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Stepping forward from residential care

At first glance, Noah* comes across as a happy, kind and reflective young person. He's just started a full-time apprenticeship in cabinet making and is working towards living independently. For someone who is about to turn 17, he has a well-established sense of responsibility and self-respect.

It might not be immediately obvious that Noah has just transitioned out of residential care. Or that he entered foster care as a toddler when his parents were unable to care for him.

Noah lived with the same foster family from the age of two until he was 15. They provided a nurturing home and loved him deeply. During the 13 years in their home, Noah's foster parents helped instil in him the strong values that guide him today.

However, when Noah was 15, he was battling with deep trauma and grief, caused by being removed from his family, and other significant losses, and he began to wander off the beaten track. Noah started to engage in heavy drug use and criminal activity. His relationship with his foster family broke down and he moved into residential care.

That was where Noah met Zac, a residential care worker in the home he first moved into. Noah moved two more times into different care homes, and through a twist of fate, Zac moved with him. As Zac says, "it's incredibly uncommon to have a care worker be with the same young person across three homes." This allowed Zac to watch Noah's growth and transformation from day one.

Zac recalls the teenager he met when Noah first entered residential care, and how he much changed in that time.

When Noah first arrived, he was going through a pretty tough stretch. He's doing so well now; it was like night and day. He has really turned such a leaf in terms of his perspective about life.

– Zac

Noah disconnected from his foster parents while he was in residential care, but he has since rebuilt the relationship and sees them often. He credits them with guiding his path, recognising that "my foster parents gave me my morals."

Zac can see the hard work Noah has put in to make such a big transformation. "A lot people have cared for him and showed consistent support but he's also been really amazing and self-reflective about his life and where he's come from," Zac says.

Zac recently went to visit Noah and was blown away by what he saw. "I couldn't stop smiling. It was amazing to see just how incredibly well he's doing with his life. I was over the moon listening to him speak."

Compared to a year and a half ago, Noah's future looks very optimistic, but it's not just chance or fate. Noah has worked hard to turn his life around, to stop doing drugs and engage in an apprenticeship. But most of all to feel positive about life and believe in himself.

*Name changed to protect privacy