Listen: Wendy Bennett in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
Young people in foster care often have a history of traumatic and difficult circumstances throughout childhood. When they leave care at age 18, they have to find accommodation and support themselves financially and are at high risk for mental illness. A new online education program, A-Maze-In Mind, aims to provide mental health education and support for these disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.
The A-Maze-In Mind program, developed by the not-for profit, Foster Care Angels, is designed to provide mental health education and support for young people in NSW leaving out-of-home care. Foster Care Angels was awarded a $50,000 grant by St.George Foundation to fund the program. Foster Care Angels was founded by foster carers who had seen first-hand the difficulties faced by children in the system. On Open House, Wendy Bennett, from Foster Care Angels, explained the new program for care leavers to Stephen O’Doherty
Shocking facts of leaving care
In Australia, young people leaving out-of-home care are widely recognised as significantly disadvantaged and vulnerable. In the first year of leaving care, 35 per cent of young people are homeless, 29 per cent are unemployed and 46 per cent of males are involved in the juvenile justice system. Only 35 percent complete year 12 and just under 3 per cent undertake higher education.
Free counselling and online help
The free six-week education program is delivered via an online classroom accessible via a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Foster Care Angels will also be offering up to ten free one-on-one counselling sessions for young people.
Sessions can be undertaken via telephone, online chat room or video link through a secure, professional counselling network. All services are delivered by qualified and experienced counsellors, specialising in mental health care for adolescents. Young people can be referred to the program through their out-of-home care agency or can approach Foster Care Angels directly to participate.
High risk for mental health issues
While the prevalence of mental health issues among young people is undocumented and may remain undiagnosed and untreated, CEO of Foster Care Angels, Kelly Doyle, suggests that young people leaving care are a high risk group for mental health concerns.
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“Not only have young people leaving care often faced traumatic and difficult circumstances throughout childhood, once they leave care they are faced with leaving home, finding their own accommodation and supporting themselves financially, all at the young age of 18. Understandably it can be an extremely stressful and lonely time.” says Ms Doyle.
Help to manage anxiety and depression
“We realised that there was a gap that desperately needed to be closed. By educating and raising awareness of mental health issues, Foster Care Angels aims to better equip this group to understand and manage anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Our long-term goal is to enable every young person in NSW leaving care to access this program.”
“Our hope is that this will not only lead to better mental health outcomes but also help reduce the incidence of homelessness, engagement with the criminal justice system, alcohol dependence and unemployment among this group.” says Ms Doyle.
Foster Care Angels is a not-for-profit organisation committed to empowering young people, supporting carers, and fostering hope throughout the out-of-home care system. Based in Sydney, and created to help children and carers across NSW, Foster Care Angels is committed to empowering young people, supporting carers, and fostering hope throughout the system.
St.George Foundation was established by St.George Bank in 1990. Since that time, it has partnered with more than 800 community organisations across Australia to invest more than $30 million to improve the lives of Australian children who are experiencing disadvantage.
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