AnglicareSA is sharing Felicity’s story, with her consent, to shine a light on the significant challenges young people exiting care face and the immense potential they provide in making our community a better place today and tomorrow. Read on to find out how you can help us support more young people like Felicity.
Nineteen-year-old Felicity was eight years old when she was placed into state care in regional South Australia.
She moved through nine foster homes and a homeless shelter until eventually ending up in a shared residential care home in Adelaide at age 16.
However, the hardest challenge, says the plucky teenager, was yet to come.
On her 18th birthday, she exited the child protection system as an adult and was no longer eligible for the independent supported accommodation where she had found some stability for six months.
With the global pandemic driving up record rental prices and vacancy rates, Felicity’s fixed income locked her out of the private rental market and the wait for public housing was months, if not years, away.
Even the homeless shelter she was reluctant to share with adults would not accept her and her beloved cat Hazel – a lifeline in those darkest hours.
She had no family she could turn to for support.
“I was facing homelessness,” she says.
National Institute of Health and Welfare data says an 18-year-old leaving the child protection system faces a 60 per cent chance of being homeless by the time they turn 20.
“No young person should have to leave the support of the child protection system and be put on the streets” says Felicity.
“If you asked me what the scariest part of my life has been so far, I would say the fear of almost becoming homeless would be it.”
After some lobbying from her church group, Felicity and Hazel finally caught a break – a spot in a pilot program for up to 15 youth leaving care aged 18-25.
“The program saved me in so many ways.”
Felicity was among the first 15 young people involved in AnglicareSA and Believe Housing Australia’s Post Care Pathway (PCP) program when she arrived in May last year.
The program’s award-winning service model, developed by AnglicareSA, supports young care leavers to avoid or permanently exit homelessness by providing subsidised, stable accommodation, support services and life-long friendships and community connections.
In South Australia, young people will often exit the child protection system after their 18th birthday without the necessary emotional and financial support of family or state needed to navigate the challenges of early adulthood.
AnglicareSA Executive General Manager of Community Services Nancy Penna said the PCP program started as a pilot in January 2021.
“The program has provided 23 young people leaving care immediate access to housing that is safe, affordable and appropriate during one of our nation’s most challenging economic and social times,” said Ms Penna.
“The aim of the PCP program is to also provide individual support focussed on health, well-being, life skills, engagement in education, employment, and social inclusion to help guide those first, vital and formative steps into adulthood,” she said.
Ms Penna said some of the program’s young tenants have transitioned into private rental and social housing and almost all of those currently supported by the program are engaged in education and training or are employed.
“Growing up is a challenge for everyone, but increasingly it is more difficult for young South Australians leaving care,” Ms Penna said.
The operation of the PCP program is fully funded by AnglicareSA and requires donations to continue and expand. There are currently more than a dozen young people waiting to access the PCP program. Some have been waiting for six months.
Felicity spent eight months in the PCP program in 2021/22 and subsequently found long-term, affordable accommodation.
Her fur family has since expanded to include cat Hazelnut, cat Pumpkin and newest addition – puppy Nacho.
Felicity is studying to become a youth worker and in 2020 published her book/autobiography, Not Held Down.
In September, during Foster Care Week, Felicity launched her new business called ‘Fostering Change Australia’ to advocate for foster children and young people in care and their carers.
“I want to advocate for change in the foster care system and I want to work with other organisations who also see the importance of making a way to support and grow successful young adults.”
Felicity remains connected to her PCP family. Every week she returns to the PCP site in Adelaide to visit staff and the young people she knows that remain there and the newer young tenants.
“I was lucky enough to get into PCP and then long-term housing but there’s young people tonight who are sleeping on the streets, in homeless shelters, hotel/motels or couch surfing,” says Felicity.
“This rental crisis is really dangerous for young people in care, young adults get the option to move back home to their families if they can’t pay the ever-increasing rent prices but young adults who aged out of care don’t get that option.
“The next generation is vital for our future, but we have no hope for our future if young adults are ageing out of the system and onto the streets.”
For more information on how you can help us better support young people leaving care call us on 8305 9200 or visit us HERE.