• Wesley Mission program helps foster kids become independent

    Date: 2019.04.19 | Category: 南京夜网 | Tags:

    Jessica Wilson entered foster care as a five-year-old.Photo: Edwina PicklesWhen Jessica Wilson left her foster home as a teenager, she had little idea how to shop, cook, clean, run a car or manage household bills.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Having lived in multiple foster placements from the age of five, she never absorbed what she describes as “the most basic life skills.”

    “It was a steep learning curve,” she said. “I had to learn by experience and learn by my mistakes.I had no family support to fall back on; I could only rely on myself. Luckily, I’m pretty determined.”

    Ms Wilson, now 27, put herself through a social sciences degree at the University of Newcastle, found a job and bought her first home on the NSW Central Coast in 2011.

    Her story is not typical for most young people leaving out of home care in NSW. Many leave their foster homes as teenagers, havelow rates of further education and suffer higher incidence of unemployment, homelessness and mental illness.

    A new pilot program from Wesley Mission aims to help young people leaving foster care make a smoother transition to adulthood by providing support with accommodation, education, employment and life skills.

    There are 20,000 children in out-of-home care in NSW with 670 supported by Wesley Mission in Sydney, the Central Coast, the Hunter and the North Coast.

    Wesley Mission chief executive, Keith Garner, said young people exiting the care system at 18 were particularly vulnerable.

    “There is almost no support to help these young people successfully take charge of their own lives as they leave foster care,” he said.

    “Few have extended family or community networks to fall back upon. Research indicates that the ensuing years are marked by low levels of educational attainment and high rates of unemployment, mobility, homelessness, financial difficulty, loneliness and physical and mental health problems.”

    The 12-month pilot, a joint scheme between Wesley Mission, theRotary Club of Sydney and the NSW Government, will initially be offered to 100 people leaving foster care in Sydney. The Take Charge of Your Life program, to be launched on Wednesday, could be extended nationally if successful.

    Ms Wilson, who now works as a team leader with Wesley Dalmar on the Central Coast, said such a program would have been invaluable to her as a teenager.

    “I was lucky because I was resilient and really wanted to break the cycle,” she said. “No one in mybiological family went on to further study so I just put 110 per centinto school. I wanted to prove it to myself and prove it to others.”

    She knows not all children leaving foster care are as fortunate, with figures from advocacy group the Create Foundation showing that only one-third finish high school and less than 3 per cent undertake further education.

    “A lot of these young people want to be independent just to escape the foster kid stigma,” Ms Wilson said.

    “It’s difficult to become a strong adult without a support network. A lot of these children do fall through the cracks.”