For any young person leaving home to live on their own for the first time, the experience can be a bit overwhelming – and it can be more challenging for young people who don’t have a close family support network, like teens in foster care. That’s why the government and Compass Fostering step in to help during that difficult transition period.
From the age of 16, the young person and the local authority, their foster carers and Compass Fostering (or other fostering agency) will work together to build a plan to successfully leave care and start looking after themselves. While a child in foster care only remains the responsibility of the government until they turn 18, they can keep accessing support up to the age of 25.
How long do kids stay in foster care
The UK government also offers clear guidance for how a young person will leave care. Here’s what happens at each age.
16-17 Years Old
Can a foster child leave at 16? The answer is that they can, but they do not have to. A ‘Pathway Plan’ is created to help the young person prepare for leaving care. It’s best for care leavers not to go straight from a foster home to living independently, so several options are considered to ease the transition, including returning to the family home, staying with their foster carers for longer, or moving to supported housing.
18 Years Old
The UK government is legally responsible for making sure the young person has a place to live and enough money until they turn 18, but the care leaver will also have a support team that includes their foster carers, their social worker, and a personal adviser (a role sometimes filled by the foster carers themselves).
In some cases, the young person can stay with their foster family until the age of 21, or 25 if they are in an educational or training programme. This scheme, called ‘Staying Put’ in the UK, or ‘When I Am Ready’ in Wales, helps the young person develop the skills they need to transition into adulthood.
Before leaving care, the young person will have a review meeting to discuss housing, working or continuing their education, and what kind of support they’ll receive.
21 Years Onwards
A young person can continue to get help and advice from the council and their personal adviser up until the age of 25 if they choose.
A bit more about the Pathway Plan
The Pathway Plan is a very valuable tool for making sure that a young care leaver has the support to start living a happy and healthy independent life.
It should include:
- The assistance to be provided to the young person and by whom
- Details of accommodation
- A detailed plan for education or training
- How the responsible authority will assist in developing and maintaining family and social relationships
- A programme to develop practical skills for living independently
- Employment assistance
- Financial help
- Any health needs and how they will be met
- Contingency plans should the pathway stop working
More help for care leavers
After a young person has left foster care, they still have access to a range of support options, including the following charities and networks:
- Become supports care leavers with advice and resources
- Shelter offers care leavers help with housing
- Catch 22 gives guidance to looked-after children and care leavers
- The Rees Foundation offers ongoing support to care leavers for as long as they need
Leaving foster care involves a number of challenges, but it can be a very rewarding experience for foster carers to watch a young person develop the skills and confidence to live independently and start succeeding on their own.
Want to find out more about what age can you leave foster care? If want to know more about being a foster carer or you’re interested in joining the fostering family with Compass Fostering, please get in touch to request an information pack.