1. ITV Report

'When you turn 18 everyone disappears' Calls for more support for care leavers in Wales

Shannon Richards was in care from the age of three. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The number of foster homes needed in Wales is growing every year. There are now 500 children needing placements and many more about to leave the care system.

This National Care Leavers Week, there are calls for more support for those leaving the care system when they turn 18.

Shannon Richards, from Taff's Well, left her foster home four years ago.

Marian Perry and her husband Carl fostered Shannon when she was 15 years old.

Shannon said they were, and still are, her rocks and they picked her up when she was in "the darkest of places".

Shannon has been supported by her foster carer Marian. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

When you turn 18, everyone just disappears. So you have loads of professionals in your life for years and years. I mean I was in care from the age of three. And that's all I ever knew. And then the minute I turned 18, there was nobody there anymore...

Even though I don't live with them anymore, I still look to Marian and Carl as my parental figures. I've grown to realise how amazing they both are and it's so nice to always know they're still at the end of the phone. They don't act like fostering is a job, and don't treat anyone differently in terms of making young people feel a part of their family...

Ever since meeting them, they encouraged me to succeed, and without them I wouldn't have had the opportunities to go on holiday, sit and pass my GCSE's, go to college, or even to feel like part of a family. They picked me up while I was in the darkest of places, and for that I will always be grateful. I'm now in a position where I have my own home and job, none of which would have been possible without my foster carers.

– Shannon Richards, care leaver
Shannon said she and Marian still have a great relationship. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Shannon's one of 32 children that Marian's taken in over the last 20 years. She said she finds fostering young people very rewarding.

There is this stigma attached that there's something wrong with the child. There isn't. That's all the child needs is stability, continuity, and to feel part of the family.

– Marian Perry, foster carer
Shannon has been campaigning for more support for care leavers. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The UK's largest fostering and adoption charity, TACT, said it has created a new project where it stays in touch with young people over the age of 18.

We provide them with all sorts of support - whether it be job applications, university applications, educational support. We teach them life skills, budgeting, money management, cooking. All the things they need beyond their time in care.