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Amplify Blog - You don’t magically turn into an adult overnight

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Amplify Blog - You don’t magically turn into an adult overnight

Amplify Blog

Youth Advocate Caroline speaks about her transition from care into adulthood. 


When I am asked to reflect on my transition from out-of-home care, I can share that I had solid plans, hopes and dreams. Before 18, my transition, although having its moments of absolute fear and moments of crisis, I had enough support around me to say that in the moments leading up to 18, I could conquer my plans, hopes and dreams. As you would want from any bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenager, the world was my oyster.


Upon reaching 18, I found myself living independently, or as the department saw it, self-placing. Balancing a job, completing my final year of high school, and managing rent, the transition into adulthood was no walk in the park but I was making the best of my situation. Although challenging, I successfully marked my 18th birthday, signalling the commencement of my adult journey.


In 2019, amidst my role as the MC for the Home Stretch campaign launch in Queensland, a little-known fact was that the night before, I had fled a violent situation, rendering me homeless. In an instant, my carefully crafted plans and dreams seemed unattainable. It felt like I had failed at adulthood, a sentiment that struck me while listening to Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, express his hopes for care leavers He said, “For the child who was in care, tried it … and it melted down, that they get to come back, just like any young adult does and return to live with the parents.” He spoke about the chance for those who faced setbacks to return home, a luxury I didn't have.


Feeling like I had faltered in the transition to adulthood wasn't an uncommon experience; it's a shared journey for every young adult. However, what set my experience apart was the absence of an option to "come back," unlike my peers. I couldn't retreat home, rebuild myself, and give it another try. While I didn't face this alone, accessing available services posed a challenge, complicating my efforts to regain stability.


Reflecting on my living experience, it seemed as though I was expected to grow up overnight. I was thrust into situations where I needed answers and skills that many adults didn't possess. Simple tasks like budgeting (which, truth be told, I still struggle with), filing taxes, or even applying for rentals would stress me out. I lacked the know-how of being an adult, and, unfortunately, I had no one to turn to for advice.


It wasn't just about seeking advice; I've accomplished numerous significant things since turning 18, hitting various life milestones. Yet, at times, it feels incredibly lonely. I find myself raising and celebrating achievements by myself. Despite the support and love from my friends, there's a palpable sense of solitude. Hearing about my friends' relationships with their parents, how they're there for both the highs and lows of life's milestones, serves as a poignant reminder of the loneliness that can accompany my journey.


Becoming an adult is not a magical transformation that happens overnight. The stroke of midnight on their 21st birthday doesn't suddenly empower someone to effortlessly manage bills, grocery shopping, and complete the daily tasks of being independent. The notion that extending support, although it is much needed, what is next? You don’t stop growing up at 21. The harsh reality is that without this extended support, the risk of homelessness and other struggles looms large. This outcome should never be the objective for any family or individual. The idea of support beyond the age limit of 21 acknowledges the gradual nature of maturity and provides a safety net, preventing vulnerable individuals from falling into dire circumstances.