Today marks the beginning of Care Leavers Week, a chance to celebrate all care experienced young people. As Children’s Commissioner for England it is my mission make sure that every child can access the love and stability they need to thrive. This week is an opportunity to amplify the voices of young people who have left care, to call for ever greater ambition in the support they receive, as well share practical resources that can help care leavers to navigate adult life.
I want every child in care and leaving care to feel as confident as the girl who told me: ‘I know where I want to be in life, I know what I want to do, I know my aims, I know my dreams. I think ‘cos I’ve got that support around me, I am able to fulfil my dreams and what I want to achieve’ – Girl (age not given).
Sadly too many young people do not feel this way when they leave care. To get things right, we need to start with loving relationships – making sure that every child has a stable and loving home while in care.
Currently, too many children in care experience lots of instability. Being moved from place to place can impact on their ability to form lasting and trusted relationships as well as engage in education. During recent interviews my team conducted with disabled care experienced children and young people for the office’s ‘We all have a voice’ report we heard how difficult it can be to adapt to a new home. One disabled young person told us about her difficult transition into a new foster care placement. She said:
‘They didn’t really help or understand when it came to me changing foster placements when I had just come into secondary school as well because that had obviously uprooted everything. It made me have to think about how I am going to adjust. I then had instead of a 15 minutes’ walk, a 40 minutes’ car journey every morning […] and they didn’t quite understand how that was affecting me, how I had to adjust to my new home as well as my new school. […] It felt like a chaotic situation because there was so much going on’ – Young woman, 21.
The move towards adulthood and greater independence can be intimidating for any child, even those with the most loving family home to return to when things are difficult. But hearing directly from children and young people about their difficulties and instability while in care. shows just how much more overwhelming it can be without that solid and stable base to fall back on. The transition to adulthood can feel like a cliff edge, with support falling away and no safe place to call home. It is essential that young people who are leaving care get the stable and consistent support they need to have to smooth transition to adulthood, so that turning 18 doesn’t become a moment to fear.
Last year I set out my vision for what should be improved for care leavers, so they can achieve all the things – a great education, a fulfilling job, a loving family, good health, and a fantastic future – that they tell me they want. This includes:
- Making sure every care leaver has a stable and suitable home through
- Supporting every care leaver to form and sustain loving relationships with carers and the professionals who support them
- Improving care leavers’ mental and physical health with better training for professionals
- Enabling all care leavers to access the training, further or higher education, and job that they want
There is a role for us all to play in championing the voices of care leavers and making sure they get access to the help and support they need to thrive well into adulthood. I want everyone in local and national Government to embrace the role of corporate parent, and grandparent if care leavers have their own children, and to demand the very best for children in care and care leavers.