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Staying Put – what was it like for foster children before you could stay put?

After years of campaigning, the implementation of the ‘Staying Put’ legislation means young people are no longer forced to leave their homes at the age of 18.

August 18 2020 - 4 min read

After years of campaigning, the implementation of the ‘Staying Put’ legislation means young people are no longer forced to leave their homes at the age of 18.

Before the Staying Put legislation came into force, many young people were made to leave the comfort and security of the homes that they had been placed in; much sooner than the average young person is ready to leave. While the average young person does not have to think about leaving their stable and secure family home until they are aged between 24 and 27, those in foster care are subjected to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in the run-up to their 18th birthday, when they would be required to make the transition to living independently.

Chief Executive of the Who Cares? Trust, Natasha Finlayson said: “Too often young people describe their experiences as feeling like being pushed off the edge of a cliff. It is absolutely indefensible to leave them – in some cases – living in dirty, verminous hostels around very unsavoury people who pose a risk to them.”

Leaving home at such a vulnerable time has often led to some harsh consequences for these young people who may have turned to alcohol and drugs or even ended up in the criminal justice system. Government statistics from 2010 showed that 33% of care leavers were not in education, employment or training – compared to 13% of all young people – and 25% of young women leaving care were pregnant or already mothers.

Eric Mole who was part of the Staying put pilot programme told the Guardian in 2012, “When a young person is 16, they’re already aware that in 2 short years, they will be making this transition. They need to control what happens and the only way they can do it is to destroy it completely”. He saw the ability of offering a young person the chance to stay put as “crucial to maintaining their sense of belonging and allowing them to build the security on which a healthy future depends”. Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister said that “the momentous change will help the 10,000 young people leaving care each year to make the transition where they’re ready – rather than when others tell them to”.

Paul Boughtflower, a foster carer with ISP Childcare, experienced a young person in his care being forced to leave his care after their 18th birthday. He felt that there was a severe lack of support for young people in care at a very intense time in their life, “It felt like the LA didn’t really want my daughter to go to university and were trying to disrupt her A levels so they wouldn’t have to support her through further education, while at the same time holding up my daughter as an example of how well fostering can work. I felt like the Local Authority were holding an emotional gun to my head.”

After being heavily campaigned for, the Staying Put legislation has been seen as the most significant reform for young people in foster care for a generation. It aims to alleviate the uncertainty that young people are subjected to and give them the best opportunities to succeed in life. Before the legislation came into affect, it was a very difficult time for both the foster carer and young person in care, it will be interesting to see how successful Staying Put is.