Home Stretch provides continued support until the age of 21 to every Victorian leaving care – around 700 young people a year – to assist their transition to adulthood. Victoria became the first Australian state to make the program universal this year, and the Bill will require in law that these supports are provided.
The amendments will strengthen requirements for children to be supported to participate in decision-making about their futures – as well as to convene family group conferences, which bring families together with an independent facilitator to make a plan for a child’s wellbeing prior to the need for court intervention.
The reforms enable new child protection reports on at-risk 17-year-olds, closing a long-standing service gap. Currently a 17-year-old fleeing violence or abuse at home cannot receive child protection services or in many cases adult services, placing them at high risk of homelessness and contact with the justice system.