Foster Care Transforming Lives conference: Supporting children and young people leaving the care system

The Foster Care Transforming Lives conference taking place in Edinburgh on 20 November will explore the similarities, differences and developments in foster care systems across Europe, with a focus on how they can support children through childhood, prepare young people for adulthood and how foster care can support birth families.

One of the sessions taking place at the conference is Support Children and Young People Leaving the Care System. It will feature speakers from the University of Oxford, University of York and University of Barcelona presenting their research and best practice addressing children and young people leaving the care system and the many factors that can support or hinder the process of leaving care. Here you can read more about the session.


Research has highlighted the high rate of breakdowns and re-entry to care when children return home. For example, in one study (Farmer et al, 2011), half of the children who had returned home from care had re-entered care at least once after two years, rising to two-thirds after five years. Although many believe that, where possible, the home is the best place for a child additional support is often required when and if children do return to their birth family.

The Walking Family program was established in Spain out of this very need. The program offers educational support to birth families with children in foster care, helping families to accept the child protection measure, facilitate the return of children to the family home and to strengthen reunification using positive parenting, child participation and family resilience. Nuria Fuentes-Pelaez from the University of Barcelona will present the project and findings of Walking Family at the Foster Care Transforming Lives conference.

Lifelong Links is a model developed by Family Rights Group and evaluated by the University of Oxford. It aims to work with children, who do not have a permanency plan, to restore their past connections with significant people in their lives. Continuity and permanence offer the child ongoing emotional and practical support, help provide an explanation of historical events and reinforce the child’s identity and sense of belonging. Dr Mariela Neagu from the Rees Centre, University of Oxford will outline the Lifelong Links project and provide an overview of the emerging findings.

Ofsted reported that the largest proportion of children and young people who left a fostering service’s care in 2017-18 left due to no longer being looked after (37%).  On leaving care, some young people return home to their families but many transition to live independent lives. While the importance of networks and relationships with birth families in stabilising transitions has more recently been emphasised within policy, less attention has been given to helping care leavers better understand and come to terms with their history in care, family relationships and their understanding of the term ‘family’. Dr Caroline Cresswell from the University of York will present biographical life story accounts of foster care experienced young people and their views on the ways in which foster carer can support a better understanding of what family is and should be.

There are many more sessions taking place at the Foster Care Transforming Lives conference taking place on Wednesday 20 November.

Find out more about the conference on our website including the full agenda and how you can book your place, or contact the conference team at or call 020 7620 6400 and select option 3.

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