Tupua Urlich was just 17 when the state ended its care for him.

Unlike other young people in the same position, Mr Urlich could live with family - although that didn't work out.

"We don't grow up with our parents our whole lives, therefore they are strangers. And to put us back there at 17 - they didn't want us when we were 5, or 6, or 7. Why are they going to want us at 17?

"It fell apart. Because we didn't know each other. It's like being placed in another stranger's house, really."


Financial support is available through benefits for those who apply, and Mr Urlich, now 19, tried and failed to live by himself.

"Growing up in CYF [Child, Youth and Family] everything is done for you pretty much your whole life, you've got social workers running the show. And so I found it quite hard to adapt and carry on with life.

"I lacked a lot of skills that were kind of basics but that I'd never grown up with - cooking, budgeting, things like that. Just the simple things that are actually really hard if you don't understand them."

After being homeless for a few months, Mr Urlich turned to the Dingwall Trust for help, an organisation he now works for part-time.

The trust provides support services to children and young people in need of out-of-home care, and has been lobbying to extend the duration of that care.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern has also been vocal, and recently launched a petition which has gathered more than 21,000 signatures - making it the fastest growing in the party's history.

"I think people are surprised to learn that in New Zealand a 17-year-old who might have been in foster care for potentially the majority of their lives is suddenly without a caregiver at such a young age," she told the Herald.

The Government is set to act. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has asked that the issue be examined as part of a wider review that will lead to an overhaul of CYF.

Ms Tolley said she had travelled to the United Kingdom and Norway earlier this year, where conversations were about extending state support for young people like Mr Urlich into their 20s.

"Not the intense care that you give teenagers or young children, but a continuation of some responsibility for those young people, like any parent would do."

Ms Tolley said she would be disappointed if the expert panel overseeing the review recommended an increase in care to just 18 years old.

"I don't think that 18 is going to do very much, because that . . . can still be a particularly difficult time."

Mr Urlich, who will be involved in the CYF review, said he had been speaking to politicians about the issue for years, but remained hopeful.

Calls for change

• Lobbying efforts to increase the age at which Child, Youth and Family ends care for young people are set to pay off.

• Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says she thinks the current age of 17 is much too young.

• Labour MP Jacinda Ardern has launched a petition on the issue which has gathered more than 21,000 petitions.