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Culture and connection

Developing leaving care or future plans can coincide with exploring connections and reconnections with family, community and culture. When kids are strong in their culture, they tend to have higher self-esteem, more confidence and greater expectations of what they can achieve.

Engaging with other members of their community through activities, language, religion and other cultural actions can be meaningful for young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and multicultural backgrounds. Nurturing pride and cultural identity in children and young people should be encouraged and supported. Help them to enjoy their own culture and practice traditions and languages other than English.

Cultural support planning is essential to ongoing case management and case plans, and leaving care planning. It is mandatory for any caseworker as part of case planning for children and young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and multicultural backgrounds. This is because we want to children and young people to preserve their cultural identity as well as their connection to culture and family.


Community and connection

Health and well-being

Young people face a broad range of issues as they move to adulthood. Even with good parenting and role modelling, adolescence is generally a time for trying risky behaviours. It’s very normal for them to want more independence, experience changes to their bodies and feelings, have relationships and think about and/or have sexual intercourse, explore their sexuality or gender identity, experiment with alcohol and other drugs, consider higher education and find a job.

The following links can provide information and guidance on these topics.

Health Pathway

GPs and health care cards

Youth health

Counselling and mental health services

Emotional and social well-being

Sexual health, sexual identity and family planning

Smoking, alcohol and other drugs


Education support and goals should be part of the leaving care planning – identifying what the goals are for the year ahead! It might help to look at school reports, NAPLAN results and talk to the young person about how they felt the past 12 months have been.

School can be an exciting time but for some teens it can also be challenging. Talk to the young person and their carer about how things are going. Talk about what support they might benefit from, for example tutoring, homework clubs, equipment, transport support, friendship connections? Remember teenagers entering Year 10 or 11 may need some extra support as they prepare for the HSC, such as regular tutor.

Education is important in creating equal opportunities and establish a promising future. It also helps young people become more self dependent, confident and empowered to express their views.

Caseworkers play an essential role in improving educational outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care. The Education plan for children and young people in out-of-home care: caseworker guide offers caseworkers guidance on how to actively support the planning process through four stages.



TAFE and University

Apprenticeships and traineeships

Training and employment

Most young people want to be independent and feel the urge to get a job and make money of their own by the time they reach the teen years.

Working part-time is an excellent way for teenagers to develop a wide range of important skills - such as learning to manage money, working with others, responsibility and independence amongst other things. It is also a great opportunity for meeting people and make new friends and may even spark thinking about future career paths.

Encourage them to think about part time/casual work. To start with, it may be something as simple as babysitting, dog walking or working at a local café or shop. Or talk to them about training opportunities, such as:

  • attending a TAFE courses (including those that are now part of the HSC) or apply to attend TAFE or college for study or apprenticeship pathways
  • a barista course or other professional training courses.

Getting started

Young people might need help with preparing their first resume, practice interview questions, and open a bank account with a card so they can manage their own money.

Carers and caseworkers should discuss turning up on time, how to tell your boss you’re going to be late or sick, the value of working hard, your rights in the work place and other important practical tips.

Here are more useful resources about training and employment opportunities for young people.

Planning a career

Getting a job or apprenticeship

Living skills

Living skills like cooking, doing household chores, budgeting and having social skills (like manners) begin early in a child’s life and build slowly. Young people in care may need extra support to develop these skills – giving them confidence and building independence.

Teaching teenagers about everyday tasks can happen gradually but don’t underestimate the importance of preparing them for the challenges of life. Encourage good habits, social skills and practical skills like making a doctors appointment and applying for a tax file number. Everything from phone skills and making appointments to how to re-heat food safely, the value of things, mobile phone safety … there is much to learn.

Don’t assume teenagers already know and remember that some information will need repeating.

Young people should be encouraged to learn to drive, join a sports club or taking up a hobby, or volunteering. Consider their interests and what they like to do. Use the Living Skills checklist to guide conversations and consider when and how teenagers will learn certain skills or improve their skills.

It is also important to give praise when they do well. For example: 'fantastic cooking', 'great news on your part time work', 'well done for making that phone call, you spoke so well'.

Caseworkers and carers can work together to think about how best to prepare young people for everyday life.

The following links provide information about living skills. Click to find out more:

Building independent living skills


Legal matters

Vulnerable teenagers may need support, advice and advocacy when facing legal issues or court matters.

Caseworkers need to consider access to legal advice, coordinate with Justice and be familiar with the Memorandum of Understanding between DCJ and Youth Justice.

Knowing their rights and obligations when entering adulthood can help young people understand what they are entitled to, how they can contribute to society and what laws make them safe. These include:

  • the right to vote
  • accessing personal records
  • applying for a passport, licence or changing their name.

It is important to begin conversations with young people before they turn 18 about staying safe and how risky behaviours can have serious consequences. For example, get talking about social media, consent in relationships, responsible drinking and the risks of drink-driving, the negative impacts of drugs, the health impacts of smoking and why safe relationships are important.

Once they turn 18, they will have the same legal rights as any adult. They will be able to do things they weren’t able to legally do under the age of 18. This will include things like voting, being held responsible for their actions or agreement when entering into legally binding contracts such as tenancy, buying cigarettes and alcohol or entering a public bar, getting married without anyone’s permission, and making a valid will.

It’s also important to support young people when accessing records about their time in care. Accessing records may be distressing so it’s important for caseworkers to consider ways to support this.

Victims of Crime support

Caseworkers have a responsibility to support victims of crime access the support they need to help with recovery, healing and possible compensation. See the Victims of crime in out-of-home care factsheet outlining the OOHC caseworker’s role, or for further details see Victims of violent crimes.

