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Foster care leaving age: Families say 'law must change'

Foster families who have experienced problems arising from foster children leaving home too soon have told ITV News the law must change.

Currently children as young as 16 in foster homes are being told they have to leave and live an independent life - but charities say that can have a devastating effect.

The Welsh Government says it is already working on a pilot scheme, 'When I Am Ready', to enable young people to remain with their former foster carers beyond the age of 18.

Welsh Government 'piloting foster care scheme'

The Welsh Government says it is running a pilot scheme aiming to keep young people in foster care until they are ready to move on Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA

Responding to calls to raise the age at which youngsters are made to leave foster care, the Welsh Government says an 'increased age' pilot scheme is underway.

It said: "Work has already begun with the WLGA and ADSS Cymru to introduce the 'When I am Ready' scheme in pioneer areas to enable young people to remain with their former foster carers beyond the age of 18.

"The scheme offers young people choice and control over their placement and gives them support when they decide they are ready to move on.

"Many of these young people have already had disrupted lives and they may lack the stable support network needed to move on to independent living, yet they can find themselves moving out of their foster family home when they are much younger than their peers.

"Local authorities are already under a number of statutory duties to prepare and support young people leaving care to make the transition from care to independent living.

"'When I am Ready' pilots are underway until next spring and we will use the lessons learned in these areas to develop guidance to apply across Wales.

Local authorities will then need to find ways to implement the scheme in their areas and reflect this in their commissioning of placements for 18 to 21-year-old care leavers."


Those leaving foster care later 'more likely to achieve'

  • Action for Children's report 'Chance to Stay' reveals young people who stay in foster care achieve more qualifications (55%) and are less likely to be involved in alcohol and substance misuse than those who leave by the age of 18.
  • The report also reveals that those who leave care at 18 could cost the UK and Welsh Governments an estimated £131,000 more per person in benefits and public service support than those who leave care later.
  • Currently young people in care must leave at the age of 18, and some as young as 16, even if they do not feel ready to live alone. The average age other young people choose to move out of the family home is 24.

Action for Children: Many care leavers 'not prepared'

Action for Children's chief executive says most parents 'wouldn't dream' of asking their children to leave home unless they were ready to - and believes children in the care system should be afforded the same privilege.

The trauma that many young people experience before being taken into care can mean that they are not ready to live independently at 18 years old. Many care leavers are forced out of the care system and into a lonely, confusing and sometimes dangerous independent life.

We believe that the Welsh Government must give young people in care the same chance to stay in a loving home that others of the same age get.

– Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive at Action for Children

'Foster carers take on many roles - teacher, nutritionalist, psychologist'

Mike Beese and his wife Jo from Pontypridd have been fostering for a year. Mike believes foster carers should be recognised as a professional workforce.

"There are a lot of roles we have to fulfil - teacher, nutritionalist, psychologist," he told ITV Wales.

"There is training available - but I think the Welsh Government has to advertise the fact that support is there to encourage more foster carers."

The Fostering Network Wales says an 'urgent overhaul' is needed to prevent children being needlessly moved around the system.

Its report, published today, says the number of fostered children in Wales is at an all-time high, with at least 550 more foster carers needed in the next 12 months for the system to be able to cope.

The Welsh Government says it is committed to supporting foster carers in Wales, but has welcomed the report.


Foster care in Wales 'failing too many children'

An 'urgent overhaul' is needed to prevent fostered children in Wales being unnecessarily moved around the system, a report claims.

The Fostering Network Wales says emotional and financial pressures are leading to some foster children having to move homes three or more times in a year.

  • Almost a quarter of carers reported that a relationship with a fostered child had broken down in the last year
  • Around a half (53 per cent) said they are paid a fee for their work
  • Less than a quarter of these (13 per cent of the total) receive at least the national minimum wage for a 40-hour week

There are thousands of children across Wales who know the value of good-quality foster care. However, despite the improvements over the last 10 years, the system is still failing too many children. Most children who come into care will have already had traumatic experiences, and they will suffer even more every time a fostering relationship breaks down and they are moved on. This makes it harder for them to form meaningful relationships, to trust people and to do well in school and later life.

– Freda Lewis, director of the Fostering Network Wales

The report also warns the number of fostered children in Wales - currently around 4,400 - is at an all-time high, with at least 550 more foster carers needed in the next 12 months for the system to be able to cope.

The Welsh Government says it welcomes the report but stresses its commitment to supporting foster carers.

We have taken a number of measures to promote placement stability and support to foster carers, such as the introduction of a national minimum allowance for all foster carers in Wales, induction standards for foster carers and guidance for local authorities to delegate authority for everyday decisions to carers where appropriate.

Local authorities have a duty to provide a diversity of quality placements and carers with skills to meet the needs of their local looked-after children. Good planning and commissioning of quality placements is key to achieving better outcomes for looked after children and young people in Wales and we will continue to work with local authorities to improve this.

– Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services