James gets his life on trackNovember 1, 2021
James was 14 when he first came to be supported by CatholicCare in one of its residential care group homes, but despite the challenges he has faced in his young life, he has now committed himself to study and to his creative interests and is beginning to look to the future with hope.
James had been living with extended family, but when that arrangement ended, the shortage of foster carers for teenagers meant that he was taken into residential care.
Tim, his House Supervisor, says James lives in one of nine group homes spread across Northern Sydney and the Central Coast. Each home can have up to four young people living there, under 24 hour care.
“Our residential services are essentially the last stop for young people before moving into institutions, or being incarcerated,” he says.
“Most can’t go into the foster carer system because of challenging behaviours. These are kids in real trouble and in real need.”
Tim says that when James arrived two years ago, he was constantly being suspended from school and had attempted suicide.
“When he came to us, he wasn’t engaged with school at all, or indeed, with anything at all,” he says.
“Now, he is engaged with school and in fact, he receives certificates for his good work, and he is really into creative pursuits, particularly woodwork, building a train set which is quite intricate.”
“He recently did some work experience with a business that builds guitars – he built a cigar box guitar and it’s very cool.”
“He’s very engaged now and displaying none of those challenging behaviours.”
While living at the group home, young people like James are taught the skills they will need to live independently, such as budgeting, cooking, shopping and cleaning.
“He started cooking three meals a week and we slowly scaled that up. The goal is that he can soon show he’s capable of being in a semi-independent accommodation rather
than living in a group home until he’s 18,” Tim says.
He hopes to secure a carpentry apprenticeship when he finishes Year 10.
“James is a great kid and would’ve been a good candidate for foster care, but the shortage of foster carers for teenagers in particular, meant he ended up in residential care. His experience reminds us of the need for more people to open their homes through foster care to young people in need of a chance in life,” Tim says.
James has been able to adapt really well and responded to the supports he’s received.
Those supports include a mental health check and appropriate medication, as well as speech therapy and behaviour modification support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“A big part of it was just getting him used to routine, especially as far as sleep goes,” Tim says.
A Case Manager and Therapeutic Care Manager meet his day-to-day care needs and James is looking forward to a bright future.
“He’s very highly motivated and he’s reaching all his goals. He’ll be a real success story,” says Tim.
* Name and photo changed to protect privacy