Home' Aurora : Aurora September 2012 Contents 20
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Think back to when you were 18. Statistics indicate that if you are reading this in
hard copy, you re well over 18! Did you live at home with a parent or guardian, or
maybe at a college? How independent were you? Were you a tenant, as opposed
to a family member or boarder? Did you have to negotiate a rental agreement?
Did you know not to wash whites with colours? What about grocery shopping and
planning nutritional meals? Did you have someone nearby whom you could ask for
advice and support?
STARTING OUT ON on the road to
independent living is never easy,
whatever your age. How much
more challenging if you have, for whatever
reason, lived in an Out of Home Care
(sometimes called Foster Care) situation,
and at 18 you are required to become
independent? Even if this happens a few
years later, it can still be daunting.
The reasons for young people being
placed in Out of Home Care (OOHC) are
many and every case is different but
neglect, abuse or a family crisis may
come into play. OOHC provides a safe and
stable environment but this can't always
be maintained as the young person
moves toward adulthood.
CatholicCare Social Services Hunter
Manning youth caseworker, Matthew
Hooey, is well versed in such scenarios.
Matt admits that social work was not his
first career choice -- the IT path he had
mapped out suddenly took a wrong turn
and he all but fell into a TAFE course in
youth work. He finds the work challenging
but rewarding, and says with confidence
that is justified by client feedback, "I
"I come from a family of tradies and no
one else in my family has completed the
HSC. I was the only male in Year 12 at St
Francis Xavier's College doing Community
and Family Studies. I've always been
interested in decision-making and
different living situations.
"My parents taught me respect, courage
and all of those types of qualities and
family is a big part of my life, absolutely."
Matt's now studying psychology through
distance learning at the
University of New England,
and hopes eventually, with
added experience and
maturity, to work in the
OOHC field. Currently,
Matt is a caseworker in
two CatholicCare programs:
Living (SIL) which assists young
people 16-18 years to make a smooth,
supported transition from foster care
to independence, and the After Care
program for those aged 18-25. This
program assists young people who have
left OOHC and need assistance to access
services and their leaving care plans.
Caseworkers in these programs help with
finding accommodation, teach skills such
as budgeting, housekeeping and personal
care and safety, support financial self-
sufficiency and make a real contribution
to preventing homelessness.
Perhaps the greatest attribute Matt brings
to the programs is his awareness of what
he doesn't know. "As much as we think
we understand, we don't -- and you don't.
No one understands. I've been called
some pretty awful names but if I step
back I realise they're not angry at me,
they're angry at the situation -- at
life. And I understand that.
"I was oblivious to child abuse,
neglect and sexual assault
when I was growing up, but my
role as a case worker isn't to
feel sorry for my clients, my role
is to support them and assist
them in reaching their goals. As much
as I can try to understand what they have
been through, realistically every individual
is different and I haven't felt what they
He does find the bureaucracy involved
in, for example, finding suitable low
cost accommodation, frustrating, and
there is always a demand for such rental
properties. Can you help? If so, please
contact the editor.
CatholicCare's Youth Services was a
key participant in the recent Homeless
Connect Day. "The interaction of our staff
with young people who need assistance
was really significant. The Night Care Van
was constantly busy, serving more than a
thousand sausages, and 'Elmo and Ernie'
were there brightening up everyone's day.
The vibe around the day was extremely
positive," said Matt.
Other than food, clothing and shelter,
what are the greatest needs of young
people? "Friends" is the unequivocal
response. "For the SIL kids or the kids
from OOHC, their friends are their family."
Matt says that only about half of his
clients have contact with their family of
origin, and many carry the legacy of poor,
or non-existent, parenting.
Matt Hooey's not a parent and he
wouldn't claim to be an expert, but he
is a young man who has supported and
mentored enough young people to know
the importance of effective parenting.
Hopefully, one of the legacies of his and
his colleagues' work is that the young
men and women who are their clients will
be optimistic and confident about all that
the future holds.
You may wish to visit www.catholiccare.
By TRACEY EDSTEIN
make a real
Matt Hooey assists a client preparing to live independently.
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