When he’s not working out in the gym, William is caring for those he loves. William was one-year-old when he was placed into care. AnglicareSA is sharing the now 20-year-old’s story, with his 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 William.
William is building his body up to become a ‘strong man’.
“I can bench press 130kg and leg lift 550kg,” says William, who is very clear on his body-building purpose.
“A body builder works out to get ripped, but a strong man works out to be very strong. That’s what I want to be – a strong man.
“I’m not about appearances.”
Those who know him well agree that William’s true strength lies on the inside.
The 20-year-old from Adelaide works hard in his retail job to keep a roof over his head and the lights on at night; he cares for his grandmother who lives a 45-minute drive away and remains connected to young people in care and his former support staff. He wants to advocate for young people in care so they know they are not alone.
“We are super proud of him” says Emily Rozee, AnglicareSA Supervisor of Participation and Wellbeing.
“Although William has faced significant hardship, he does not let this stop him,” Ms Rozee says.
“He continually rises above challenges and does so with a caring heart and big smile.”
His admiration is immediately evident at AnglicareSA’s city office – where most of the staff call him ‘Will’ and stand up with big smiles when he walks in the room, no matter how much time has passed between their last encounter.
William was one-and-a-half-years-old when he was placed into state care with his older sister as it was no longer safe for them to live with their birth parents.
The siblings were moved in and out of a handful of foster care homes before receiving kinship care through their grandmother in Adelaide’s outer northern suburbs.
“The earliest memory I have of my childhood is my nanna,” says William. “She is the best nanna in the world – I call her every two days.”
William remained with his grandmother until he was about 11 years old and was then placed in residential care with several other children and young people for about two years.
He says residential care involved a constant stream of ever-changing children and staff, with no or very little privacy, and a number of “fights and arguments” among young residents. All of which, he says, added to the challenge of attending school regularly.
At 13, William came into the care of foster carer Frank. This was a good experience for William. “He was the best foster carer I ever had – even though I gave him such a hard time. I still see him to this day. It was great – he was like the father figure that I never had.”
William was16 when he was referred to AnglicareSA’s Youth 180 program. It’s a service for young people aged 16 to18 under the Guardianship of the Minister which provides 24/7 support in independent accommodation.
“I learnt how to cook, how to load a washing machine, how to budget, how to shop and how to find a job.”
This was preparing him to leave the care system.
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.
Two weeks before William was due to exit care and the Youth 180 program – which is only funded for young people up to age 18 – he still had no idea where he was going to live, nor how he was going to support himself.
“As soon as you turn 18, it’s like you’ve fallen off a cliff or something – you don’t exist.
“I had no idea where I was going leading up to turning 18. I was worried I would be without a home.
“I was really worried because as soon as you turn 18 you’re on your own – you don’t have access to medical cover – what happens if something goes wrong, how was I going to pay for it? I was scared. I was really worried about whether I was going to make it.”
AnglicareSA worked hard to advocate for William, so that one week after his 18th birthday, he was able to secure affordable housing.
AnglicareSA helped William set up electricity, phone, and gas at his new home, helped him move in, and touched based with him after he was settled in. AnglicareSA made sure he was connected to a mental health worker and other outreach services.
William worked part time to pay for his subsidised rent and started a traineeship in youth work through AnglicareSA’s Post Care Pathways Program in 2020/21.
The Post Care Pathways (PCP) program, run by AnglicareSA and Believe Housing Australia, provides subsidised housing through self-contained, one-bedroom apartments in Adelaide’s inner south-west for young people leaving care from age 18 to 25.
AnglicareSA Executive General Manager of Community Services Nancy Penna says the PCP program has so far 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.
“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 says.
Ms Penna says some of the program’s young tenants have transitioned into private rental and social housing and almost all 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 says.
“Without the same family support networks, our young care leavers are more vulnerable to ending up in crisis, including homelessness, as they enter adulthood alone,” she said.
William agrees that the right support can be life changing.
“I really feel like I’m in charge of my life now,” he says.
“I was one of the lucky ones.
“If I didn’t have the support services that I had, to transition out of care, I would have gone down a dark, rabbit hole. I would have probably ended up on the streets because family wasn’t an option for me.
“The emotional support was just as important too.
“The most important thing I learnt was to believe in myself. I was given self-confidence so that I could focus on being a better me.”
William is a passionate advocate for young people leaving care and says more social policy is needed to focus on this vulnerable group who are the state’s future.
“I really want to be a voice for those that can’t be heard.”
For more information on how you can help us better support young people leaving care call us on 8305 9200 or visit our Spring Appeal here.