Bridging the Gap

More than 43,000 children and young people were living in out-of-home care - foster care, residential care and kinship care - in Australia, as at 30 June 2015. 

Nearly half of all homeless people and more than 60% of youth in detention have experienced out-of-home care. It is clear that the current system is not working and is leaving our children at risk.  

Our approach

The Bridging the Gap theory of change is based on the premise that restoring and supporting the integrity of the family, as the most important social unit, will lead to fewer children living in out-of-home care, experiencing homeless and/or entering the youth justice system and ultimately for them, the adult prison system.  

Our approach relies on education, mentoring and peer support to engage with, inform and empower disenfranchised and disadvantaged children, young people and, ultimately, families; along with practical assistance, to help set them on a path to a brighter future. Our eventual aim is to encircle the family with the support and assistance necessary to remain, safely, intact.

Our programs will initially commence in Victoria and then be extended to other Australian states and territories.

Books for kids

Many disadvantaged children including refugees and those living in out-of-home care are not provided with the books and educational equipment necessary to 'fit in' at school, develop their reading skills and achieve the educational outcomes necessary to succeed in life. The books for kids program provides books to refugee kids and kids living in foster care. BoH is now working to secure the electronic equipment necessary once these children reach high school.

Teenage girls leaving out-of-home care

Each year, the guardianship/custody orders of approximately 1000 teenage girls in Australia cease. Unlike most young people leaving home and transitioning to independence, care-leavers receive little support. The leaving care system is fragmented, under resourced and cannot even meet the basic need of secure accommodation. As a result, many care leavers experience homelessness and worse. 

Accessing support services at this stage is crucial to prevent a downward spiral and to set these young people on a path to a brighter future. A history of many adults and caregivers coming in and out of their lives, however, means they often find it hard to accept support.

The Bridging the Gap program coordinates a network of support services for these teenage girls and pairs them with a peer who has experienced the same challenges. We aim to engage them at an earlier age, explore their interests, build their self-esteem and provide an opportunity to develop consistent, sustained relationships with adult volunteers. Our ultimate goal is to ensure they receive the education, life skills and support needed to successfully transition from out-of-home care into the community.

STAGE 1 - Teenage girls leaving Victorian out-of-home care

Each year, the guardianship contracts of more than 200 teenage girls in Victoria cease. Many exit out-of-home care to unknown destinations. Nearly half have no family support of any kind and forty percent are considered 'vulnerable' having experienced significant trauma and disadvantage,. Many have high needs and some have a disability.

With no home to go to, some of the most vulnerable girls exiting care are provided with ten nights' accommodation in a hotel before being effectively abandoned by the care system as they no longer qualify for assistance. 

Stage 1 will establish the Bridging the Gap program in Victoria, proving the model, before rolling the program out nationally.

Lifecycle of many disadvantaged youth

 

How can you help?

We are seeking volunteers

Are you interested in volunteering to:

  • Mentor teenage girls in out-of-home care
  • Transport teenage girls to appointments or extracurricular activities; for example, sport or music
  • Assist a foster child/ren with an activity; for example, reading or homework
  • Help a foster carer/s by giving them a short break
  • Supervise female learner drivers as they achieve their 120 hours driving experience as part of the L2P learner driver mentor program
  • Just be there as a friend, someone to talk to and to provide guidance; sadly, many of these teenage girls do not have a mother/aunt/older sister figure in their lives.

No experience? No problem - we'll train you

Full training will be provided by partner organisations including:

  • The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare
  • Safe Steps
  • Fitted for Work
  • Transport Accident Commission (TAC)
  • VicRoads.

Interested?

To register your interest in volunteering, to learn more about Bridging the Gap and/or the Bridge of Hope or to find out how else you, or your organisation, can assist; please contact Kerry Kornhauser at kerry.kornhauser@boh.org.au or Vanessa Tipping at vanessa.tipping@boh.org.au