BEN MCGEARY HAS JUST MOVED OUT OF HOME...AT 18 HE'S LEGALLY CONSIDERED AN ADULT BUT UNLIKE MANY OTHERS HIS AGE... HE DOESN'T HAVE A MUM AND DAD... THEY DIED WHEN HE WAS JUST FIVE...
"He lost it and he stabbed my mum 27 times and then he killed himself so it was pretty much straight after that immediately we were put into foster homes," said Ben.
SEPERATED FROM HIS BROTHER AND SISTER, BEN SPENT THE NEXT 13 YEARS IN AND OUT OF AT LEAST 10 DIFFERENT FOSTER HOMES... MOVING SCHOOLS AND STRUGGLING TO FIT IN.
"I knew from that point that my life was going to be a lot different from any other kid because normal kids have the support of their parents and at the end of the day I only had foster parents," said Ben.
AND NOW... AT 18... LIKE OTHER FOSTER KIDS HIS AGE... HE'S FORCED TO FEND FOR HIMSELF... LIVE INDEPENDENTLY AND LEARN ALL THE THINGS PARENTS USUALLY TEACH THEIR CHILDREN...
"Who do I fall back on if I'm in financial difficulty or I broke my leg and need someone to come pick me up? And that goes through my head?" said Ben.
"We are dealing with children who have already fallen through the cracks and yet we continue to allow them to fall through the cracks as they get older under the guise of you're 18 now, you're on your own," said Sam.
26-YEAR-OLD SAM IS ANOTHER CARE-LEAVER...
"I sucked at it the first few years if I'm honest," said Sam.
BUT AFTER MANY CHALLENGES SHE'S ALSO MANAGED TO OVERCOME THE ODDS... STUDYING AT UNIVERSITY AND FINDING STABILITY... BUT SAM SAYS OTHERS AREN'T SO LUCKY...
"Either the child will realize I'm not under the care of anyone anymore and will have a care factor of zero for themselves so they're likely to go off the rails." said Sam.
"Become couch surfers, become homeless, obviously getting a job, going to university and TAFE is very important and if those connectiosn don't happen, they can get a little bit lost," said Peter Sanderson.
ANGLICARE CEO PETER SANDEMAN - HIMSELF A FORMER FOSTER CHILD - BELIEVES KIDS NEED MORE TIME TO MATURE AND SHOULD HAVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR FOSTER PARENTS BEYOND 18.
"At the moment as soon as they turn 18 that's the end of the foster care arrangement and like any other child they need to have some kind of continuing relationship with their parents, their foster parents," said Perter Sanderson.
BUT THAT ISN'T ALWAYS POSSIBLE...LIKE IN BEN'S CASE... ONE OF HIS FOSTER PLACEMENTS ENDED IN A PHYSICAL ALTERCATION... HE NOW REGRETS...
"She knows I've told her many times, she is the best thing that ever happened to me… I love her dearly… and I'm very very sorry and I hope I can see her again," said Ben.
"He was scared, it's a big step to go out of a home into the big wide world so we tried to encourage him that he would be fine," said Shanette.
SHANETTE BIFULCO WAS BEN'S FINAL FOSTER MUM... JUST MONTHS BEFORE HE TURNED 18. SHE TRIES TO SUPPORT BEN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE BUT BELIEVES KIDS LIKE HIM NEED BETTER SERVICES.
"My two oldest sons were about 19 when they decided to go it alone and they were back 2-3 times before they were successful in living on their own," said Shanette.
"I didn't know where to turn when I turned 18. I pretty much turned to my own family for support but it didn't work out very well," said Tamika.
WHICH IS WHY MANY CARE-LEAVERS LIKE FORMER FOSTER CHILD TAMIKA MORRIS FROM THE CREATE FOUNDATION - ARE LOBBYING THE GOVERNMENT TO RAISE THE AGE OF FOSTER CARE TO 21... AND PROVIDE MORE HANDS-ON TRAINING FROM THE AGE OF 16.
"So that the young person is able to learn independent skills," said Tamika.
"Basic life skills… how do you cope with a crisis, how do you pay your bills, how do you prioritise, what are your prioritise?" said Sam.
SO FAR... SO GOOD FOR BEN... HE'S GOT AN APPRENTICESHIP... IS RENTING A ROOM AND HE'S WORKING ON THE COOKING... BUT HE AND SAM ARE DETERMINED NOT TO BECOME ANOTHER STATISTIC...
"I'm really proud of myself I look at where I've come from and statistically on paper who I should be… and I'm so proud I think I'm not that girl… look at me go," said Sam.
"If I can be a voice for other foster kid that would be great because I'd love to do that too. I want to go against the odds I don't have a lot of family or support but I want to become the greatest, I want to be someone in my life," said Ben.