Foster Care Fortnight 2022 is here!
Lucy Stevens - 14th January 2022
What happens to young people in foster care once they reach 18?
One of the benefits of growing up in a stable family is that when you reach 18, you have a safe base from which to explore your options. Many young people undergo great change at 18. They may start a new job, get an apprenticeship, go to university or move out of home for the first time. Yet many of these young people enjoy the safety net of a home to return to should all not go as planned.
For many young people who have spent time in foster care, this safety net is not there. All the usual anxieties around reaching adulthood and how that’s going to pan out are exacerbated which can be overwhelming in the extreme.
There are a few options for the young people after fostering. They may wish or need to live independently and should be supported to do so by the Local Authority “Leaving care” team. They may go into semi-independent living or Supported Lodgings. Of course, independent living is not always all it is cracked up to be, particularly if you don’t have the emotional toolkit to cope with it. Young people leaving foster care really benefit from a continued relationship with their foster carers who can act as a support to them.
Many young people opt to move back with birth family at this age. This can be difficult for all concerned and stands the best chance of success if the young person has a good support network around them. Young people who have enjoyed a good relationship with their foster carer can continue to draw on this support post 18. This presence of a positive and reliable adult in a young person’s life can make all the difference and is ultimately the mark of successful fostering. It is important to note that this is a life stage during which many young people fall through the gaps.
There is a more formal way to ensure that young people continue to be nurtured and supported once they are 18 and leave foster care. This is called a Staying Put arrangement.
What is Staying Put?
Staying Put is a provision laid out in the Children and Families Act 2014 which allows for young people in foster care to remain with their foster carers up to the age of 21. This can offer real benefits to young people and allows them time to consider their options, help them to learn valuable life skills and provides them with a safe and secure base from which to explore their adult world.
Can you foster other children and still offer a Staying Put arrangement?
The short answer is yes, you can continue to foster provided you have a bedroom permanently available to each of the children and young people you are caring for. The young person who is under the Staying Put arrangement will need to undergo a DBS check as an adult member of the fostering household.
Does the Local Authority have to agree to a Staying Put arrangement for the young person?
Guidance provided by the government for Staying Put arrangements states that Local Authorities should refuse a Staying Put arrangement only where it is believed that to do so would be against the young person’s best interest. The young person and the foster carer can appeal any such decision.
What support does the young person receive?
Because the young person is 18 or over and is no longer classed as a “Looked after child” they will no longer have a Local Authority social worker. Instead, they will be supported by the Local Authority’s Leaving Care Team and should be allocated a Personal Adviser. The Local Authority must publicise their packages of support so that young people and carers alike can make informed decisions. Many young people will be eligible for financial support under the Universal Credit Scheme. These packages of support should be explained fully to all young people once they reach 16, as part of best practice.
Will the foster carer continue to receive a fostering allowance?
Again, the Local Authorities must publicise their packages of support to foster carers so that they can make informed decisions and can fully understand the implications, financial and otherwise, in relation to Staying Put. The objective of the government is that foster carers should not be out of pocket should they offer Staying Put. Because Staying Put is not governed by the Fostering Regulations, those fostering for independent fostering agencies will be negotiated separately to the fostering agreements and regulations. Your fostering agency will enter into these negotiations so it is important that foster carers can have these discussions with their fostering providers. Many arrangements include a small portion of financial contribution from the young person. This will be laid out in the Staying Put agreement signed by the young person, the carer and the Local Authority. This can form an important part of teaching young people financial independence skills.
How long does the young person need to have been in foster care to be considered for Staying Put?
There is no requirement on the length of time that a young person needs to have been in foster care to qualify for Staying Put. It should be an option for all previously fostered children.
What happens if the young person goes to university or a gap year?
Bedrooms can be kept available for young people should they wish to go to university or follow a course that takes them away from home for periods of time. Carers and young people should discuss this with the fostering provider and Personal Adviser.
How is Staying Put different from Supported Lodgings?
Staying Put differs from Supported Lodgings in its intention. It is intended that the carer act more as parent than Landlord, offering the young person the same support that millions of 18+ year olds benefit from. Whilst the guidance determines that carers should receive financial support, it does not state how much this should be. It is the spirit of the arrangement that is different and can make an important difference to the young person in this distinction.
What do our young people have to say?
Staying Put as an arrangement for young people leaving foster care, remains underused. However, we asked one of our young people cared for through Eastern Fostering Services and now remaining with their carers under Staying Put what difference it makes.
“It’s about that sense of security. To be honest I don’t even think about the alternatives. Most kids in foster care don’t have that sense of security, that you know where you are and where you’re going to be. The fact that I don’t even think about these things shows what being able to stay with my foster family has given me.”I, aged 18.
The foster carer adds,
“For us, it’s really important that fostering is not just a flash in a pan. We wanted to commit to the young people in our care. One of our foster children wanted independence and to move out, so we respected and supported that. He remains very much in our lives but enjoys his space and independence. Our other child was not ready to leave home and very much needed and wanted the safety and security we could offer. For us, it was never in question, we are committed to our young people and try to listen and respond to their needs. Staying Put has enabled us to offer that commitment at a time where there is so much uncertainty and stepping out into the big, wide world is just too daunting for many young people. I’m grateful for the support of Eastern Fostering Services and the Local Authority to enable us to give our young person the best possible outcome from fostering.”
If you would like to find out more about all types of fostering, please contact us. You can email us at email@example.com or call us on 01206 299775. Alternatively, you can check us out on Facebook.
There is a good deal of information on Staying Put specifically on the Fostering Network website.