What Happens When a Foster Child Turns 18?

birthday cake with candles

If you’re considering long-term placements or caring for teenagers, you’re probably wondering what happens when a foster child turns 18.

Until the beginning of this decade, foster children had to leave home at 18, despite the average age for non-fostered children being 24.6. However, legislative changes made in 2014 put a stop to this practice and provided young people and carers with a wealth of compassionate next steps.

While the foster care framework is different, many families choose to continue living together under Staying Put arrangements. Alternatively, especially vulnerable individuals can enter supported living, where they’ll gain skills in becoming independent.

Of course, many care leavers feel ready to move into private accommodation straight away. In these cases, the local authority must provide comprehensive financial and emotional assistance.

Keep reading as we dive deeper into what happens when a foster child comes of age. We’ll answer all your questions, including:

  • What are the next steps for foster children when they turn 18?
  • What support do carers receive once a child’s over 18?
  • What help is available for care leavers?
  • How do you prepare young people for independent living?

What are the next steps for foster children when they turn 18?

As soon as a child turns 16, the local authority, social workers and carers must form a Pathway Plan to help them live independently when they reach adulthood. This plan covers everything from employment and finances to accommodation. As part of the agreement, you’ll have to decide collectively on the best next steps.

Staying Put arrangements

If foster families and children want to continue living together, they can choose a Staying Put arrangement – this allows young people already part of the family to reside in the home once they turn 18. Local authorities will monitor and support the setup until a foster child turns 21 (this could be longer if a child stays in higher education or training).

Although there’s some intervention, a Staying Put arrangement isn’t the same as a foster placement because young people over 18 are legally no longer looked after children. Similarly, foster carers become former foster carers.

While fostering service regulations don’t apply between a former foster carer and their grown-up foster child, they still matter if they look after multiple children. As such, a former foster child will require a DBS check to become a household member.

Supported living

If a young person wants to move out but still requires assistance, they can benefit from supported living facilities. Here, they’ll typically live with trained hosts in shared accommodation and receive regular welfare visits.

There are different placement levels for every unique circumstance. Young adults with complex emotional or physical needs might enter intensive 24/7 supported accommodation, whereas others prefer a stepped-down approach with minimal intervention.

There’s a robust matching process when grouping care leavers to keep everyone comfortable, and the level of support increases or decreases in response to an individual’s progress.

Private accommodation

When a care leaver feels ready to move into private lodgings, they’ll receive support every step of the way – no young person is ever left to fend for themselves.

The local authority offers a financial package to cover living costs and a personal advisor who’s always on-hand to answer questions. Much like social workers, personal advisors are positive role models who help young people build an exciting future complete with rewarding opportunities.

What support do carers receive once a child’s over 18?

As a Staying Put arrangement is no longer a foster placement, levels of financial support usually decrease. However, most former foster carers still receive an allowance covering reasonable costs of supporting the care leaver until they turn 21.

The level of financial support depends on varying factors, such as whether a young person starts paying rent or begins employment. If a care leaver receives benefits, this amount could be deducted from the carer’s financial package.

Ultimately, as a person becomes more independent, the less local authorities and agencies pay. The goal is to encourage young people to become self-sufficient and contribute towards living costs.

What help is available for care leavers?

As mentioned, there is all kinds of financial and emotional support available for care leavers once they’re 18.

The council must:

  • Provide a personal advisor
  • Adhere to the Pathway Plan
  • Ensure care leavers have somewhere to live
  • Offer bursaries for further education and home furnishings

Care leavers are entitled to £1,200 a year if they stay in full-time education and a £2,000 grant if they continue to study at university or college. What’s more, the Setting Up Home allowance helps young people buy essential furnishings when moving into private lodgings.

The personal advisor monitors the Pathway Plan and helps care leavers with health, education, training, financial management and family contact. Plans are reviewed every six months or on request to identify potential needs.

How do you prepare young people for independent living?

Alongside the Pathway Plan, you can prepare young people for independent living by teaching them valuable skills like money management, cooking and cleaning. Whether it’s showing them how to change a light bulb or giving them pocket money to budget, the most effective way to build their confidence is through everyday tasks.

While it might feel uncomfortable to give foster children extra responsibility when they’ve been through so much, allocating chores, setting boundaries and championing accountability will transform them into capable adults.

Practicalities aside, we suggest honest communication. Leaving care is frightening, so tackling fears together and creating space to voice concerns will alleviate feelings of overwhelm in advance.

Are you ready to start your fostering journey?

At Olive Branch Fostering, we’ll help you identify the best next steps for your foster child. With plenty of support available, you can rest assured that the young people in your care will go on to lead confident and fulfilling lives.

If you’re ready to start your fostering journey, contact our friendly team or call us on 01706 558910. There’s no obligation to go any further, and we’re here to answer all your questions.