How do unaccompanied children prepare for another school year?

Michelle Wisbey 2017, Housing, News and Media, Young People

The start of a new school year can be a challenge for anyone.

It’s the start of new routines, of new friends and teachers, of new shoes, packing lunches, new uniforms, buses and homework.

But what happens if you don’t have a roof over your head? If you don’t have any food, money, family support, or basic necessities?

What happens if you are 13 and don’t have a place to call home?

In 2015-16, 342 unaccompanied children aged between 10 and 17 presented to specialist homelessness services in Tasmania.

These are children who are not on a Care and Protection Order, but are unable to live at home – they literally have nowhere to go.

We expect these children to attend school just like any other student. We want them to turn up on time, to behave in class, to have a clean uniform, the correct books, and to have finished their homework.

But if just surviving is your main concern, how hard is it to properly engage with school?

If you haven’t eaten since yesterday, haven’t slept properly all week, and are trying to find a bed for the night, no wonder concentrating in class becomes difficult.

According to Shelter Tasmania, 27 per cent of the homeless population in Tasmania is aged 18 or under.

Some of these children are being forced to live an adult life, to make decisions that no child should ever have to make, and try to hold it all together.

We all want to see children thrive, to be offered the opportunity to reach their full potential and to grow into happy and healthy adults, but there is much more to be done to ensure this becomes a reality.

What can be done:

  • Increase and open up the medium and long-term care and accommodation options for children
  • Adopt a trauma-informed approach in schools
  • Offer more alternative education options

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