A referral for a legal audit should be made for the young person when they turn 15 years of age (or as soon as possible if older than 15) to allow sufficient time for the audit prior to them leaving care at age 18. This will help assess their eligibility for NSW Victims Services such as counselling or financial compensation, and support any other legal matters not yet addressed. DCJ caseworkers use the DCJ legal audit referral form and non-government agencies use the NGO legal audit referral form.

In circumstances where Victims Services approve financial compensation for the young person, the fee waiver request letter can be sent to NSW Trustee and Guardian asking to waive any fees related to their management of funds.

Law help

Passport and birth certificate

Rights and responsibilities

Financial assistance and entitlements

In many cases young people may be entitled to financial assistance which should be considered in the process of leaving care planning. Knowing what their entitlements are is important for young people and carers to utilise them properly and financially plan ahead.

Caseworkers should provide information and access support for the relevant options as required. Refer to the Guidelines for the provision of assistance after leaving out-of-home care for information about assistance for those leaving statutory care.

The following links provide information about financial support.

Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA)

TILA is a one-off payment of up to $1,500 to help young people aged 15 – 25 years get the best possible start when leaving out-of-home care. TILA is provided by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) and in NSW is administered by Southern Youth and Family Support (SYFS).

Caseworkers must apply on behalf of the young person using the NSW TILA application form and sending it to SYFS via or fax 4240 4891.

The completed NSW TILA application form is sent to SYFS and they will gain approval for the TILA expenditure from DSS. Caseworkers do not need to contact DSS directly, instead all questions and applications must be sent to SYFS.

TILA helps young people achieve care plan goals. It can be used for a range of things, including:

  • white goods - fridge, washing machine
  • kitchen appliances - microwave, toaster, blender, mixer
  • furniture - lounge room and dining room suites, coffee table, TV stand/entertainment unit, bed and bedroom furniture
  • bedding and linen - mattress, sheets, pillows, doona, rugs, towels
  • food and clothing
  • one-off transport expenses - driving lessons, car or motor-cycle purchase, registration, insurance, car/motor-cycle repairs to make it roadworthy, push-bike
  • educational expenses - laptop or desktop computer, clothing for school, textbooks, enrolment fees for school, TAFE or University, broadband connection
  • employment expenses - work tools, interview and work clothes
  • bus and train passes
  • utility connection fees - phone, electricity and gas connections.

Teenage Education Payment

Teenage Education Payment (TEP) – for those aged 16 to 17 years, up to $6,000 per year (paid in $1,500 quarterly instalments) to help foster and kinship carers to keep young people in their care at school or in training. Use it to pay for everyday school or training expenses as well as camps, excursions or additional tutoring.

Post Care Education Financial Support (PCEFS)

Post care education financial support for carers – for those aged 18 to 24 years to complete their NSW Higher School Certificate. Paid to the carer to maintain their current living and support arrangements. For more information read our Post Care Education Financial Support FAQs and Post Care Education Financial Support - Procedures for NGO providers.

Allowances from Centrelink

Youth Allowance – financial help for 16 - 24 year olds studying, undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship, looking for work or sick. The allowance is available to those:

  • 16 to 21 and looking for full time work, or
  • 18 to 24 and studying full time, or
  • 16 to 24 and a full time Australian Apprentice, or
  • 16 to 17 and independent or needing to live away from home to study.

Payments for students and trainees

Eligible students, trainees and Australian Apprentices can receive financial help with everyday costs of living and some study expenses. Centrelink offers students 4 main payments:

  • Youth Allowance
  • Austudy - income support payment for 25 or older full time students or Australian Apprentices.
  • ABSTUDY - financial help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and Australian Apprentices.
  • Assistance for Isolated Children - a group of payments for parents and carers of children who can't go to a local state school because of geographical isolation, disability or special needs.

Find out more about eligibility and other support for students.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) student loans - support for those studying certain diploma level and above vocational education and training qualifications. Eligible students are entitled for loans up to a capped amount.

Alternative solution to paying off a fine

Work Development Order - If a young person doesn’t have the money to pay a fine, they can ask to be issued with a WDO. Under a WDO, they can reduce their fine by doing unpaid work, or attending certain approved courses or programs.

Other financial support options

National Debt Helpline - A not-for-profit service that helps people tackle their debt problems.

Salvos - The Salvos provide help with housing, job seeking, financial support, problem gambling, addiction and domestic violence.

Vinnies - Vinnies can help young people get around roadblocks to do with housing, finances, health support, food support and domestic violence.


Leaving care does not mean having to leave home.  Living in a stable, supportive and loving environment with a carer can continue past the age of 18.

In some situations you may need to support discussions about living arrangements between the young person and their carer or family or kin, especially where there is good will and interest in doing so but there are some worries or barriers to making this happen. Consider using the Living Arrangement Agreement discussion guide below to assist.

Where a young person can remain with their carer or another significant person in their life such as an aunty or cousin, this is highly encouraged. However, some young people will need support with accommodation where this staying put is not an option. Consider local housing support products and packages available for teenagers and young adults to help them find and maintain affordable accommodation.

Finding accommodation can be difficult, especially if a young person is also finishing school or looking for employment. Leaving a home without support can result in couch surfing, ending up in a shelter or homelessness.

DCJ is dedicated to funding services to support all people in need of housing support or facing homelessness. This includes ‘Housing Pathways’ and other options of private rental assistance, subsidies and temporary accommodation.

Living agreement support

Rent support

Homelessness and emergency services

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019