End of the line for foster kids
REMOVED from his mother as a toddler, Nick Davies was placed in 26 different homes in 15 years. Gerry Norris was "luckier".
Gerry's parents left him to the care of the state when he was eight. He had only one other placement before he found a new home and a "mum" who is only separated from him by that tiny issue called "blood".
These young men are products of the Queensland foster care system.
Despite their traumatic childhoods, they have grown up to be people the community should be proud of.
Nick is working as a security guard in Brisbane, hoping to be accepted into the West Australian police force at the end of the year.
Gerry is a second year social work student and hopes to follow in the footsteps of his role model, his case worker.
The issue both young men hope to see addressed by the State Government is the lack of transition available to the kids in foster care when they turn 18.
While the end of the school years is scary for most teenagers, it means so much more when you have to fend for yourself.
Under current legislation in Queensland, as soon as a child in foster care turns 18 they are no longer the responsibility of the state.
They are no longer anyone's responsibility.
The Create Foundation - the peak body representing the voices of youths in out-of-home care - wants this addressed.
Create has been calling for a care plan to be developed for young people in foster care when they are aged between 15 and 18.
This is to help the 65% of young people in care who have no plans for their future independence.
State co-ordinator Lucas Moore said much progress had been made in this field in the past year, particularly since the findings of Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry which dedicated a whole chapter to the importance of transition.
For Gerry and Nick the "transition" was a scary prospect that haunted them for years before it happened.
"You have to try and find your ground where you are in life," Gerry said. "And then you are being kicked out. Many go into a cycle of being homeless as you have nowhere else to go when the system is finished with you."
Gerry had a "good support system" around him and his transition wasn't too traumatic.
He also has been involved with the Create Foundation and is a strong supporter of the cause to gain national recognition for a care plan.
Nick's experience was different.
"I have only recently gone through (the transition). There are a lot of holes," he said. "It is not so much 'we want to help you, you are turning 18'. It's more the case they want to get rid of you. When you are in a normal family and you turn 18, you have still got family for support.
"It is a very rude awakening for a young person to leave care. It is very daunting when you have grown up through the system.
"You've always grown up with people saying what you can or can't do. They are making it so you don't make mistakes and learn from them.
"When you turn 18 is when you start growing up. You have to fend for yourself, pay your rent, your car bills ..."
Mr Moore is optimistic change will happen soon.
"The LNP Government has committed to extending care until 21 years," Mr Moore said. "They are looking into how this can be done."
FOSTER CARE STATISTICS:
- Number of children in care in the North Coast Region in December 2012: 1102
- Number of children in care in Queensland: 8957
- Number of foster carers listed in Queensland: 4400
- Approximate number of teenagers which transition from care in Queensland each year: 450
- Percentage of children in care who have a "care plan" before turning 18: 35%
- Percentage of youths who end up homeless in first year after leaving care: 34% (based on 2009 study of a small sample).