On Tuesday 11 June, during the report stage of the Children and Families Bill, there’s a chance that MPs will debate an amendment that will allow fostered young people in England to stay with their foster carers when they turn 18.
I find this campaign shouting out at me. I am now 32 and a care leaver who believes I would had 'done better' if I'd had the chance to stay with my foster family for longer - or at least had the reassurance that I could have stayed, rather than the fear of having to leave hanging over me.
I went into care at the age of six, and from 11 lived with a long-term foster family. From the time I was doing my GCSEs my anxiety about having to move out started, as this is when the pressure from social services began.
I began to dread my impending 18th birthday because I knew I would be pushed out of the family. I know that my foster family were happy for me to stay, but social services were not, so I had to go. This resulted in me moving into supported lodgings when I really wasn't ready, and then into my own flat, and I couldn’t cope. Things started to go wrong for me and eventually dropped out of college. I even lost touch with my foster family for a while.
Now years later, having survived and doing well, I speak with my foster mum about it and she agrees it was all handled wrong and if support to 21 had been an option it could have made all the difference.
Sadly my experience isn’t unique, and, what’s even more worrying, the situation hasn’t got any better since 1998. State care officially finishes on your 18th birthday, and what happens next is still a postcode lottery. Some local authorities continue to fund young adults to live with their foster families and some foster carers are able to keep young people with them out of their own pockets, but too many share my fate and have to move out.
At 18, very few people are ready to live by and look after themselves, especially if they are still in the middle of their education. In fact, the average age for leaving home in the whole population is 24. The proposed amendment would make it possible for fostered young people to stay with their foster carers until the age of 21, if both parties agree.
This may be 14 years too late for me, but I’m begging you to write to your MP and ask them to sign up to the amendment. Young people currently in care deserve a better chance of a stable move into adult life than I had.
The Fostering Network’s Don’t Move Me campaign is calling on people to contact their MPs asking them to sign up to amendment NC4 and help looked-after children get the long-term support they need.