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Peers urged to allow children to stay with their foster families till 21

The days when most of us left home on the dot of our 18th birthday are long gone.

The cost of living has never been so high. Those at university must contend with burdensome levels of debt and all but the wealthiest youngsters these days wonder how they will ever save the money needed to pay for a deposit on ever more unaffordable housing. Finding a job with little or no practical experience is a job in itself for many.

The challenges are formidable and the results predictable: ever greater numbers of young people are still living with their parents well into their 20s. The average age of people leaving home is now a decidedly adult 24!

Growing up is certainly not a straightforward process and the stability and support provided by family counts for a great deal. Nobody really believes that the self-confidence and wherewithal needed to make your own way in the world arrives as if by magic on the morning of an arbitrary birthday.

But there is one group of teenagers who are almost always shown the door, even before they have reached the age of 18: those in care. These troubled teens have already had to contend with difficult and disrupted childhoods, growing up outside their birth families in often uncertain circumstances. And then their 18th birthday looms, statutory funding ends and they are expected to just cope with a life in the big band world.

The result of this expectation is equally predictable. To quote a letter in yesterday’s Telegraph from 40 children’s charities and agencies:

“Care leavers are sadly more likely to be unemployed, single parents, mental health service users, homeless or in prison than those who grew up within their own families.”

The letter notes:

“Research shows that the longer young people can stay with a foster family, the more successful they are in later life.”

A small proportion of children in care get to stay on part their 18th birthdays, but only if they succeed in finding special funding from their local authority or have such a good relationship with their foster families that the latter are prepared to fund them beyond their 18th birthdays out of their own pockets.

The brief but forceful letter describes the status quo for children in care as  an “own goal”, noting “Savings now are outweighed by state spending on these young adults in the future.”

Signatories include the NSPCC, Barnados and the Children’s Society. It was written to highlight an amendment to the Children and Families Bill currently before the House of Lords. This would give all children in care the right to stay with their foster families until they turn 21, and this represents, they claim, a “once-a-generation opportunity”.

I agree. Care leavers have already suffered disadvantage and ill fortune. If we insist on making life still more difficult for such vulnerable members of society, we will all end up paying the price in the end.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    “I agree. Care leavers have already suffered disadvantage and ill fortune. If we insist on making life still more difficult for such vulnerable members of society, we will all end up paying the price in the end.”

    I agree with this 100%, these children have had a s****y start due to no fault of their own, I know it may cost us more money but these kids need a break – a bit of support until 21 is very reasonable in my opinion.

  2. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Young people aee maturing at a much slower rate these days and that is causing them to live at home with their parents until their early 20s or even mid 20s.

  3. vob says:

    I would doubt that there would be very many young adults wanting to stay with ‘Foster Carers’ until 21. Foster care failure rate is already high coupled with the fact recruiting ‘Carers’ is now so difficult that theses agencies are reduced to advertising
    on ‘Gumtree’!

  4. vob re says:

    It is sad that it shows ‘Fostering’ is all about money rather than a
    long term commitment following the eighteen birthday when young adults get readily pushed out the door when the money

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