Supporting young people leaving foster care to participate in vocational and higher education
Foster carers can play an important role in supporting young people to thrive and become independent. This includes supporting your child to succeed in education in school and beyond. Achieving good education can change the life of a young person and help build their confidence and self-esteem.
In Years 9, 10, 11 and 12, young people start thinking about what they will do when they leave school. This might be studying at TAFE, university, an apprenticeship or employment. Study and training can open up many possibilities for young people in their work and personal life.
Educational expectations for young people leaving care has been low with few transitioning to higher education. Many young people with experience in care face social and economic barriers in accessing and participating in TAFE and University, excluding them from opportunities to improve their employment prospects and earning potential.
There are a number of programs and supports for carers and young people that are helping to change this.
Since 2015, Raising Expectations has been working to increase the participation of young people leaving care in tertiary education. There are now nearly 700 students with a care experience participating at Raising Expectations’ three partner universities; La Trobe University, Federation University Australia and Swinburne University of Technology. Many more are studying at TAFEs and other Victorian universities including Victoria University.
Funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training, Raising Expectations brings together community, education, vocational and higher education sectors to improve awareness of young people with a care experience and the types of supports they need to participate in TAFE and University.
Young people and foster carers can also contact Raising Expectations to find out what supports are available to help them study at TAFE and Uni, including fee free tuition at TAFE. With the right support from carers, and through programs such as Raising Expectations, many care leavers are now thriving in vocational and higher education.
Tips for talking about education and careers with young people in care
As a foster carer, you can encourage and support young people in care to pursue higher education and develop their knowledge and skills, just like any other young person interested in attending uni or TAFE.
Foster carers can:
- Focus on their strengths and areas of interest
- Encourage them to talk about their goals and aspirations – what they want for themselves and what they expect from themselves
- Encourage discussion around areas of employment and/or study, rather than specific jobs – unless they have a clear goal they want to work towards
- Remember it is their path – you will have your own ideas about the direction they should go in, empower them to make their decisions with your guidance
- Remind young people to explore their interests and different learning styles to see what works best for them
- Encourage them to talk to a teacher, learning mentor or another trusted adult if that helps
As a foster carer, you don’t have to go it alone. The Raising Expectations program can assist carers and young people to access the support they need, and you can always speak to your foster care agency about opportunities to encourage young people’s professional and educational goals.
- Education Guide for Carers of Children in Out-of-Home Care
- Life After School Guide
- Raising Expectations program - Resources and live chat
- Skills First Youth Access Initiative
Interested in becoming a foster carer?
Foster carers play an important role in supporting children and young people in care to thrive. If you think you can create a caring and supportive environment for a child, then give fostering a go.