Young People's Zone
CAN I LIVE WITH MY FOSTER CARERS AFTER I TURN 18?
The law was changed in 2014 to allow former relevant children to remain living with their foster carers after the age of 18. This is called “Staying Put” (Section 23CZA(3), The Children Act 1989).
When you turn 16, Children’s Services must do a Needs Assessment and prepare a Pathway Plan (see Pathway to Success, Become). They must also start thinking about whether continuing to live with your foster carers beyond the age of 18 (“staying put”) might be a good idea for you. They take into account the views of both you and your foster carers.
Some of the reasons why you might want to “stay put” with your foster carers could include:
- You are still studying and moving to independent living might disrupt your education
- You don’t feel ready and need more time to learn to do things for yourself, like cook and manage your money
- You have additional needs, like a disability or mental health problems, and need some extra support for a little while longer.
There can be lots of other reasons; these are just common examples.
If Children’s Services decide that you can “stay put” with your foster carers, you will stay living in the same place but your carers will no longer be called foster carers (because foster carers are only for young people up to the age of 18). Instead, they will be providing you with “supported lodgings”. Don’t worry too much about what this means as it won’t change much for you but it will change things for your carers (including the money they receive from Children’s Services) so it is important to be aware of it.
What can I do?
If you would like to stay with your foster carers, it is important that you are clear about why you want this to happen so you can explain these reasons to your social worker or PA. Ask yourself:
- Why don’t I feel ready to live on my own just yet?
- Would I be lonely or worried without my carers there?
- Do I know how to cook, clean and wash my clothes?
- How well do I manage my money? Do I know how to budget my money so I don’t spend it all at once?
- How would moving affect my education? Do I have exams coming up soon that might be affected by a move?
Talk to People
Once you are sure that you want to “stay put” with your foster carers, you need to talk to:
- Your carers: It is really important that you speak to your foster carers before you ask your social worker about “staying put”. Remember, having you stay with them after the age of 18 changes the help (and money) they get from Children’s Services. Many foster carers are really pleased to have young people stay after the age of 18 but some just can’t afford to do it, even if they want to. Talk to your foster carers and check out what they think first.
- Your social worker/PA: If your foster carers are happy for you to “stay put” then you should speak to your social worker and/or PA. Explain what you would like to happen and why.
- Your Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) (see The Name Game, Become): There will need to be a LAC Review before you turn 18 and your IRO should speak to you on your own before the meeting. Make sure that you tell them what you would like so that this can be discussed in the meeting.
Making a Complaint
Hopefully everything will go well and you won’t need to think about making a complaint. But if Children’s Services don’t listen and carry on making plans for you to move to live independently, then you have the right to make a complaint about it. To find out more about making a complaint, please click here.
If any type of move is happening soon, you can ask that it is stopped while they listen to what you have to say. This is called “freezing the decision”. It may be helpful to quote what the Government says on this one:
“If the complaint is about a proposed change to a care plan, a placement or a service, the decision may need to be deferred (frozen) until the complaint is considered…… Decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis, but there should generally be a presumption in favour of freezing, unless there is a good reason against it.”
(Paragraph 6.5.1 & 6.5.2 Getting the Best from Complaints, 2006)
To get them to “freeze the decision” you should be clear about your reasons for not wanting to move or what you would rather see happen. If you think that the move could be harmful for your welfare (make you unsafe in anyway, affect you emotionally, disrupt your education etc) then you should include this in the complaint as these are good reasons for stopping the move whilst your views are considered.
Get Some Help
If you still feel that no-one is listening, you can contact your local advocacy service or call the Children’s Commissioner and ask for help. You can find your local advocacy service by clicking here.