Saturday, October 24, 2015


One of the biggest changes in my time in fostering came in less than a year ago. 

It didn't get as much attention as it deserves, probably because it's good news and as we all know, it's bad news that makes the headlines.

The change was simple. Before 2014 children in England could be looked after only until they were 18.  

Today they can stay until they are 21.

If you think about it, it was a remarkable and slightly surprising change in the law, especially in the current economic climate with a government hellbent on saving every tuppence.

It's called "Staying Put' and the changes are largely due to a well organised campaign by the Fostering Network. 

I'm not entirely sure I understand the exact new status of a looked after child aged 18-21 and their foster parents, the new law says this;

A "staying put arrangement" is an arrangement under which -
          a) A person who is a former relevant child by virtue of sections 23c (1) (b) and
          b) a person (a "former foster parent")who was the former relevant child's local authority foster parent immediately before the former relevant child ceased to be looked after by the authority.

continue to live together after the former relevant child has ceased to be looked after.

I'm not much on the wordiness of legislation. It seems to be saying that when your foster child reaches age 18 they are no longer a foster child but they can stay put with you if both parties agree. 

The next clause is easier to grasp;

Support provided to the former foster parent under subsection (3) (b) must include financial support.

Apparently the "Staying Put" arrangement came about because a series of pilots showed how well it worked. Mind you, they could have saved money on the pilots; all they had to do was to ask foster parents.

Nobody is ready for the big bad world aged 18. 

Middle-class, well educated, emotionally sturdy children from solid backgrounds would fall flat on their face if you pushed them out onto the pavement with a suitcase. 

Where the hell would they go? What would they do?

Close your eyes for a second and imagine it's you.

You'd probably knock on a mates front door and beg a sofa for the night, ask at the One Stop if there are any jobs going before joining the benefits queue and finding out you're not entitled to much now you 're grown-up.

Maybe you've got money in your pocket - Blue Sky has a practice of making sure their looked after children have some savings which come their way when their time in fostering is over.

Let's say you've got a couple of hundred quid; it's not going to last long especially now you're legally old enough for the pub...

It's ten times worse for looked-after children who've got fractured backgrounds and might be a lot less world-wise and connected than you would have been.

We had a lad stay with us before the change in the law, he was approaching 18. Nice lad, really lovely; a pleasure to have around. Troubled though; couldn't bear to go to bed, stayed up until dawn on the quiet. Spent his spare time in the park with some pals, we didn't know exactly who they were or what they did all day, but his hoodie used to smell of smoke and it wasn't Benson and Hedges, if you know what I mean.

He was a case in point this lad, because he had an inheritance that had been put in a trust fund for him. He was going to pick up a five figure sum every few years until he was age about 30. Not bad, and we all expressed our relief to the social worker when she told us about it. She said;

"Actually, it worries us. He's grown-up physically and mentally, but like many looked-after children he never had a proper childhood and we expect he might use everything he's got to experience one".


He'll buy man-toys; things like a motor bike and a keyboard synthesyser. He'll take some mates to Ibiza. He'll have sleep-overs where the party food and drink will be a bit more adult than cake and squash and the games a bit earthier than Blind Man's Buff*

He'll have spent his pocket money by the end of Saturday, as it were. Psychologically he'll be getting rid of it because having cash is a burden to looked-after children; a personal responsibility they don't want. They rather be proper children and have someone hold their hand. Ask persmission to buy something.

He's doing okay as far as I've heard, I'm glad to say, but thinking about him brings back the worry, it's a shame the change came to late for him.

Anyway, my point is this, especially if you're thinking about taking up fostering; it seems to be an area which governments respect and tend to support. Not always, but certainly on some big issues, and long may that be the case.

*Probably not called that anymore, probably should be called "Visually Impaired Person's Buff"
Not that anyone plays it these days unless there's an XBox version with zombies.


  1. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I was friends with a pair of girls who moved out of residential into a shared flat at 18. It was an awful huge tower block, with drug dealers on the lower floors and blood splatters in the lift. They couldn't budget, had no electric within a month and used it as base for nights between sleeping with boyfriends and other friends. We lost touch over time (no mobiles back then), but I know the one ended up in a women’s refuge and had multiple kids pretty young.

    It will be interesting to see how this scheme works long term. I can see it working well for kids who have bonds with their carers, perhaps in long term placement from a young age, but not so sure about those who come into care late or don’t get settled. I think the stresses of leaving school and finding work (or not), having legal access to alcohol, boyfriend/girlfriend sleepovers, driving and all the other stuff that comes with turning 18 might be too much for some carers to cope, unless there is a strong bond, lots of love and a great deal of trust already established.

