Extending foster care: why does it matter?

Posted by Emma Scowcroft / Wednesday 05 February 2014 / Chance to stay Children in care

We have long believed that the age of leaving care should be raised to 21 for ALL young people whether they’re in foster care, a children’s home or living with relatives.

We know this won’t be straightforward.  But we also know it is a challenge worth tackling as right now society is failing all the young people who are forced to leave care too soon.

But amidst the detail and the debate on how much further Governments need to go to ensure young people are given the best start to their adult lives, today felt like the right time to reflect on what these changes to date will actually mean for real children

It will allow them to grow up at their own pace

“As you become older you have to start thinking about moving out when you’re 16. It’s a big thing for some people; you have so much stress on your shoulders when you shouldn’t. You’re 16, still a child. Your Personal Assistant, Next Step workers, Social Workers are on your back all the time about moving out and going into supported living. We get rushed out of care when we’re 16. It’s not fair! Being in foster care is supposed to be like a family”.

It will give them the stability they desperately seek

“I worry about it now. I’m no good on my own; I need people I can trust around me. Kids in care worry about this stuff all the time, from when you’re really young you know it’s coming and it’s really scary. There’s no way I’ll be able to do it”.

It will mean they aren’t alone

"Sometimes, when things are really hard, I feel like doing something stupid you know? I feel like doing a little crime, nothing major, just something big enough to get me into prison. At least in prison you know you’d always have company, people around you and someone to give you a meal. Sometimes I think that’d be better than this”.

It will mean they can finally be the same as their friends … the friends who aren’t in care.

In the last two months announcements have been made by Governments across the UK on how they plan to support children in care for longer.

In December, the Westminster Government announced its intention to give young people in England the right to stay with their foster carers until they are 21. This intention is being turned into action today in the House of Lords with a Government amendment to the Children and Families Bill.

In January, the Scottish Government, went further by announcing it will be extending the care leaving age to 21 for teenagers in residential, foster and kinship care from April 2015. It will also extend after care support from 21 to 26.

And in Wales, in response to our Chance to Stay campaign, there is cross party support for  amending the  Social Services and  Well-being (Wales) Bill to give young people in Wales the right to stay with their foster carers until they are 21. This will be voted on next week.

We will work with Governments across the UK to make sure young people in care get the best start to their adult life.

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