Intro from Carla Raynes, Founder and CEO of Bridge It
In Australia, there are around 46,000 children in residential care. It takes a lot for a child to be removed from their family, typically significant neglect and violence over a prolonged period of time. Once a child is removed from their family, the initial plan is to place children in kinship care (with friends or family.) If that is not an option, children are placed in foster care. There is currently a critical lack of foster carers in Australia meaning that on occasions it is not available for children who need it. When kinship care or foster care are not available, the children are placed in residential care.
I have worked in residential care, and I was told that I was not allowed to hug the children. Every single thing that the children said to me, I had to write down in case notes from the totally mundane like what they said they wanted for breakfast to the traumatic. The children had experienced so much trauma and needed love and affection as all children do. Instead they were placed in a facility that felt more like a prison. And then when they turned 18, they were turfed out whether they had housing to go to or not.
This cruel process results in over half of young people who have experienced the out-of-home-care system experiencing homelessness within the first 4 years. It’s also feeding our homelessness crisis. We need to improve the care system, educate and support foster carers and provide housing and support programs like Cocoon from Bridge It to give children a stepping stone from care to adulthood.
The below article was written by Terri,* a resident from the Cocoon
Resi needs to be changed.
Firstly, do you even know what a resi is?
For those that are unaware, a resi, also known as a residential unit, is a house composed of four young people between 12 and 17, with at least one worker always on site.
Mostly of the time these young people have some type of trauma…do you think putting 4 young people with trauma and mental illnesses under the same roof is a good idea? Probably not, right? Well, clearly, The Department of Families Fairness and Housing (DFFH) seems to think it’s an amazing idea because that’s what’s happening right now.
The residential units/resi’s are a messed-up system created by DFFH. These people do not care about the young people who live there, they don’t care that it’s extremely unethical and inhumane… they just see it as an easy solution: “oh we can just put them in resi and forget about them.”
These people have never experienced what it’s like to live in a resi…it’s horrible. I know, because I experienced this. I experienced having the police called to the house almost every day. Can you now begin to understand just what young people in resi go through?
It’s a cruel system that has no plans to change.
And as for what happens when you turn 18? Well, if you don’t find accommodation you get driven to a homeless shelter on your 18th birthday… happy birthday to you?
The young people have no freedom at all. They must ask to be let into their rooms, all their actions are documented - it's horrible knowing that every action you take/do is being written down for strangers to read.
These young people are still kids so no matter what they can still change but not if they are brought up into a system where they aren’t given the opportunity to.
DFFHS have the resources to make the resi system a better place for young people to learn and grow, so why aren’t they changing this messed up system? Have these young people just been forgotten even by them?
DFFHS took these kids away from the only thing they ever considered home, even if it wasn’t a good one, only to be put into another house that’s not going to help them.I feel DFFH needs to step up and help these kids more.
I was 17 when I came into the Cocoon. I was facing being kicked out of resi care on my birthday. The Cocoon gave me a roof over my head and support. My support worker at the Cocoon has helped me find long term community housing and I am excited to move into my new home soon.
*Name changed to protect anonymity