About the Study

Beyond 18: The Longitudinal Study on Leaving Care is a long-term research project about the lives of young people in out-of-home care and their experiences of leaving care in Victoria. It is the first of its kind to be conducted in Victoria.

The first wave of data collection began in June 2015 and the project will run until mid-2018. A report on the first wave of Beyond 18 surveys can be found here.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of the study is to inform government policy in supporting more effective transitions for young people from out-of-home care. In particular, it will aim to improve young people’s move towards interdependent relationships and eventual independence by:

  • Providing insights into the critical success factors associated with transition from out-of-home care
  • Proposing ways of enhancing out-of-home care
  • Proposing improvements in the transition from care
  • Proposing improvements post transition from care

People taking part

The young people who took part in Beyond 18 were born between 1996 and 2001 and had been in foster care, lead tenant, residential care, kinship care or permanent care in Victoria after the age of 15.

Out-of-home care caseworkers and carers also completed online surveys about the experiences and options of the leaving care system.

When

Recruitment to the Beyond 18 study began in 2015. The study follow this  group of young people over three years to understand how their experiences and outcomes changed over time. New people were also recruited into the study in 2016 and 2017.

Study design

The Beyond 18 study methodology involved three strands of data collection.

1. Young people’s survey

Young people who had been in care in Victoria after turning 15, and who were born between 1996 and 2001, participated in this part of the study. They were asked about their out-of-home care experiences and experiences of life after leaving care as well as about their health and well-being, accommodation, education and employment. The information collected in these surveys provided insights into the pathways and experiences of care leavers . There were two main parts to the survey.

The short online survey

The main component of the Survey of Young People was an annual online survey. Participants received a $50 gift card for completing each annual survey. By arrangement, the survey could also be completed with an AIFS researcher over the phone, in person, or in paper format.

Follow-up phone interviews 

Young people keen to be more involved were able to complete a short follow-up telephone interview in the months after completing an online survey. Those who participated received an additional $20 gift card. In these interviews, young people were able to talk in more detail about some of the topics in the online survey and about other aspects of their experiences and/or post-care life.

2. Case file data extract

The researchers are also analysed an extract of de-identified data (that means, it is anonymous) from the DHHS Client Relationship Information System (CRIS). The point of this analysis was see what the whole population of care leavers looks like (e.g. how long most people spend in care and what kinds of placements they were in).  There was no access to file notes or case notes and researchers were not given young people’s names or identifying details.

3. Carer and caseworker surveys

There were also annual online surveys for out-of-home care workers and carers to allow them to express their thoughts and opinions about the out of home care and leaving care systems in Victoria. Information gathered from these surveys will help provide a more rounded understanding of the needs and experiences of young Victorians leaving care.

Consultation

As part of the project development, AIFS consulted with key representatives from peak bodies, out of home care and leaving care service providers and community groups. Support from organisations who assist young people in out of home care was essential to the success of the research.

The main purposes of this community consultation were to:

  • Help inform key aspects of the study design and survey content
  • Promote the study to other relevant community groups and organisations
  • Encourage and support the participation and ongoing involvement of individuals who were eligible for the study

Input from key stakeholders continued throughout the course of the study.

Reference groups

Governance arrangements for the Beyond 18 study comprised three working groups, each with a different focus and responsibilities, as well as youth participation functions.

Implementation Group

The Implementation Group was responsible for the project management and delivery of the study and included researchers from the AIFS and staff from the Department’s Centre for Human Services Research and Evaluation branch. The group also work with the Stakeholder Advisory Group to enhance the strategic linkage of the study with other research studies in Victoria and Australia and actively develop potential extensions to the study.

Department Working Group

The Department Working Group was responsible for providing strategic and technical advice and assistance throughout the Beyond 18 study. The working group provided methodological advice to AIFS and contribute to the continuous improvement of the study’s implementation. The group includes Departmental staff, research advisors, and technical experts in the out of home care and leaving care fields.

Stakeholder Advisory Group

The Stakeholder Advisory Group was responsible for providing external stakeholder perspectives and advice throughout the study. The advisory group contributed to the research quality and methodological rigour of the study. The group comprised external stakeholders with relevant experience and knowledge related to out of home care. In order to ensure the effective representation of young people in the governance of Beyond 18, the advisory group’s membership included young people from CREATE’s Young Consultant Program.