes of young people in, transitioning from, and who have left out-of-home care, to identify how housing, education, employment, mental health and other available support services could be improved.

Lead researcher Professor Donna Chung, from the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology at Curtin University, said almost 50,000 Australian children were currently living in a temporary or permanent out-of-home care arrangement, with an estimated 4,400 from Western Australia.

“Young people exiting out-of-home care often experience poor outcomes in adulthood such as increased rates of homelessness, lower levels of education, greater poverty and unemployment, poorer physical and mental health and an increased risk of violence,” Professor Chung said.

“Given the diversity of people entering and exiting out-of-home care, it is important to understand what is contributing to the varied but overwhelmingly poor outcomes for these young adults. The role of gender, culture, and family and environmental factors can all influence this.

“Through the use of wide-scale data, we will be able to identify the pathways and common trends of young people transitioning from out-of-home care, which will help to break down the barriers that are preventing them from accessing services aimed at improving their education, employment, and physical and mental health.”

The research will also investigate the perspectives of young Aboriginal people in out-of-home care and will address the urgent concern about the growing numbers of young Aboriginal people in out-of-home care and their transition to adulthood.

Professor Chung said the findings would help to inform programs and policies that are tailored to meet the diverse needs, experiences and aspirations of young people transitioning from out-of-home care and ultimately improve their outcomes.

“Our research will be guided by reference groups comprising of people with lived experience, practitioners, carers and families, and representatives from the Aboriginal community, who will help to identify the relevant circumstances and cultural barriers that result in high rates of out of home care,” Professor Chung said.

The research project, funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and the Department of Communities, was officially launched at 137 St Georges Terrace today.