More Information

Who is involved in this campaign?

Lifewise, Youthline, Child Poverty Action Group, Dingwall Trust, Wesley Community Action,  Christchurch Methodist Mission, and ActionStation.

We are a group of agencies throughout New Zealand that work with young people in state care every single day.

Young people are in state care through no fault of their own, and they should have the same rights to support and a home that every other young person in NZ has.

We have created this public petition to show that Kiwis from all walks of life do care about young people in state care, and that we don’t stop caring when they turn 17. 

Hasn't the Labour Party already got a petition on this?

We believe politics is too important to leave to politicians and political parties alone and that we need to activate people power as well.

Why have you chosen the age 21 instead or 18 or 19?

Giving more state support for young people now is better for everyone in the long-term

Giving young people extra years of support as they transition to adulthood has been shown to save the state more than $700,000 per year of support in the long-term due to reduced costs to the health, justice and welfare system.

• Young Kiwis leave home in their mid-20s

The average Kiwi now leaves home when they’re 23 and a half. Making the transition to an adult is a challenge at the best of times, but it’s that much harder when you’ve had a disrupted childhood, nowhere to live, and no parental role models. Raising the age to 21 would give young people in state care the same opportunities to have support as every other Kiwi.

• Other countries have started to raise the age of adulthood due to young people’s brains not maturing until their mid-twenties

18 is the age when young people are considered adults under law, but this doesn’t match how our brains develop. The frontal lobe, which controls decision making , doesn’t mature until a young person is 25.

• Some young people may need additional support to catch up with their peers

Many young people in state care have experienced abuse and neglect. It’s therefore absolutely crucial that they have support and a home-base as they find their feet. For young people who have experienced particularly severe abuse, they may need a bit of extra support beyond when other people might.

• Raising the age for support to 21 doesn’t mean young people have to stay in care if they don’t want to

We are asking for state care to be available for young people until they turn 21 if they want it. If young people no longer want to stay in state care, they should have the right to find an arrangement that suits their needs.

What happens if you want to leave state care earlier than 21? 

If young people want to leave state care before 21 they can, this change just means they have the option of a home-base and support if they want it.

What about people leaving home at 16, doesn't this cause a lot of problems as well? Should the age be raised to 18?

Research shows for every year of support you give to young people, you save the state close to $700,000. We believe every young person should have the benefit of support and a home-base until they're ready to be independent. That said, it's important young people have a choice. If their current living situation is unstable or unsafe or they feel ready to leave, they should still have that option.

Surely people don't get turfed out at 17 unless they are a pain. If so, then perhaps screening of foster parents should be better?

Foster carers are paid to look after young people until they turn 17. Young people can technically apply to keep support until they're 20, but this is seldom used. Most young people leave state care at 17, if not before.

Why should the state support people for longer than some parents do?

Every kid is different, but young people who have come from a difficult background should have the option of a bit more support if they need it. Young people who are already ready to be independent can still leave state care before they turn 21 if they choose to.

Here are some key things you should know about this campaign:

The odds are stacked against 17 year olds who need to find a new home:

  • 17 year olds cannot legally sign a tenancy agreement.

  • Young people leaving care do not have a rental history and are often not seen as desirable tenants in a highly competitive rental market.  

  • For many leaving care, the costs of bond and rent in advance are outside what they can afford, further limiting their options. The support available from Work and Income often does not cover the full cost of this, and as it is recoverable, pushes young people into debt just to secure a roof over their heads, at an age that most families are still supporting their children.

  • Most families support their children past 17 years of age, and those that leave can come back for support if times get tough. Yet these young people that have had a rougher start than most are left isolated, without the skills or supports needed to successfully navigate the adult world.The average age people in NZ leave home is 23.5 years – giving them an extra 6.5 years of support at home than young people leaving foster care.

17 is an arbitrary age that does not match legislation for reaching adulthood under the law:

  • As former Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier identifies they are deemed “too old to fall under the protective arm of our youth legislation, but too young to be appropriately assisted via adult legislation”. [1]

  • There is currently no clear or coherent national mandate for agencies to support children leaving care. Despite the new Vulnerable Children’s Act 2014 defining children as anyone under the age of 18, the opportunity was not taken to bring the Children Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 into line by raising the upper age of this act. The very legislation designed to support those children needing care and protection falls below the international standard. It is simple to close this bureaucratic gap and raise the age of discharge from care and stop leaving vulnerable 17 years olds out in the cold.

  • Being discharged at 17 years and suddenly having to become responsible for all their own needs and living costs whilst still at secondary school is a violation of their human rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Care leavers are more at risk of poor outcomes – raising the age would give them the support they need to transition to independence:

  • Care leavers are known to suffer disproportionately poor outcomes, including homelessness, over-representation in the justice system and in those that are long term welfare dependant. 60% of youth most at risk of long term welfare dependency have CYF backgrounds. [2] Those with prior involvement with CYF make up 80% of those imprisoned by age 20. [3]

Raising the age of care will cost less to us all in the long-term:

  • Research from Monash University in Victoria, Australia looked at the cost to the state of not supporting young people leaving care due to poor outcomes and calculated a figure of $738,741 per young person direct cost to the state. [4]

  • Not only is it vital that we expect the Government to provide the same care as a reasonable parent, it makes sense to invest in the short term to save the costs to society in the longer term.

  • New Zealand is behind the rest of the Western world, discharging children from state care earlier than any other English speaking country.

We aren’t talking huge numbers:

  • The number of 17 year olds who exited Child, Youth and Family care each financial year since June 2007:

Financial Year ending June

Total number of 17 year olds

















~ References ~
  1. Boshier, P. and Wademan, J. (2010). Youth aging out of foster care – international perspectives. Family Court Review, Vol.  48 No.2, April, 294 – 304.
  2. Welfare Working Group (2011) Final Report
  3. Ministry of Social Development (2011). Flow rates from child, youth and family to corrections. Centre for Research and Development: Unpublished.
  4. Forbes, C. And Inder, B. (2006). Measuring the cost of leaving care in Victoria. Working Paper. Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics, Monash University, Australia.

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