    Little Red stayed with us a few times on respite, she moved out of her long term carer’s home before her 18th birthday due to issues of this nature. They cared about her greatly but it was just too much for them to cope with. She thought she’d do fine without them, and I do hope she was right, but I don’t really believe it. xx

  2. You're right, a step in the right direction. One thing comes into my mind though which is that while the new rules for provision will protect a post-foster child until 21, more and more families are supporting their children until well into their twenties, sometimes beyond. This is because even for young people with solid backgrounds there aren't the options to get a well paid job and an affordable rented place or a mortgage. In a few years time 21 is going to be as unrealistic as 18 used to be.
    You have to worry that while it is a step in the right direction it's only delaying the hardship and pain.

  3. I think it's the first of hopefully many steps in the right direction. I agree that it might not always easy to be the 'parent' of an adult, but I think having the support and guidance of another adult can be so valuable. It seems strange and unfair to believe that young people in care will be able to smoothly transition from living in care into independent living without having someone who can buy you the essentials, without being able to borrow a few quid from the bank of mum and dad or any kind of other support. I can’t remember anybody of my friends being booted out by their parents as soon as they were 18 and having to fend for themselves.

    I don't know whether you remember me but as I was in longterm foster care I stayed with the same family for nearly a decade until I was 18. To be honest, had they not themselves said in no uncertain terms and making it very clear that they consider me to be 'their' child, I'm not sure whether I would have asked for help once I was 18. I remember feeling very vulnerable and almost scared of rejection when we started to talk about what kind of relationship we want once I started to prepare for laving the care system. I think having an official framework would help so much by not only giving practical help and support but also reducing anxiety around being all by yourself once your 18 and allowing for some flexibility as one is able to leave once one is ready rather than having to adhere to specific, artificially chosen date.

    I think I might have been lucky as I went to university and as such there was a support system, however these support systems are never able to completely replace a caring home. The thought that there is nobody to turn to and not having a family to fall back on is a terrifying thought. Knowing that there is a safe place I can always retreat to and having someone who will always be there for me, is an enormous help in itself and confidence boost. I think – at least for me – it wasn’t as much about actually using my foster parents’ help but rather having the backbone offered by family backing as I moved into the adult world.

  4. Summerflower, how could anyone forget your story. You lost your mum in an accident when you were little and went into long term care, and talked here about the difficulties of balancing your feelings about your mum and your foster parents.
    You're so right about the considerable but imperfect benefits of further or higher education in the life of an 18 year-old especially if, as used to be the case, the fostering ended at 18.
    May I ask, when you talk about the terrifying thought of not having a family to fall back on, was that fear constant from the time you lost your mum, or was it something that grew bigger the closer you got to your 18th birthday?

  5. I am not a fister parent but my daughters boyfriend is a foster child and is coming up 18. He has been told that he has to mive out when he is 18. The poor lad is beside himself crying alot when he is at mine. He has learning difficulties and there is no doubt in my mind that he will not cope on his own. I thought to be a foster parent you had to care in my eyes asking a poor lad who has had such a traumatic past has learning difficulties to leave a home environment just because he is 18 is terrible I could never do that. He has now also been told he is not allowed his x box his laptop or mobile phone past 8pm. It seems to me his rights are being taken away. The foster family he is with are already planning to take on another child when this poor lad has to leave. I just hope he is housed near to me so I can be there for him to offer the help and support he is going to need. A foster child should be part of your family through good and bad times. Most come from difficult backgrounds and will need a lot of support and guidance. I would never dream of telling my own chuld to mive out at 18 so am shicked to hear that a fister child is. If I was a foster parent I would let them stay as long as they wanted. To me a foster child should be accepted as part of your family

  6. Thanks for contacting me about your concerns.
    Though I understand your fears for your daughter's boyfriend there's something I don't get, namely that (as explained in the post you've responded to) the law has been changed so that foster children can remain in care until they are 21.
    I don't want to speculate as to the reasons for the ending of his placement, and a blog isn't the place to discuss specific cases, however I would say it's important to ensure he knows his rights (I'm not talking about his rights to an xbox, I mean his right to care).
    His social worker is there to help him, and he's free to visit his Citizen's Advice office for information.
    Whatever the outcome, thank you for you kindness towards him, he's lucky to have you showing you care.