Newport foster carers back campaign

South Wales Argus: CARING: David Robinson (right) moved back in with his foster carer Steve Clarke CARING: David Robinson (right) moved back in with his foster carer Steve Clarke

FOSTER carers and care leavers from Newport helped launch a campaign to stop young adults being forced out of foster care at the Senedd last week.

Once young people in foster care reach 18, they are forced to move out of their foster homes.

But The Chance to Stay campaign, organised by Action for Children, calls for the Welsh Government to give young people the right to stay with their foster parents until they are at least 21.

And two foster carers and two care leavers from Newport attended a launch event last Wednesday.

Steve Clarke, 52, a Newport father of two, attended the event with his care leaver David Robinson, 19.

Mr Clarke had worked in banking and running a fast food restaurant but decided to foster full time in 2010.

But Mr Robinson, who had been diagnosed with autism, left Mr Clarke’s home when he reached 18, even though it was clear he was not ready to live on his own. Finding living alone difficult, he failed his A-levels and eventually moved back in with Mr Clarke.

Mr Clarke said: “Not only did he have the trauma of leaving home half way through his A-Levels, he didn’t possess the life skills to cope.

“Fostering until 18 provides young people with a sound start, but the transition to adulthood is fraught with problems that the current system makes no allowance for.”

Dame Clare Tickell, Action for Children’s chief executive, said: “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. Most parents wouldn’t dream of letting their children leave home before they were ready, and we ask that the Welsh Government do the same for children in the care system.”

The Welsh Government is currently trialling a scheme, When I am Ready, which allows young people to stay in foster care for longer than their 18th birthday.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said the scheme offers young people choice and control over their placement and gives them support when they decide they are ready to move on.

He added: “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.”

For more information on the campaign visit the Chance to Stay website on actionforchildren.org.uk/campaigns/chancetostay

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