Being in care must not mean missing out on school – new research announcement

If you grow up in out-of-home care, you are more likely to miss out on school and only 57% of young care leavers (aged 18-25) manage to complete Year 12 or equivalent, compared to the national average of 85%.

Every child deserves the opportunity granted by attending school and for over 46,212 (AIHW) children and young people in out-of-home care, attending school can be difficult as a result of trauma and frequently moving around. 

CREATE is delighted to share that the Australian Research Council (ARC) has approved a linkage project grant for collaborative research working towards understanding why children and young people in out-of-home care in Australia have a higher number of absences from school than their peers and to inform a child-centred framework to enable attendance.

Titled, “Fostering school attendance for students in Out-of-Home Care,” this vital research project is being led by Professor Kitty te Riele (University of Tasmania), and CREATE Foundation is one of the nine organisations along with four universities working towards addressing contributing factors to poorer attendance

While there are several issues of concern regarding care experiences, quite conversely growing up in care can be positive for many young people. Adequate support around education is a very important area for young people as it serves as the spring board for the rest of their life. CREATE’s 2018 consultation with young people revealed that 92% of respondents feel safe and secure in their current placement; 96% have a connection with a family member they expect to maintain; and 90% can nominate one significant adult who cares about them and who they can depend on. During CREATE’s ongoing consultations with young people many have shared that they want to go to school, and for some it is seen as a reliable safe constant during difficult times.

CREATE Foundation Executive Director of Research, Dr Joseph McDowall shared: “CREATE’s aim is for young people in care to reach their full potential. Having a comprehensive education is an important start. Before young people can reach higher aspirational goals, they must participate in and complete their basic schooling. This study will contribute to maximising educational outcomes by minimising barriers and disruptions to attendance that can impede a successful educational experience.”

The project expects to generate new knowledge about the reasons for absences and to develop solutions to improve attendance through: listening to the children’s views; detailed absence data; policy audit; and case studies of promising practice. Expected outcomes include a comprehensive conceptualisation of absences including those triggered by schools or the care context; and an evidence-informed, child-centred framework to enable attendance and, consequently, improved educational outcomes. This should provide significant social and economic benefits both for children in care and for the community.

Participating organisations: University of Tasmania, The Australian National University, Australian Catholic University and University of South Australia, Life Without Barriers; CREATE Foundation; Berry Street; Stronger Smarter Institute; Allambi Care; Anglicare; Key Assets Australia; MacKillop Family Services; Commissioner for Children and Young People Tasmania.

Read more on this topic via an earlier article: 

Refer to the grant announcement via Australian Research Council website: 

CREATE Foundation is the national consumer body representing the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience (including kinship care, foster care and residential care). CREATE develops policy and research to report on and advocate for a better care system.

For further comment from CREATE’s Executive Director (Research), Dr Joseph McDowall, and/or a young person with care experience contact Leigh White, CREATE Media Advisor, via (m) 0431 932 122 or  

Key statistics on the care sector in Australia: 

  • 46,212 children and young people were reported in 2020-21 as living in out-of-home care across Australia (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2022).
  • 30% of young people experience homelessness within the first year of leaving care. (McDowall, 2020).
  • 30% of young people who have left care or preparing to leave care are unemployed.
  • 36% children and young people in care do not live with any of their siblings.
  • 35% of young people in care have five or more caseworkers during their time in care.
  • 67% of young people in care over the age of 15 are not aware of having a leaving care plan.
  • Young people in out-of-home care are 16 times more likely to be under a youth justice order than the general population. 
  • About one fifth (21%) of young people with Youth Justice experience have been in out-of-home care in the last five years.


McDowall, J. J. (2018). Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards. CREATE Foundation.

McDowall, J. J. (2020). Transitioning to adulthood from out-of-home care: Independence or interdependence? CREATE Foundation.