Extend foster placements for teenage care leavers and watch them shine
It saddened me to read Department of Education figures which show that the number of teenagers leaving care early, with little support and poor prospects, continues to rise year on year. Your teenage years are some of the most vulnerable you’ll ever experience yet increasingly too many teenagers are being encouraged to leave care, and the stability and emotional support it provides, before they are ready. Although children can remain in care placements until they are at least 18, a fifth leave as early as 16.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was fostered by my school teacher and her wonderful family who I am now proud to call my own. Judy and David were my lifeline and without them I wouldn’t have been able to achieve half the things most of the so –called ‘boomerang generation’ take for granted – learning to drive, getting a degree, setting up home in London after graduating – the list goes on. Thankfully for me there was never a time when ‘leaving’ their care ever came into it.
How different it could have been if I had been forced to leave their home – like thousands of teenagers across the UK increasingly have to do – before the time was right.
As Edward Timpson will argue at the annual Care Leavers’ Conference, much more needs to be done to ensure teenagers can stay in foster placements for longer so that they too can have the option of going to college or university and having a home to return to in the holidays like other students. Or simply have the comfort of knowing that there isn’t a countdown for them to leave their home and the safe and stable environment it provides when they need it the most.
It’s encouraging to see these issues being discussed more in the media and crucially the voices of those at the heart of the issue being heard and understood more widely.
Now’s the time to start changing the prospects for teenagers in care in the UK and by extending foster placements we will be moving in the right direction to helping give them the best foundation in life and confidence to realise their full potential.